began in 1975, when six boys and girls flew from Belfast to New York for a
summer holiday away from the Irish "troubles". Since then, the program has
grown tremendously. This year, two Aer Lingus jets chartered especially for
Project Children will transport its young charges across the Atlantic. By
summer's end, more than 14,000 youngsters from Belfast, Armagh, Strabane,
Enniskillen, and Derry will be counted as alumni.
works closely with a group of teachers, clergy and social workers in
Northern Ireland to identify youngsters who would most benefit from a summer
in America. The children range in age from nine-years-old to
fourteen-years-old and come from neighborhoods in which the
Protestant-Catholic conflict, has taken an especially heavy toll.
In the States, more
than five thousand American families have opened their homes to Project
Children's Irish visitors, and it is they who constitute the heart of the
program. From its original base in upstate New York, the group of host
families has expanded to some thirty-five communities in fifteen states.
There are no special
requirement for participation -just a willingness to provide room, board and
love to a six-week, summertime guest. The children from Northern Ireland
simply are folded into the family routines and summer vacation schedules of
their American households.
To help ensure that
the "fit" is a good one between host and guest, host parents can specify the
age, sex and religion of their visitor. Some families choose to take more
than one child, and in that circumstance, often request the pairing
of a Protestant and Catholic.
While host families
provide room and board, Project Children covers the cost of transportation
and insurance for its Irish participants. The money is raised through
private donations, foundation grants and corporate contributions. Blessed
with a large cadre of volunteer workers and responsible for no paid staff,
Project Children is able to put virtually all of the money it raises
directly into the program.
seeks to touch individual lives and to give participating youngsters the
summer of a lifetime. Because it so clearly accomplishes that goal, its army
of supporters on both sides of the Atlantic continues to grow.
The broader goals of
the organization are harder to chart, and only time will reveal their
success. Everyone associated with Project Children hopes that in providing a
taste of life as it can be-without sectarian hatred and violence-they are
playing a small part in laying the foundation for peace in Northern Ireland.
doesn't claim to have the answer to the Irish "troubles". But it does
provide a way for concerned Americans to make a difference-one child at a
For more information, contact;
PO Box 115
Oceanside NY 11572