A Letter of Thanks to The Chairman

Gavin Booth a  Law and  Criminology  Student interning at the Office of  Congressman  Peter King writes an email of thanks to Chairman Denis Mulcahy for all that Project Children has done for him this summer.


Denis, I am writing this e-mail about my time here so far. Where to start, Initially when I applied for Project Children I thought that I never would of been accepted. I actually put it to the back of my mind as I was in final year and never thought I would of even made it to the interview. I thought this because I have never been top of the class and I have never been the first chioce. When the acceptance e-mail came from Monica I was in total shock. I came to the USA as someone who had just finished my LLB Law with Criminology degree and for the first time in my life I was alone. I knew no one and no longer felt like I had a place. For the first time in my life I didnt belong to a Team, School, group of friends or University and this internship seemed quite scary. This new found 'freedom' was strange and I really never knew what to expect. When this is over I have some hard choices to make as whether to return to a LLM in Human Rights law or to start a solicitors course in Manchester, or to travel. I got from this internship that I could now see myself independent and a young capable man even if that means working thousands of miles from home. 


This opportunity has taught me so much about myself. It has shown me that I can adopt to life in another country. Yes I must admit and give credit to Project Children for making that transition so much easier for me, but this internship is more than just a 9-5 job for me, Great bonds of friendship have been made. I feel I have known the interns for years not just over a month. Last week while at the beach we were telling people we only know each other in such a small time period and people were in shock as to how comfortable we all were around each other. As well as this I have helped contribute to a young families life in Mississippi. Thanks to Project Children a young family will have a better standard of life and I can proudly say I am part of that, and hopefully if Brendans nails stay in that house will out live us all. Mississippi was probably the most eye opening experience of my life, the kindness and generoisty of the Glessons alone made the heat disappear. I was in total shock when they wrote us a thank you note for letting them share in our experience. I find that mad. Their kindness is no longer something you find in everyday life and they had no need to give us that note.   

When I think back to before I came here many people were very skeptical about me going to the USA. I got some negative reviews, people said things like "you will never last" etc, but they were wrong! This internship has restored a level of confidence in me and a faith that I can achieve anything if i put my mind to it. With the current economic down turn at home opportunities are few and far between. In fact in times like these I think Project Children is more important than ever before! Young people in Ireland now no longer have opportunities, Immigration is on the rise and student fees are increasing. When thinking about this email I have so many great memories that will last with me forever. 

No matter what the future brings I have worked for a US Congressman, a man who was Chair of National Security. Not many people will ever have that chance and from here on my C.V will have a global element making me more employable. I know when I spoke to you yesterday you felt let down by a few people and you were disappointed but i assure you that this is something that can not be matched. The faith you put in young Irish people is unreal and unmatched. It would of been easy for you to forget Ireland when you left it but you started something that has grown into this living thing. We are all now Project Children and will always be proud to say that. I will always be grateful to project children for this opportunity and If ever Project Children needs anything and I can help I will always be there. I would like to finish this with the simple words that are over used all the time, some time without meaning. I assure you this does. Thank you.


Gavin Booth.



Living With a Real American Family is the Experience

John Taggart a Law Student from Queen's University Belfast Interning at Harry Kutner Esq. talks about his experience of living with an American Family.

"Embarking on an internship inevitably instills a mixture of excitement and apprehension into any student. The reasoning for the latter emotion is perhaps premised on the contrast between the familiarity of home and the challenges of adapting to life in a completely new environment. Whether it’s the cuisine, climate or unaccustomed tipping culture; there is certainly potential for a stark lifestyle shock upon arrival in the U.S. One of the perhaps less obvious differences between us Irish and our American counterparts is demonstrated through our mannerisms. This aspect of assimilation into American society has certainly proved an onerous task for some interns.

Adapting to the U.S climate has undoubtedly been a major challenge for everyone involved in the programme and it is fair to say that the humidity of Mississippi in our initial week was at times oppressive. Perhaps not so much a cultural difference in itself, but learning to respect the indiscriminate sun has become vital to all outdoor activities and is certainly is not a discipline often practiced in overcast Northern Ireland. Thankfully, acclimatizing to the customs and values of the U.S has been practically seamless due in no small part to the warm hospitality and kindness shown to us by our host families.  They have made the logistics of managing our work, weekends and group activities seem effortless and deserve real credit for the generosity in offering up their homes to accommodate students for the summer.

Project Children rely on the benevolence of such welcoming people and I believe immersing oneself in the daily life of a real American family is undoubtedly the best way to experience a new culture and a gain from such a unique experience. In truth, there isn’t huge disparity between the usual daily routine of a normal American and Irish family. The differences I have mentioned don’t alter the many cultural elements that both countries share, not least the common belief that weekdays are for work and the weekend is an opportunity to unwind and relax before the Monday morning blues kick in!"



Time Spent in Morris County

Mary Fearon a Chemistry Student from Queen's University Belfast, interning at Employment Horizons reflects on her time spent in Morris County


Morris County is a quaint, colonial style settlement situated in the heart of New Jersey. What struck me most about the town and surrounding area was not only the natural beauty of woodlands and lakes but also the friendliness and openness of the population. Everyone says hello when passing on the street, spontaneous conversations with the stranger on an elevator are the norm, and everyone was especially excited to learn we were from Ireland, and wanted to hear all about our country!

Through our host family, Arthur & Carol Grant, we were able to attend many gatherings normally closed off to outsiders, such as a Knights of Columbus and The Friendly Sons of St Patrick, both charitable organizations which seek to preserve the rich history of the United States, and the heritage passed down by Irish forefathers respectively. I loved my time in Morris County. I think the real advantage of coming to the United States for the internship program is to experience life in a totally different environment, and benefit from the help of the host family and other locals who really make the experience come alive.




Intern Says It's The Host Family That Make The Experience

Mary Hassan a Common and Civil Law Student from Queen's University Belfast interning at the Morris County Prosecutors Office, New Jersey. 


"Perhaps the most striking aspect of this internship program has been the astounding generosity of the host families.  I had the pleasure of staying with the Grant family in Morris Plains, New Jersey. Myself and Mary Fearon being the 11th group of Irish interns they have hosted thus far.  That in itself is a testament to the enduring dedication and kindness they have shown to us Irish interns over the years.  For many of us, it would be hard to imagine such a commitment for one year let alone eleven, but this year again, they gave us not only a place to stay and lifts to work and back every day, but support and help with any issue that arose for the full seven weeks, not to mention being treated to meals out and even trips to see Chicago on Broadway, Philadelphia, the statue of liberty and the Jersey Shore.  We were truly welcomed into their home, met their family and friends, and were made to feel very much at home.  It’s meeting people such as these which makes the Project Children experience so unforgettable, and every bit as important as the internship itself.  I can’t believe how lucky we’ve been, Mary and I struck gold when we were placed with the Grant family and I’ll really miss baby Brandon!"




The Welcoming Nature of Binghamton

Sarah O'Reilly a Social Work Student from The University of Ulster interning at Broome Day Services talks about her day to day life and experiences in Binghamton, New York.


"Life in the United States has been such a wonderful experience and I am so grateful to those who have made this opportunity possible. This opportunity has allowed me to gain invaluable life experience which will serve me well in the future and I am so appreciative of this opportunity which has given me a drive to return to America in the future.  It has given me the opportunity to experience a new culture and I feel so fortunate to have met so many terrific people throughout my stay here in Binghamton with everyone being so warm, welcoming and kind. I have been amazed by the welcoming nature here in Binghamton with everybody being so kind and acceptant. My host family has been so warm, friendly and accommodating while making every effort to make sure that I make the most of my time here and I am so grateful for their hospitatlity. I have met a number of people who I feel that throughout my stay in America, I have made lasting friendships with; both Irish and American which I hope will be sustained for many years to come."




Interns Learn About American Culture

Grainne O'Dowd a Public Relations Student from The University of Ulster interning at The Turning Stone Resort discusses how she learnt about American Culture.


"During my stay in New York I have learnt a lot about the American culture The main difference between America and home is the weather. It is great to wake up in the morning and have sunshine and heat. I am living on a beach which is great, in my spare time I can go on boats and  sunbathe. The American lifestyle is very laid back and there is always so much to do.  At Verona beach every week there was “bike night” and “vintage car night” which was great to watch. Traffic is a lot busier in New York and therefore most Americans take their bicycles to stores and even  to pubs which was great fun. 


The food Americans eat tastes different than home, which was great as I got to try new and exciting foods. My favorite was “chicken riggies” which is a chicken pasta with a spicy sauce. Another difference is the way  we speak, which I noticed when ordering food. Americans call “chips” french-fries and “crisps” are called chips. Although there are some differences in the American and Irish culture, it was great experience and I felt right at home with the American family I stayed with. I loved the experience of a new culture and would love to visit America again in the near future as I loved their lifestyle and everyone was so warm and welcoming."





Life in Verona Beach

Kylie Doherty an Accounting Student from The University of Ulster interning at the Turning Stone Resort tells about her summer and life in general in Verona Beach.


"During my internship with Turning Stone Resort and Casino. I got the opportunity to live in Verona Beach, NY. I couldn’t have asked for a better location to spend my summer months. My host family, the Matt’s, settled in Verona Beach a few years ago after converting their camp into their permanent residence. The back yard overlooks Oneida Lake in which in any season there are a range of activities available. For the summer season there are opportunities for; kayaking, tubing, water skiing and boat riding. I was fortunate enough to be able to take part in all these aspects of recreational activities. Verona Beach State Park is approximately one hundred yards away from the Matt’s house. Shaded picnic areas and the campground are adjacent to the beach with an excellent access to the water. The park offers a playground, picnic tables and pavilions, hiking and biking, a nature trail, fishing, and trailer campsites. There is a diverse wetland habitat. In the winter season, the park hosts snowmobilers, cross-country skiers and ice fishermen.


In addition, the nearby village of Sylvan Beach plays host to the main attractions in the area. From sandy beaches, picnics, boating, amusement park, outstanding camping facilities, marinas, the finest fishing in Central New York, beautiful sunsets on Oneida Lake and a wide variety of restaurants and shops. The area's diversity and scenic beauty appeals to the entire family. Every night there is always something going on to suit all interests. Every Tuesday, Sylvan Beach has, ‘Bikes At The Beach’, in which there are numerous Harleys parked along the main street and stretch as far as the other side of the town for the bike enthusiasts.


There are large cities located close to the area, such as Utica and Rome. I was also lucky to be able to explore the sights of the city of Syracuse. It has a substantial Irish influence. I made sure to take a picture of the upside down traffic light (green at the top). Furthermore, I found Verona Beach to be a close, tight knit community. I’ve never experienced a neighbourhood like this before. Every two weeks, a different family will host their own block party. Other families will come prepared with their own dish so that friends who don’t regularly see each other can get the chance to dine together and visit. I really enjoyed having the chance to share our heritages whilst making new memories."



The Long Island Experience

Gavin Booth a Law and Criminology Student interning at the Office of Congressman Peter King reflects on his time spent in Long Island.


"Life in Long Island is proabably one of the best experiences a young adult could experience, Manhatten is right on your doorstep as well as places like Fire Island, the Hamptons and Long Beach. As well as this with the help of Project Children you are introduced to more than the average tourist, events such as lunch in Trump Tower on Wall Street, or Irish fund raising events in the Irish Consulate, and for some free tickets to shows. For me it was working for Congressman Peter King. He takes a Right Wing American Republican stance on the world a lot like most Long Islanders. This stance is mainly a pro-buisness, white and rich, a choice that moves along the far right. For me coming from a left wing stance that borders on socialist theories about the world I imagined this would be hard for me to adopt to. As I went to work though I soon realised that Peter King is not like the average republican. He never votes along party lines and famoulsy took the side of President Clinton over his party a few years back. As well as this he played a key role in helping to shape the Good Friday Agreement (1998) in Northern Ireland an event that has shaped all our lives for the better. Pete Kings Office is surronded in events and photos form home and each morning I am greeted with Ian Paisleys smile on the wall as I enter the Office soon Followed by Gerry Adams above.


Life in the office of Peter King is very interesting. It offered me the chance to hear the comments of the average American constituent. It gave me an further understanding on how they feel society is being shaped in a time of uncertainty. For the first time in Amercian history the country was downgraded as well as near facing default. These events do not rest well with the American population that are used to a strong economy and I had the opportunity to view this from a Congressional Office. As well as this Long Island claims a large Irish community. In fact I have seen more Irish tri-colours in Long Island than I have in County Down. Wantagh is the place i stay with my host family, Vinnie and all his dogs and the cats. It is a quiet area of Long Island with 8 or 9 pubs all claiming Irish decent. One place I found was the Wantagh Inn, the owner being from Cork and the bar-man from Meath soon offered me some craic when I was exploring the area.


Long Island also offers one place for the interns to meet. That is of course Ray and Joanne Gallaghers house in New Hyde Park, all the long Island interns home away from home. In fact Joanne and Ray have acted like my weekend host-family with a constant offer of a bed, food and fun activities, something I will always be greatful for. Weekends in Long Island offer everything for the young and old a like. Everyone flocks from the city to the many beaches on offer and a chance to relax from the hetic life of manhatten (Whereas intern Conor never leaves the city that never sleeps, with his train pass and McDonalds in his hands). Although I too would love to be in the city every night with an endless amount of dollars. When thinking back over my time in Long Island I could not of asked for a better time. Everyone from Vinnie, my co-workers, The Gallaghers, The Kinirons, the Congressman, and my fellow interns who have all contributed to making Life on Long Island the best experience I have ever had. I will always remember my time on Long Island and as John Taggart said "These really are the times of our lives".



American Culture Compared to Home

Catherine McCarron a Social Work Student from The University of Ulster interning at Kids Camp, New Jersey talks about the similarites and differences between America and Northern Ireland.


"I think it is fair to say that no matter what country you travel to around the world there will always be a number of similarities and differences in relation to the place you call home. As soon as I arrived in America I realized that American people were very friendly and welcoming which in my opinion is similar to Irish people. Whilst getting to know my host family and their children I noticed that American children are very positive and happy. They are able to receive a compliment without having to shrug it off which I think happens in Irish culture a lot. It was lovely to see how confident and positive some Americans were. Upon arriving at the Kids camp and seeing our living quarters and where we would be cooking for the next eight weeks the main thing that struck me was the food. Everything seemed very different. 


The weather was lovely and a lot warmer than Ireland which took a while for me and my Irish skin to get used to. I soon realized that when it was warm it was really warm and when it rained it poured along with some scary thunder storms. During the forth of July weekend which we spent with our host family in the jersey shore it was clear to see that a lot of Americans are very patriotic. Even within the camp setting there are flags and in some parts of Ireland this is very similar. I think the main thing I learned about America was that things come in extremes. The weather,  the food and the people to name a few. I really enjoyed America and it is definitely somewhere I will return to."



The Culture of Texas

Gary Magee an Environmental Planning Student from Queen's University Belfast interning at Dallas Directories Inc. talks about the culture of Texas


"Living in Dallas for the summer gave me the opportunity to fully experience and appreciate the culture of Texas. This was furthered by trips to Austin and San Antonio, where I bumped into the Dallas Cowboys during their training camp and visited both the Alamo and the Institute of Texan Cultures as well as the city of Fort Worth which enabled me the opportunity of seeing real Cowboys in their natural setting. Moreover, having been able to experience the Mesquite Pro Rodeo and a VIP tour of Cowboys Stadium, the overall experience of living in Dallas Texas this summer has been furthered. Therefore, I can honestly say that the internship experience provided by Project Children is a once in the life time opportunity and one that has allowed me to meet some remarkable people and form lifelong friendships."



Being Part of The Family

Yvonne Garrahan a Business Studies Student from the University of Limerick interning at USG International talks about her host family making her feel at home.


"On the 23rd of June we flew in to Newark, everyone was extremely tired after the seven hour flight. Outside the airport we were greeted by Sam Gormley, who welcomed us and lifted our extremely heavy suitcases into the back of his truck! As soon as we left the airport we were amazed by the views of the New York skyline and we were quickly awoken by Sam’s witty personality. At that moment the girls and I knew we were going to feel right at home. When we reached the Gormley household in Greenwood Lake, we were greeted by Unateresa and their son Shea. Unateresa made us feel right at home, and we quickly settled in. We then were shown our bedrooms and we explored the pretty village which was Greenwood Lake.


For the past five weeks Sam and Unateresa have been like parents to us. Opening their home to us, feeding us and bringing us to wherever we desired. Sam and Unateresa really made a great effort to make us feel right at home, especially when cooking tradition Irish meals such as Sheppard’s pie, which we really enjoyed! We also became immersed in the American culture as Shea spoke about his school and what life is like for a child growing up in America. The Gormleys have been so welcoming, and couldn’t possibly have done anything more to make us feel so welcome in their home. We are very grateful. Their hospitality has been appreciated by all the interns. As well as putting up with us four interns, they also accommodated many other interns, for a fulfilled weekend by the lake, topped of by a delicious barbeque! I hope the Gormleys enjoyed having us as much as we enjoyed being part of their family!"




Living at Kids Camp

James Lennon a History and Politics Student from Queen's University Belfast interning at Kids Camp, New Jersey discusses how difficult yet rewarding living and working at Kids Camp really was.


"Life at Camp is hard to put into words as it is simply amazing to say the least. My day begins at 0830 where we await the arrival of the kids from Newark. Nothing gives me better joy than to see the kids pull up on the buses, waving out the window and screaming with excitement. Shortly after unloading the kids from the bus we bring them for some breakfast and get to know them a little better before getting stuck into the camp activities. My favorite activity of the day is taking the kids on a hike around the forest. To me this is very rewarding to be able to do, many of these kids have never left the city.


Every child I have took on hikes have been over excited and often overwhelmed by the whole experience. Another of my favorite activities was pool time. It was amazing to watch the kids have fun in the water and cool off after having been in the hot sun all day. I played the role of a lifeguard which was also alot of fun but at the same time it was a lot of responsibility I had to be alert at all times. During evenings and weekends when we had free time we relaxed and kicked backed for a while. Myself and other camp leaders would engage in all kinds of fun ranging from sightseeing to shopping. Overall this is a once in a lifetime experience which I would do anything to be given this opportunity again."



Intern Learns "alot" from Host Family

Ashley Russell an engineering student from Omagh College interning at Engler Electric Co. talks about where he stayed and what he learnt from his host family. 


"On my Internship to America I was placed in Syracuse, New York in Brewerton with my Host Family Mike and Sheree Lentz. Brewerton is pretty small compared to the city, where I stayed there was very few houses close by. I learned a lot from Mike teaching me things I would need for my Degree in college. I did have an excellent time with them, we went to many different places they thought I would like so I really appreciated that. I did many things that I didn’t expect to do such as going to a Horse racing Derby placing and winning a few bets, a Rod and Gun Club where Mike and Sheree where members of I learned how to shoot a few targets. We also went to “The Great Escape”, a water and theme park close by.


The advice I can give for future Interns is that I would highly recommend to go to New Orleans for the week to get to know everyone on the first week that you arrive. You will have a brilliant time making a lot of new friends and meet a lot of people along the way. From all the families and friends that I have met and stayed with I have had an excellent time with my Host Family so I’m sure you will to."



My Experience of "America"

Kristofer Armour an Aerospace Engineering Student interning at Kids Camp, New Jersey discusses his experience of America


"My stay in America was brilliant! Ive experienced so many new things. I got to head down to Jersey Shore for a day, which isn’t something I realized was so famous until my friends at home started to pass on their jealous thoughts to me.  The 4th of july was such a massive celebration, with every single person celebrating.  I got to see how big hunting is in Sussex county by seeing kabana’s hunting shop, every spare inch of the walls has a headmount on it, with a mountain in the middle full of every other animal you could name! Hunting seems to be loved throughout the season and waited for when it is out of season. It’s a sign of the gun culture here, which I am completely jealous of. Getting to shoot clay pigeons over the pond at my American familys home just made realise the difference between America and home.  Meeting new people and making friends out here is easy as every person seems to have a love of the irish, as every American appears to have an “irish connection.” Life has been fantastic out here, and its made me have a huge understanding of how life is at the other side of the pond! Thankyou for the chance to experience this project children!"




My Host Family Welocmed me in as "One of Their Own"

Sandra Cuffe a Design and Communications Student at the University of Ulster interned with Group Dynamix, Dallas and discussed her experiences of the host family. 


"Generosity, kind hearted and warmth are the words I would use to describe my host family. During my stay in Dallas, I had the good fortune of staying with Lee Kelton and Lybo Buchanan, they welcomed me in as one of their own and couldn't have done enough for me. Lee is a land man working in the oil industry and Lybo is retired from the air force, two very interesting and knowledgeable people. They live in an old part of Dallas called Oak Cliff, it's a lovely area and close to down town Dallas. On my arrival they were having a party celebrating the 4th of July which was a great start to my stay in Dallas and I also got to meet a lot of their friends, family and neighbours who are all very nice and friendly people. They were my personal tour guides during my stay in Dallas, showing me everything there was to see, museums, and good places to eat and drink. Dallas Cowboy Football Stadium being one of the highlights. Their friends were equally as welcoming, one such couple was Richard Jones and Kathleen Jackson who took me on their family vacation to San Antonio which was brilliant and I am truly grateful to them for their hospitality. The people I have met during this trip were some of the nicest people I've ever met and I have definitely made new friendships for life, I've had the best summer with unforgettable experiences."




Life in America Through an Intern's Eyes

Sarah McNeill a Psychology Student from Queen's University Belfast interning at the Aisling Center reflects on her experience of "Life in America"


"I am interning in the Aisling Centre, Bronx, New York. The only way to describe the area is, home away from home. The streets are full of Irish and I have met someone from every County. Being here helped me to settle in straight away. There is plenty to do and lots of friendly faces about, not to mention lots of food from home!! Being in the Bronx has been very convenient. The transport nearby brings you to lots of other areas. Despite living in the Bronx, we have made a few adventures to Manhattan and Greenwood Lake. These places gave me two completely different views of America.


Manhattan with the bright lights, busy streets and sky scrapers, it’s just like the movies.  There’s a lot to see and do, thankfully I've had enough time to see the area.  The bus tour was an excellent way to get around and see the main attractions. The World Trade Centre Site, Statue of Liberty and a Broadway show are a must for anyone coming to the area. Greenwood Lake on the other hand is so peaceful and quiet, with canoes, boats and the odd adventure into the woods to cliff dive. Life in NYC has been amazing so far, it's a totally different world.  Project Children has given me the opportunity to experience Mississippi, New Orleans, and different parts of New York, for that I am very grateful. It is an experience I will never forget."



My Independence Weekend in Sussex

Aisling Armstrong a Philosophy and Economics student from Queen's University Belfast interning at Kids Camp, New Jersey, talks about her experience of the 4th of July 2011.


"During my time in the States I had an internship at a kid’s camp which meant that I shared accommodation with 13 other individuals. For the fourth of July weekend all employees travelled to Seaside Heights in New Jersey to spend the day celebrating America’s independence. I was overwhelmed by the amount of people who gathered at this location to celebrate together by watching fireworks and socializing. It was surprising to see such a large group of diverse people with distinct cultural backgrounds unite together and set aside any segregation they may have previously experienced. We stayed at the shore until 5pm and then went to the boardwalk for dinner and shopping. It was exciting to see the store where the Jersey Shore cast work and live and we all bought a personalized T-shirt to remember our day.  As this trip was at the beginning of our internship it really gave us a chance to get to know one another and bond outside of a working environment. When we returned back to camp we had a little party where everyone sat together and bonded. Overall the weekend was a great success and if offered the opportunity to do it again I would take it in a heartbeat."



My Experience Returning as an Intern

Sinead Lavin an English & Geography student from NUI Maynooth Interned at The Cardinal Shehan Center, Bridgeport, Connecticut reflected on her return to the US with Project Children to intern in the Cardinal Shehan Center.


"This summer I had the opportunity to return to Project Children after receiving an internship in the Cardinal Shehan Center in Bridgeport, Connecticut.  On finishing college I hope to do secondary school teaching and I feel that the experience I have gained over the past two years will be of considerable benefit. The Shehan Center is a summer day camp for children from low income families and disadvantaged neighborhoods where the kids avail of a number of facilities including swimming, computers, sports, art, dance and literacy classes.  I interned as a counselor for a group of ten year old girls, for whom I feel the camp makes a real difference.  They also had the opportunity to go on field trips and showcase dance routines they had been working on.  It was a great experience to work at the Shehan Center and to work alongside individuals from different walks of life.


Last year my placement was in Kids Camp, New Jersey.  Many of the kids going to this camp were from the city of Newark, and often from disadvantaged families.  They were exposed to the hardships of inner city life and the camp allowed them to get away from this.  This camp was largely nature oriented and the kids were involved in activities such as hiking, swimming, art and team building.  It was such a rewarding experience to work with these kids and to know that the camp really made a difference to them. While both internships were similar in nature, they were located in different settings.  New Jersey had a rural setting which was beneficial to the nature program.  This was an important aspect of the camp as it introduced the kids to nature – a world apart from the city.  On the other hand, the Shehan Center is located in the inner city of Bridgeport.  The center provided a camp style setting for low income families, which would allow parents to work during the summer months while their children were affordably cared for.


I would like to take this opportunity to thank Terry O’Connor and Courtney Ryan from the Shehan Center and also Denis Mulcahy and Al DeBenedictis of Project Children for all they have done for me.  I also enjoyed my stay in Fairfield, Connecticut with my host family Helen, Kieran and Clodagh. Thanks for putting up with me guys!"


Interns Experience First Independence Day
Emer McCool a Law Student from Queen's University Belfast interning at The Morris County Prosecutors Office in New Jersey describes her first ever 4th of July experience and compares it to celebrations at home.

"During my stay in the USA I experienced my first 4th of July. This was a new experience and I thought it was inspirational to see so many people patriotic for their country. I spent the day with my host family the Kostyaks and the neighbors and also two of the interns in my area came over for a BBQ. Everyone was wearing red white and blue and even one of the neighbors was wearing stars and stripes glasses and jewelry. Everyone who came over brought over food and drink and we enjoyed a lot chatting and getting to know each other. In very American style we had hamburgers, hotdogs and salad which were all great. Compliments to my host brother. We gathered outside in the lovely 80 degree sun and talked and laughed and shared stories. The neighbors were very interested in us, the irish interns and we shared our experiences so far in our placement which was nice. I along with the other interns and my host family and the neighbors then played some games on the lawn including novelty tennis. 

It was a great day filled with fun. It was a nice opportunity to experience another culture and to share with them how we celebrate St Patricks day at home. I met really lovely people who I hope to continue to have more experience with for the remainder of my stay in America. It is an important holiday for Americans and that was evident as everyone takes the day off work, my impression of this was one of great admiration, there is great unity on this day and this could be taken into account for conflict resolution at home. Overall a very enjoyable day and first experience and I hope to celebrate more 4th of July's in my future."

Spirits Fly High for the 4th of July Celebrations in Connecticut
Laura King a Business Studies Student from The University of Ulster Interning at The Supportive Housing Works talks about her 4th of July, Independence Experience in the US.

"I stayed in Fairfield in the state of Connecticut during my internship and there has been many amazing highlights, the main one being able to celebrate Independence Day, the 4th of July! It was an unforgettable experience! We began the evening by going for dinner at a friend's condo by the seaside and watched the extravagant display of fireworks across the water, joined by my host family, friends of the family, and Sinead the other PC intern. Everybody was overjoyed and spirits were flying high. I admired everyone's patriotic nature to their fabulous country. 

My host family definitely made me feel a part of all the celebrations, I wish I could do it all over again! Another highlight of the trip to date has been the opportunity of going to Washington DC with my work collegues to attend the National Alliance to End Homelessness conference. It was a fantastic trip as I gained invaluable knowledge relevant to my Business degree at the Univeristy of Ulster. Exploring the city was a lot of fun, especially with the presence of the Dalai Lama in town! I feel very fortunate to part-take in this programme!"



Intern Reflects on Habitat Experience as a Struggle

Conor Stewart an Accountancy and Finance Student from the University of Glasgow, interning at Michael Stapleton Associates, New York, reflects on his Habitat for Humanity experience.


"There was always going to be one massive difficulty with 20 Northern Irish students travelling to Mississippi, the heat. Laboring in 100 degree heat with intense humidity was a struggle.  At times, the side of the building site resembled some sort of make shift hospital camp, with pale or in some cases sunburnt lobster red, sweat drenched, bodies lying in a heap, dying from heat exhaustion.  A member of the Habitat team and a local resident of Mississippi, Steven, who was working alongside us, was admitted to hospital suffering heat exhaustion and dehydration. Thankfully he was able to return at the end of the week.


We were not without a hospital visit of our own. After what can only be described as a thunderous hammer strike to the left thump, one John Taggart took a visit to the local medical centre. Thankfully his injuries proved not to be life threatening and he returned to the safely site later on in the day. Although we may have experienced several difficulties, these seemed insignificant in comparison with the level s of satisfaction and enjoyment we all had. As a determined team we pushed through the heat and humidity and everyone contributed to get the job done."




Habitat was a Rewarding Experience for The Interns

Sinead McCullagh a Health Studies Student from Omagh College interning at USG International talks about her experience of habitat and how at times it got difficult


"For the first week of our trip to America, all of the interns flew into the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International airport. You could tell that there was a mixture of excitement and nerves amongst the interns as no one knew what to expect from the week ahead. The first thing that hit us as we got outside the front doors of the airport, was the heat, it was like walking into a sauna. We got into two trucks and off we went to Bay St Louis. We did not know what to expect when we arrived, but were pleasantly surprised when we got our rooms and realized how much we appreciated the air conditioning. The first day of the build was more an introduction to the plans of the house and the different pieces of wood that needed to be placed together to make the frames of the walls. Also, to the other volunteer groups that would be working alongside us throughout the build. The second day was the most difficult as we were stuck in to hammering nails and heavy lifting. This was tough as the heat had hit over 100f. All of the girls learned a valuable lesson about makeup in these 2 days, not to wear it as it will end up melting off your face.


In the remaining days everyone got down to work and eventually the house started to come together. What made the week so good was working alongside the Koreans. They were a great bunch of people who were so friendly and willing to help out at any time. Also getting to work with the Americorp team and other volunteers was amazing as they were able to tell us stories about previous houses they had built and how rewarding it was for them. Overall, the experience in Mississippi taught me a lot. I learned to value what I have at home and how lucky I am to have the life that I do and the people in it. I felt that, although there was blood, sweat and tears shed, it brought the Project Children group closer and we made good friends from this trip and to see the faces of the people who were actually moving into the house was the most rewarding of all. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will never forget."      



Project Children Keeps Delivering On The Gulf Coast

Danielle Neeson an English Student from Queen's University, interning at The Irish Examiner described her experience of Habitat for Humanity and her time spent in Mississippi as part of the Project Children Intern Group.


"On August 29th this year It will be six years since Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the southern states of Louisiana and Mississippi. Six years on, there are thousands of displaced residents still living in temporary accommodation. On June 23rd a group of twenty college students and six chaperones from the Project Children Intern Program came from across Ireland to make the journey from Belfast to New Orleans, to participate in a Habitat for Humanity project in the Bay-Waveland area of Bay St. Louis, Mississippi.


The Project Children Intern Program gives a group of students the opportunity to travel to the United States each summer to spend the summer undertaking internships all over the USA in various working environments, gaining invaluable experiences to prepare them for the working world. By spending five days volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, Bay-Waveland, this was a way to show our gratitude and appreciation to the American people for their warm welcome and support.


The Project Children group was excited and eager upon discovering that they would be involved with such a prestigious organization doing something so rewarding and worthwhile, but nothing could have prepared us for the experience that lay ahead. The group came together having just met for the first time at the airport in Belfast. Through sharing such a unique and life changing experience, by the end of the week we had made lasting relationships with people we felt like we had known for years.


The week began with a Habitat for Humanity induction evening, where we met with two others groups from the United States that we would be working alongside, the Young Nak Celebration Church Group from Los Angeles and Corpus Christi Church group from New Jersey. Over the course of the week we spent the evenings socializing with the others groups and cooking for each other.


Seeing the house literally go up before our eyes gave us a great sense of achievement and it was seeing the progress that we were making, actually create something tangible that kept us keep going throughout the stifling heat. Although the experience was wholly enjoyable, there were difficulties along the way. Meeting the Anderson family that would eventually be living and raising their baby son in the house we were building and listening to their personal experiences of suffering and survival throughout the hurricane and its lasting effects was the biggest reward of all.


This experience alone was life changing but to meet a family who have lost everything and are trying to rebuild their lives around this house was humbling and at the very least an honor. I speak on behalf of the rest of the group when I say how proud and lucky I am that I had the opportunity to be involved in something so exceptional as a Habitat for Humanity building project; to work with some of the most dedicated and committed people in the country both on site and behind the scenes was a privilege and an experience I will carry with me for the rest of my life."



Interns Find Widespread Warmth, Friendliness and Hospitality in The South

Cormac Mallon a Law student from Queen's University Belfast, interning at Bighamton City Court discussed his experience of Mississippi and the kindness of the South.

"During my summer internship with Project Children I had the privilege of working alongside my fellow interns in Bay St Louis, Mississippi in conjunction with Habitat for Humanity. We spent a week building a house for a family who lost their home due to the catastrophic destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. Despite the fact that our time spent in Bay St Louis allowed me to appreciate the basic minimums of everyday life, I was intrigued by the widespread warmth, friendliness and hospitality afforded to us by the local community and experienced the renowned Southern Hospitality.  As an outsider, it was obvious that our time and effort spent trying to make a difference to a local family was widely appreciated. 

This companionship was exemplified by a local family, Mr and Mrs John Glesson, who were so generous as to offer us the crème of Southern Cuisine throughout our stay. Each intern was served so very generously each night and was made to feel at home, and it ought to be emphasized that the kindness afforded to us made our stay in Hancock County substantially easier. Perhaps such hospitality has its roots in the maxim to “love thy neighbor”, but I am inclined to argue that such benevolence has a deeper meaning. The spirit of giving and welcoming outsiders is an honored tradition amongst Southerners who aim to ensure outsiders feel at home whilst allowing them to embrace the cultural phenomenon that is Southern Hospitality.



Southern Hospitality & The Kindness of The Gleeson's

Carleen Hughes a Marketing Student from The University of Ulster interning at USG/ International. Greenwood Lake, New York. 


"Upon arriving in Mississippi, most of us were unsure of what to expect, as everyone had their own perceptions of Southern America, from what they had seen on Television. One thing I can say is that everyone was made to feel right at home from the minute we landed at Louis Armstrong Airport by both the staff and the locals.


Throughout our stay in Bay St. Louis, the Southern hospitality was second to none. We ate most nights at the Gleeson’s, a couple, who are great friends of Project Children. Each night, they opened up their home to us, provided a large buffet of food, and kept the drink flowing, a feast fit for a King! One of the nights we ate there, they invited their neighbors and friends to a garden party. It was amazing to meet people from different cultural backgrounds. Listening to their stories about Hurricane Katrina was extremely interesting and I think that everyone gained a further insight into what it was like to live through the conditions during that time.


We were all overwhelmed by the kindness and generosity of John and Jane-Ann Gleeson.  They were lovely hosts, and made everyone feel right at home. If it weren’t for their kindness and good will, I think that our time on the building site would have been a lot tougher. 


During our time on the building site in Bay St Louis, we had the pleasure of meeting the family whose house we were building. Their positivity and optimistic outlook, after the hurricane, gave us all the determination and drive to work harder when we felt like giving up.  Overall, I definitely enjoyed my time in Mississippi, it was an experience I will never forget, and will go on to talk about for many years."




Habitat for Humanity a Great "Hands On" Learning Experience

Emmet Blee a Construction Engineering student from Omagh College, Interning at Neligan Construction, Florida.


"Going to Mississippi and taking part in Habitat for Humanity, was a great experience for me as I am studying construction at College in Northern Ireland. I had a wonderful time there helping to build a house and getting involved in Habitat for Humanity. It was brilliant that I was able to work alongside the other interns which allowed us to get to know each other very well. I developed some new construction skills, as the house is mainly build from timber; this is not the case back home where we use a lot of bricks and masonry. This was a great physical and “hands on” learning experience and I would highly recommend it to all the future interns.


Project Children friends from down there, John and his wife where very nice to let us come over and have dinner with them and the others organized us to go to the local parish hall where we had a great time. The trip to New Orleans was amazing we got to see a whole new culture and way of life it was very interesting. Overall, the week in Mississippi was extremely pleasing and rewarding to be apart of especially to know that we have helped to change peoples lives for the better."




Interns Leave Mississippi Feeling a Sense of Pride

Alana Teague a Civil Engineering and Transport student from Omagh College interning at Durr Mechanical Construction Inc. Bronx, New York.


"Arriving in Mississippi on Saturday gave us a day or two to mentally prepare ourselves, or at least try for what we were about to come up against. None of us knew what we were in for. We arrived on the site, bright and early on Monday morning and were greeted by all the volunteers of Habitat for Humanity and AmeriCorps. After a quick good morning and introduction on site, we were soon set to work. Some hammering nails, others carrying materials to and fro. It wasn’t long before everyone started to sweat in the unbearably humid heat. As the week went on, the house began coming together and it was obvious everyone was gaining enthusiasm from seeing how far we had come in even just two or three days.


With each day getting tougher as the work got more strenuous and everyone became more sleep deprived, everyone continued to give it their all. With the guidance of the Habitat and AmeriCorps leaders, we met our target by Friday afternoon and took part in a very emotional house blessing. Mississippi was without a doubt an extremely difficult week but I think I speak on behalf of the entire group when I say I wouldn’t change a thing. To fly from Northern Ireland to New Orleans, half way across the world and meet a homeless couple and their infant son, who had been left devastated when Hurricane Katrina hit Mississippi and to work alongside them in building their future home and seeing how eternally grateful they are to all of us was an emotional experience for us all. Mississippi for me was an un-describable experience, it was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I will always look back on with very happy memories and self-pride."




Interns Build a House for a Family Affected By Hurricane Katrina


Paul McNamee an Architectural Technology Student from Omagh College, interning in BHC Architects, Manhattan, talks about his experience of Habitat for Humanity and his relationship with the new owners.


"During my Internship to the United States we took a trip to the Waveland Bay area of Mississippi to take part in a Habitat for Humanity. It was a blitz build for families still suffering from the devastation of hurricane Katrina. The family home I worked on belonged to Auther and Sediqua Anderson and their young son. This young family had lost everything in Katrina, having been waiting almost 6 years to finally move in to a house of their own once again. During the build I became friendly with Auther and his wife. They too had to help in the construction of their house, this being known as sweat equity. 

I spent a few days working on the roof construction along with Auther and he told me all about the hardships of Katrina and how they had lost everything in its wake. He also expressed his sincere gratitude of Project Children’s work in Mississippi in partnership with Habitat for humanity and all the church groups who helped in the construction of his new home. On the final day of the week there was a customary handing over of the house to the Anderson family along with a simple but eloquent blessing. This showed me exactly what it meant to this family who had lost everything and what our work really was all about. I got a feeling of great appreciation and happiness for helping out in Mississippi and my experiences will hopefully one day bring me to take part in something similar once again."  

My Day at New York's Fire Island

John Taggart John Taggart a Law Student from Queen's University Belfast Interning at Harry Kutner Esq. talks about his trip to New York's Fire Island with his host family.

"Joanne and Ray Gallagher have been accommodating Project Children interns and adopting them as their own for a number of years at their home in New Hyde Park. However their close rapport with their interns lasts beyond their summer in the U.S and on Saturday July 16th the couple treated regular visitor and ex-intern Gemma Rafferty and their current lodgers John Taggart and Paul McNamee to an excursion to nearby Fire Island. Fellow interns Conor Stewart and Gavin Booth, also located on Long Island, also made the trip after kind invitation from Joanne.

Gemma secured a lucrative job contract with prestigious banking firm Credit Suisse last September and candidly admits that the support provided by the Gallaghers since her arrival has been crucial to acclimatising to the frantic lifestyle. She considers ‘the weekend drop in service’ provided by JoJo and RayRay’ as a welcome break from the cut-throat atmosphere of Wall Street and that it demonstrates the hospitality that has come to epitomize Project Children’s host families.

Lying adjacent to the south shore of Long Island, Fire Island is predominantly a holiday destination with a permanent population of just 491 residents. However this weekend it served as the location for an unofficial ‘mini-reunion’ and allowed this year’s interns the opportunity to discuss the programme with Gemma who initially completed her internship with MSA Security and was subsequently recruited the next year to assist with operations.

Law intern John Taggart admitted that witnessing previous interns apply their invaluable experiences to secure job opportunities is undoubtedly encouraging. He remarked that ‘’The benefits of embarking on a programme like Project Children are twofold. Not only are we opening new employment opportunities as Gemma has obviously proved, but assimilating into a new culture is a life experience in itself.’’ Proceeding to laud the generosity of the Gallagher family John commented that ‘’today proves that Project Children is not just a seven week programme. It’s about people acquiring and developing skills for life and forming bonds that will affect them forever’’. 

Architect intern Paul McNamme spoke in a similar vain about his experiences and held that ‘’Spending a day here on Fire Island with people who were complete strangers a month ago and who you now consider close friends is testimony to the work of Project Children’’. Paul and John who are staying with The Gallaghers for the summer  both agreed that were it not for the benevolence of those involved in co-coordinating  Project Children, a unique opportunity of completing an internship tailored to their subject would have been a mere pipe-dream."



New Jersey Law Interns Meet Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi

Project Children have seen many interns come to New Jersey over the years and one of the prestigious internships New Jersey has to offer is that of the Morris County Prosecutors Office. This year they took two Project Children Interns, Emer McCool a Law Student and Mary Hassan who studies Common and Civil Law with Spanish both interns study at Queen’s University Belfast, Northern Ireland.


Morris County Prosecutor Robert A. Bianchi is a great role model and interning in his office allows both interns to learn and interact in their field of study. Mr Bianchi was recently named “prosecutor of the year” for 2011 by the New Jersey Narcotic Enforcement Officers Association. The association cited Bianchi’s creation of the Intelligence Crime Task Force, Burglary Crime Task Force and work with the Intelligence Crime Task Force as factors for Bianchi’s “significant overhaul of the investigative mission of the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office” since taking over as prosecutor in June 2007.


Both interns were lucky enough not only to meet him but to sit and discuss their internships, their careers and any questions they may have. Mary Hassan left feeling very fortunate that she had the opportunity to meet such an influential figure “I can honestly say that meeting Prosecutor Bianchi exceeded all my expectations; I was both inspired and impressed.  It was refreshing to meet someone in this senior legal position with such a profound appreciation for the importance of justice. Before Prosecutor Bianchi, the criminal justice system in Morris County was slow and inefficient, with cases gathering dust for years at a time. He turned this practice on its head, not only improving efficiency but reshaping the way in which the prosecutor's office works with other divisions of the criminal justice system. He is one of the most honorable, genuine people I have ever met, and his desire to serve the community to the very highest of standards is something which I can only hope to emulate in the future.  I feel very fortunate to have met him.” 

Intern Emer McCool also gave her opinion on meeting  Mr Bianchi  and how grateful she was to be given his time “ Meeting  Mr  Bianchi was a privilege. He is a very interesting and down to earth guy with a lot of insightful ideas on reform for the law in Morris County, New Jersey. He is a very professional prosecutor with a lot of time for the next generation of lawyers. He is caring about his workplace, his colleagues and his profession. This was a very inspirational quality and reaffirmed my hopes to become an attorney. He talked a lot about the different people who worked at the prosecutor’s office from himself to the assistant prosecutors and the various office staff who I have also had the pleasure of meeting and work with. He encouraged me to attend court as much as possible to see the etiquette of court and how the law operates in this part of the world. He has given me an invaluable opportunity to spread my wings in a different jurisdiction and I am very grateful to Mr Bianchi for his time and very educational words. “

We would like to take this opportunity to thank both the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and Mr Bianchi for their time and support for Project Children as well as the work of Coordinator Al De Benedictis.  


Interns Arrive in Newark Airport Excited & Nervous for Their Internships


Project Children Interns flew from Belfast International Airport and landed in Newark Airport on Thursday 23rd of June. Many entering the US for the first time interns were excited and nervous about what would come of their time in the US and were very keen to get started. One intern said "the last few days have been the longest I am just glad to be here and am ready to start my placement and get this internship started, I will be a lot more relaxed after the first day it is just not knowing that makes me nervous"  We will keep you posted on how the interns are getting on in the next few weeks on their time in Mississippi and how the experience of Habitat for Humanity has been as well as how their first few days interning has went. 

Project Children's Annual Golf Tournament


Orientation Day a Great Success as Interns Meet for the First Time

The Orientation Day is set up to have interns come together, get to know one and other and most importantly to prepare them for the upcoming summer. This year’s orientation was conducted by coordinators Al DeBendictis, Monica Culbert, Sally Brennan, and Marie Therese Griffin, as well as past interns and volunteers Paul Lecky and Marguerite Bradley.


Long term dedicated co-coordinator and volunteer Monica Culbert of both the Kids Program and the Intern Program commented on the day saying “It was a great day; we had 32 out of 33 students turn up. They were a lovely bunch. Al divided them into the areas to which they were going and this was a great 'bonding' session. They were so enthusiastic and willing to learn from their internships in the summer. I think the economic situation here has made students realize the need for experience and has added even more value to our internship Program. They really seemed excited from knowing how much they will gain from this experience.


Deirdre Deery head of Careers at Queen’s University Belfast talked to those Students from that university about the Degree Plus Accreditation that interns could achieve, she was well received. Mairtin O'Muilleoir owner of the Anderstown News as well as the New York Newspaper the Irish Echo spoke about the generosity of the American people and how much the students would get from the experience as well as how much they could give to their work placements. He also offered a placement for next year in The Irish Echo. Brian Heading spoke about the length of time the internships were going and also of the immense value of them. We had some students from previous years including, Stefan Rafferty, now a barrister, Olivia Downey an intern from last year who interned at Morris County Prosecutor's Office in New Jersey, and some camp interns. They told the new students of their experiences and what project Children’s Internship program has meant to them.


Overall a satisfying day, many of the students arranged to meet up before they go away and so a satisfied, happy group left Queen's, well informed, well fed, complete with their intern shirt and ready for their journey ahead.”


Marguerite Bradley joined the program in 1989 at the age of 10 she was a Project Child who came to stay for the summer with the Dowd Family returning every year since, becoming an intern, the director of Kids Camp and then a chaperone on the kids flight, last summer was her 21st summer with Project Children. Volunteering and helping out. On Orientation Day she commented,


“It was a great day for the interns to come together; you could see they were all nervous and excited for their summer in the US. It was good that me and Paul could be there because we have been with the program for so long and both been past interns ourselves we could talk to the interns on their own about what to expect from their internships. It was great to have speakers there that are high up and are involved with the program. Al DeBenedictis always runs a tight ship, getting all the information together. The evening event in Queen’s University was good as more interns from past years could come and this meant that they could speak to the interns as well. I loved seeing the old faces and catching up.”  


The interns leave Belfast 23rd of June to begin their internship; we wish all of them good luck and will keep you posted on their stories on Habitat for Humanity, spending 4th of July in America and how much they have benefitted from their internships.