A Night At Belfast City Hall

Coordinator Pat Kelly on his recent visit to Belfast where he and his wife Gwen were appointed Belfast Ambassadors.


"When Denis and later Monica Culbert notified us that there would be a Project Children Intern event at Belfast City Hall on 19th September, Gwen and I were eager to attend as we were in Northern Ireland that week. However, our schedule got a bit tight, so I called Monica and said we might be a bit late getting back from Donegal that evening. It was a shock when she replied, you can’t be late! You and Gwen are the reason for the event! Needless to say we arrived on time- no one disobeys Monica! We also brought along Kenny and Susan Burleson and Lillian Ballance, all involved in Project Children, who had been traveling with us in Donegal.


When we entered the great reception lobby at City Hall, we were delighted to see Monica, Sally Brennan, Dierdre Deery and twenty or so of the Interns who had been out this summer, as well as a few from past years. All were dressed in suits and nice dresses, which made them very hard to recognize, as we had only seen them in work clothes in the States. Then we were ushered into the Lord Mayor’s Parlour, where beverages and refreshments had been laid out. Soon after we were joined by Lord Mayor Mairtin O’Muilleoir, who greeted each of us personally.


After that, Monica brought Gwen and I over and posed us next to His Lordship, who read a proclamation appointing Gwen and I as “Belfast Ambassadors”.


What a unexpected treat for two old Texans who are pretty close to the bottom of the roster of deserving Project Children workers. Nevertheless, we aren’t giving it back! I happened to bring along a history book about an Irishman who came to Texas; became a Colonel and fought in the US Civil War during the 1860s. I presented that to the Lord Mayor in return for the honor bestowed on us.


From City Hall, we all moved to the Balmoral Hotel where Monica and Sally had reserved a private dining room. A feast was soon laid out and while we dined, we were entertained by a musician, as well as a few of the Interns who requited themselves nicely at the microphone. While there, we were again honored to receive gifts including Belfast Crystal, given to us on behalf of the Interns. To use an Irish expression- Gwen and I were “over the moon” – and will never forget this great honor. Our profound thanks go out to all who attended and to Monica, Sally, Dierdre. Denis and all those hard work in Northern Ireland has made Project Children and it's Intern Program such a success!"





Belfast Coordinator Monica Culbert Reflects on City Hall Reunion

Monica Culbert Long Time Belfast Project Children Coordinator reflects on the intern reunion at Belfast City Hall 
"On 19 Sept we had our final intern reunion of another successful Summer Internship programme. Our First citizen , the Lord Mayor, Councillor Mairtin O’ Muillear  hosted a reception in the City hall. Mairtin has been a long time supporter of Project Children and was delighted to host the evening. In attendance were 20  interns, local Project Children Coordinators Sally Brennan, Marie Therese Griffin, myself and  guests  of honour our American Project Children coordinators  Pat Kelly and his wife Gwen along with two of their friends.  Deirdre Deery,  the senior careers officer from Queen’s university also joined us.
I am always amazed at the difference the Summer makes to the students.  They go away as nervous strangers on a new adventure and return as dear friends for life. On seeing their delight at greeting one another it was  obvious  how well this young group of people bonded on the trip. To be honest, most of them said it was the humbling experience of working for Habitat for Humanity which made their friendship so strong. The Lord Mayor asked the students to tell him about their experiences  and was amazed at the incredible stories, Curtis McGreevy, Clionadh Ni Bhranair and Niamh O’Neill had to say about the value of their different internships. He impressed on them the value of their experiences and encouraged them to use it as a launching pad for their future
Mairtin, then spoke of his admiration for the work of Project Children and the role that Pat Kelly and Gwen played with first of all the young children and then the student programme. He presented Pat and Gwen with a beautiful certificate and named them as Ambassadors for Belfast. All of the students were presented with a little momento from Belfast City Council and then we received a guided tour of the City Hall, during which all of us learned a lot of wonderful history. The group then went for a meal to a local hotel where we enjoyed catching up in all the news and reminiscing about the Summer experience. Deirdre Deery  presented the students with Certificates of Attendance  and then the students surprised  our American guests with tokens of their gratitude.

During the evening we had some wonderful guitar playing and singing by our interns. This final night  was a great way to end the formal part of our programme but from listening to the conversations it was  obvious that  it is  only the beginning  of  long lasting friendships! Every year we say what a wonderful group of students we have and I have to say that I think this group is one of the nicest group we have ever had in our programme.

Looking forward to another wonderful year in 2014!"




A Letter From The Chairman

Project Children Chairman Denis Mulcahy reflects on his experience with the interns in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

"Project Children has helped to lay the foundation for peace in Northern Ireland and we hope that this foundation is instilled in the next generation, as they become the new leaders. The youth of today will be the leaders for tomorrow.  There have been so many wonderful people who have participated in the Habitat program, and this year was no exception.  The young adults worked together to achieve a common goal, and built friendships along with the house.

For me as Chairman of Project Children, it was a great experience to have the opportunity to work with this incredible group of interns. The project was a huge success thanks to the hard work from all who took part.  Our coordinators in Northern Ireland, Monica Culbert, Sally Brennan, and Maire Therese Martin, who screen all the applicants, and choose the interns, did an exceptional job, preparing the interns prior to their trip.  The partnership between Project Children and Habitat for Humanity is a natural one. Both organizations know the value of finding common ground, working together and making good things happen.


I would like to thank Bob Johnson and Habitat International for organizing our trip to Tuscaloosa.  Also, the Director, Jared Patterson, and Site Supervisor, Peter Salemme have been very supportive and helpful to us. They secured room and board at the Y’Acres Camp and we had an opportunity to work on a house for a retired Army veteran.  Mr. Bishop is a retired veteran of World War II and the Korean War.  Home Depot donated $15,000 toward the supplies needed to refurbish his house, and the interns provided the manpower.  The interns had the opportunity to meet him, and he was so grateful to have his home restored.  

Special thanks again this year to the Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity of the University of Alabama for the welcoming party.  They also made available to the interns the use of the water park to cool off and relax when the work was done. We would like to thank IBEW Local 136’s Business Manager, Jerry Keenum, along with his assistant, James “Pee Wee” Reece for the Southern home cooked meal of pulled pork and all the fixings, tee shirts for the interns, and giving us a tour of the area. Our supervisors, Sam Gormley, Brendan and Kyle Morgan, Pat Costello, Al DeBenedictis, Eugene McGillycuddy, Eileen Fox and Pat and Gwen Kelly. Gwen Kelly organized wonderful meals to keep the crew well fed.  
I would like to thank Mairtin O’Muilleoir, Lord Mayor of Belfast, for hosting the interns on their return to a reception in Belfast City Hall.  He also recognized Pat and Gwen Kelly, our Texas coordinators, for their work with Project Children and Habitat for Humanity.  We appreciate the recognition for all these young adults for their charitable work and service to others.

I would also like to thank our donors and supporters who raise money for Project Children to fund the intern program, especially Joe Walsh and his family who run our annual golf tournament.  Also, thanks to all our coordinators and volunteers, as well as our host families, without which none of this would be possible."


A Coordinator Reflects On Another Successful Summer 

Coordinator Al DeBenedictis reflects on another successful intern Summer.


"This past summer I had the opportunity to meet and work with 24 of Northern Ireland’s finest ambassadors; Project Children’s Intern Program Class of 2013. The first week of the program was spent in Tuscaloosa, Alabama working with Habitat for Humanities. Most of the work our team was assigned to involved completing items on the punch lists. We regarded yards and placed drainage pipes around two of the homes. We also placed vapor barriers and stone under a home. And at a third site we cleaned up construction debris. The Habitat site manager was so pleased with the team’s work effort she treated us to shaved ice at “Summer Snow”. Shaved ice is a welcome break from the heat of the day in Alabama.


In the Ocean County area there were three placements; two in the Morris County Prosecutor’s Office and one at Employment Horizons. I feel that Employment Horizon offers one of the most rewarding experiences in Project Children’s Intern Program. Each year it allows the intern to work with people with special needs. Fionnuala Doherty, a Psychology student at Queens University, (pictured with one of the Employment Horizon special needs workers) organized and guided groups of special needs workers through their daily tasks. While the work itself seems to be quite basic to many; it is challenging and rewarding for people with special needs. By the end of her placement Fionnuala learned not only how to interact with people with special needs but that such interactions broaden her understanding of their needs as well. As a Psychology student her learning experience with people of special needs at Employment Horizon can not be duplicated in a class environment. She, as well as the many students over the years, did not look forward to the placement ending. She confided that for her the learning experience was one of the best she had ever experienced. As for this coordinator, a memorable experience for each student is what the Intern Program strives to provide."





Habitat for Humanity Tuscaloosa is a local affiliate of Habitat for Humanity International. Their mission is to rebuild Tuscaloosa by partnering with volunteers, donors, sponsors, and families to provide housing solutions and ongoing community development. They do this by building attractive, affordable, sustainable new homes for hardworking families, rehabbing and repairing existing homes in critical need, and serving as a catalyst for a wide range of community strategies that will transform lives and neighborhoods. 


Project Children Interns flew to Alabama in June 2013 to participate in Habitat for Humanity where they, like many interns before them will deticated their first week of their internship by giving back to the American people in Tuscaloosa.

Follow the progress of the relief work on the Habitat website: 




Project Children Interns Give Back to War Veteran

Niamh O'Neill a student at the University of Ulster Studying Communications with Public Relations, Interned at The Waterstone Inn, Greenwood Lake, New York.


"Looking back on the Habitat week I have learnt so much that I couldn’t begin to write it all down on paper! Taking part in Habitat for Humanity in Tuscoloosa, Alabama was an incredible experience that I will never forget. I learnt so many new skills and made new friends who I know I will stay in touch with for years to come. It was hard work and was very challenging at times but with the help of the others and the coordinators we all powered through and handing over the house to the owner at the end was such a rewarding experience.


The house we worked on belonged to a man called Willy Bishop who served in WW2 and the Korean War for three years. He had originally built the house in 1948 with his brothers and was one of ten children. Mr Bishop was a lifelong resident of Tuscaloosa and had resided in his home on 18th Avenue East since 1948. Mr. Bishop is 84 years old and served as the deacon of his church for over 20 years. After honorable discharge from the Army, Mr. Bishop worked at Rick’s Hardware in Alberta City for 25 years. Mr. Bishop lives alone, has no children and has never been married. Habitat for Humanity graciously agreed to spearhead the construction aspect of the project and he was granted 15,000 dollars from Home Depot and furniture was donated by ‘High Socks for Hope”. As he just turned 85 years old on June 20th so a new house for him was the perfect birthday present we could give him!"



Rewarding & Challenging Experience

Sarah O'Hagan a student at Queen's University Belfast Studying Accounting, Interned at the Turning Stone Resort, Verona, New York

"Working in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, for Habitat for Humanity was both rewarding and challenging and is an experience I will never forget! I had the opportunity to work on two partially completed houses- helping out with painting, cleaning and landscaping etc. While the work was difficult and the heat was intense, meeting the families we were building the houses for, made us realise how worthwhile and important Habitat for Humanity is! The programme involved working as a team and as a result, allowed us to bond really quickly as a group and by the of the week many close friendships were formed. We were also working on the houses with volunteers from various communities which meant we were constantly meeting new people and every day was different.

Outside of work, we had activities planned for every night. On the first night we went to a BBQ at a fraternity house of the University of Alabama and later in the week, the electricians union hosted an American cookout for the whole project children group, so we had the opportunity to taste American cuisine. Additionally, we got to go to swimming in a beautiful lake and the University of Alabamas' swimming pool. We also got a tour of their amazing football stadium-which is unlike anything I've ever seen before! Overall, habitat for humanity was a truly unforgettable and brilliant week, and was an experience I am so grateful for."






One Of The Best Weeks Of My Life

Cliodhna Nicbhranair a student at Queen's University Belfast Studying Irish and History, Interned at the Aisling Center, Bronx, New York


"My week working for Habitat for Humanity was, without a doubt, one of the best weeks of my life. We were helping to rebuild houses for people who had lost everything in the tornado that hit Tuscaloosa in 2011. We worked on several houses doing everything from painting walls and doorframes, to laying gardens, to putting up the walls of the house. It was hard work, particularly given the heat and humidity that we, coming from Ireland, were not used to at all! In spite of this, everyone worked hard and, after hearing from some of the families what they had lost in the tornado, it was an amazing feeling to be able to say that we had helped them begin to reestablish their homes.


We worked from 7am through ‘til midafternoon and then we had the evenings to ourselves. We were never bored, however, as the Project Children coordinators had something organized for us every evening. Over the course of the week we had the privilege of having the traditional Southern meal of ‘pulled pork’ made and served up for us by the members of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW), of visiting the Kappa Alpha fraternity house on the campus of the University of Alabama and of meeting several of the members and of touring the amazing Bryant-Denny football stadium at the same university. When we first arrived in Alabama to begin our work with Habitat for Humanity I don’t think anyone knew what to expect. But we worked hard despite the hot weather conditions and by the end of the week, all thanks to those at Project Children and Habitat for Humanity, Tuscaloosa, we had not only helped at least three different families rebuild their homes, and hopefully their lives, we had become friends.





Indescribable 4th of July

Shannon McLorie a student at Northumbria University Studying Law, Interned at the Morris Co. Prosecutor's Office, New Jersey.


"I spent my 4th of July in New York City, for my first time, on a rooftop, facing the pier where the firework boat was situated; it was an experience that I believe would not have happened if it were not for Project Children. I originally had no intention of going to NYC, I do not think any of us did as we had been invited to an all American BBQ and I feared the crowds of people would be overpowering – what a mistake that would have been if I would not have taken up the opportunity.


We then met up with a few of the other interns who informed us that Denis’s son, Shawn (a police officer for the city of New York) had offered to take us closer to the front to view the fireworks. We were all shocked when he had invited us up onto the roof of a building, facing the pier. The view was indescribable, especially when we were told that we were actually looking out onto New Jersey.


I would like to thank Project Children for the opportunities that were presented to me, I will take the experiences that I had with me and I am sure that I will never forget them."



A Michigan 4th of July Experience

Danielle McCrystal a student at Queen's University Belfast Studying Finance, Interned at Plymouth Community Arts Council, Michigan.


"Looking back at my 4th July experience, I can say I really experienced America at its finest in the state of Michigan.

On the morning of the 4th July, we kicked off the celebrations with the early morning parade in the local town, Northville. Families lined the streets, flying the red, white and blue stripped flag, in anticipation for the numerous floats, vintage cars and fire trucks to flow through the town. I was grateful to be part of the upbeat atmosphere, as the parade passed by, thanking everyone for coming out and supporting them as they threw candy and ice pops into the crowd. The variety of acts within the parade was incredible.

After the parade we returned home where my host family held a family BBQ, to spend quality time with family, before attending the 4th July concert in Kellogg Park. The Park was filled with people wanting to celebrate the 4th with their friends and family. As Project Children interns from Ireland, we received the warmest welcome from people we spoke with; one being a World War 2 flight Veteran who landed on D-Day, before being asked to hold the American flag for the National Anthem.

It was a remarkable experience, one that not many people my age have, as hundreds of Americans stood to solute their flag and sing their home song."




Our Worldwind 4th of July Weekend As "Locals"

Aisling O'Brien a student at Queen's University Belfast Studying Law, Interned at the Osborne & Sheffield, Jacksonville, Florida.


"4th July in Jacksonville Beach, Florida definitely turned out to be a whirlwind of a weekend! Preparations for the celebrations began a few days before hand when we got ourselves kitted out in American themed paraphernalia. These included red, white and blue sunglasses, hoola necklaces and decorations for our bikes. Cara and Sabrina, our two American friends, had planned a fantastic day of fun activities for us to ensure we truly entered into the American spirit and enjoyed the day as locals!


We biked to the beach and cycled up and down 1stStreet, stopping along the way to listen to the live music at the pier and soak in the exciting atmosphere of the celebrations. There were hundreds of people cycling around enjoying themselves, which unfortunately led to some bike crashes! We stayed for a while at the beach and then returned to our host family’s house for a family BBQ. Afterwards, we had 4th July cupcakes and cooled down from the searing heat in the family pool.


Our 4th July weekend didn’t end there! We went to a dinner theatre named the ‘Alhambra’ on Saturday night to see a performance of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Tecnicolor Dreamcoat.’ On Sunday, we had the chance to go out on a speedboat on the intercoastal waterway and then lunch at a seafood restaurant in the exclusive Ponte Vedra area. I thoroughly enjoyed my 4thJuly weekend and it just would not have been possible without my excellent host family!"




 4th of July Was A Highlight Of My Trip

Ruairi O'Callaghan a student at University College Dublin Studying Business and Law, Interned at the International Minute Press, Plymouth, Michigan.


"The day started with a cup of coffee and a trip to see the Northville Michigan parade. The participants included everyone from Karate schools, military veterans and a float carrying three soldiers and other figures such as Ab Lincoln. After this, we went back to the house and barbequed. The food was incredible. Next, in the nearby town of Plymouth, we attended an evening concert and were privileged to be asked to hold the United States flag during the playing of the national anthem. It was an intense experience, but thoroughly enjoyable. The day ended with a trip to a local restaurant followed by fireworks when we returned to the house. The 4th of July stands out as one of the highlights of my trip so far. I found the people in Michigan to be really welcoming and genuinely interested in our story. It certainly won’t forget it anytime soon."




Interning Has Been One Of The Most Valuable Experiences of My Life

Ciara Maguire a student at Queen's University Belfast Studying Accounting, Interned at the Turning Stone Resort, Verona, New York.


“I had the opportunity to intern at Turning Stone Resort in Verona, NY. During my time in Upstate New York, I have gained not only valuable work experience but also been given an insight into the American culture and met some great people along the way. Turning Stone is a beautiful and overwhelmingly large resort that provides almost any sort of entertainment one can think of. It holds host to a casino, two spas, multiple golf courses, and many different types of restaurants and bars. During my time there, I witnessed the enterprises’ celebrations for 20 years of business and the opening of a whole new branch of the resort.


I have had an excellent range of experiences during my internship at Turning Stone. Following the annual employee picnic and a two day induction, I worked for a week and a half as a dining attendant at the Pino Pronto restaurant, enabling me to interact with the resort’s patrons who were always eager to hear about Ireland. I then spent two days in the marketing department which was fascinating and allowed me to see both the designing and distributing of marketing materials across different medias. After marketing, I spent three days working as a food runner in Upstate Tavern, another restaurant. I found the work in each of these places extremely enjoyable and they have enhanced my communication and team-working skills, but most of all my ability to adapt to situations outside of my comfort zone. Being an accounting student, I was eager to start the remaining few weeks of my internship in the finance department at Turning Stone. At present, I have been working there just over a week and have already got a great insight into tasks similar to those I would be completing in an accountancy graduate post.


As I mentioned earlier, I have also got to experience the American culture and the hospitality of two fantastic host families. I started my internship off living in Vernon and spent a weekend at camp beside Alex Bay, a beautiful lake; enjoyed a day at Sylvan Beach; took part in the traditional American games of Cornhole and KanJam; and visited Destiny USA, one of the largest malls in America. For the second part of my internship, I moved to Syracuse and have had even more fantastic experiences including going on a boat tour of Skaneateles; going to two different festivals, including working at the Great American Irish Festival for Project Children; and eating at some delicious restaurants. This coming weekend myself and two other interns are travelling to the Canadian border to see Niagara Falls before heading to see the sights in New York City on the final weekend. My Project Children Internship at Turning Stone has been one of the most diverse, exciting, enjoyable and valuable experiences of my life, both inside and outside of work, and one which I am sure never to forget.”