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, Maire Therese Griffen and Paul Lecky, 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 Habitat For Humanity- Tuscaloosa for organizing our trip to Tuscaloosa.  Also, the Volunteer Coordinator, Jared Patterson, Construction Director, Brandon Kasteler, 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 the house of an Army veteran.  Ms. Jennifer Myles who served for 6 years in the American army with 3 deployments to Afghanistan throughout the week the interns had the opportunity to talk to Ms. Myles and listen to her story. A group of interns also helped with the “Women Build”. This is a house where the work is done by women volunteers and they have their own moto of “We’d rather build than clean it”.    

Special thanks again this year to the Kappa Alpha Order Fraternity of the University of Alabama for the welcoming party. This year we made a presentation of a plaque to the gentlemen of the Fraternity to thank them for their hospitality throughout the years. We also made a presentation of Belfast crystal to Bob Pugh, the Director of Risk Management at the University, for his generous hospitality throughout the years and organizing the tour of Bear Bryant Football Stadium and also making 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, and caps for the interns. We also made a presentation to James “Pee Wee” Reece to thank the IBEW for their hospitality each year.

Last year we received a tour of the Federal court house in Tuscaloosa; here we got a chance to meet the Honourable L. Scott Coogler (Judge Coogler). This year Judge Coogler took two of our interns and hosted one of the interns while Daniel Maguire who works in administration at the University of Alabama and his wife Amanda took the other intern. I would also like to thank our supervisors, Sam Gormley, Brendan and Kyle Morgan, Pat Costello, Eugene McGillycuddy, and Pat and Gwen Kelly. Gwen Kelly organized wonderful meals to keep the crew well fed. 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, Michael J. Miller Memorial Fund and the Sarah I. Schieffelin Residuary Trust.  Also, thanks to all our coordinators and volunteers, as well as our host families, without which none of this would be possible."




Falling In Love With The Deep South

Niamh McEvoy a student at University of Ulster studying Law with Criminology, interned with Judge Coogler at the 11th Circuit District Court, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

"During my internship I gathered a lot of practical experience of the federal court system in America. I sat in on various criminal and civil trials and participated in numerous educational tours to places such as a shooting range, federal prison and the Birmingham Civil Rights Museum- to name a few! When not participating in such activities we were given our own individual projects that included tasks such as compiling the facts and history of the case assigned to us. I have gained valuable insight into legal language and learnt how to draft legal documents among many other benefits. 

When not interning in the Courthouse we spent our time sightseeing and spending time with our host family. Over the fourth of July my host family and I travelled to Georgia and went kayaking. We watched a beautiful array of fireworks over the lake close to our accommodation on the 4th night, which was spectacular! During my weekends off I also took trips to Washington D.C. and New York City to see the sights and experience different types of American culture. 

Overall my time in America was the most thrilling and exciting experience I have done in my life so far, and I have fallen in love with the ‘Deep South’ and the hospitable people that live there. I would urge anyone considering this programme to apply without hesitation. I would also like to take this opportunity to thank Project Children for this invaluable experience and my host family for putting up with me during my time in Alabama, I am forever grateful for their kindness and hospitality, and it is an experience I will never forget!"  





Interning - An Amazing Experience

Diarmuid O' Connor a student at the Limerick Institute of Technology, studying Civil Engineering Management, interned at JT Magen Construction & Co.


"For my internship I worked for JT Magen & Company Inc. who are general contractors and construction managers. I was based in the site office of a newly constructed school on 95th street near the East River in Manhattan. As a civil engineering management student there is only so much to learn in a classroom, so to get the everyday experience of been on site putting what I know into practice and learning so much more than the basic construction side of things was amazing. Coordinating with other trades, making up daily, weekly and monthly schedules, sitting in on trade meetings and owners meetings gave me an insight of the kind of work I will be doing once I’m qualified and is something that I’m excited to do. My supervisor was so helpful to me showing me his daily routine and helping me in every way he could. 

For the 8 weeks I was here I was lucky enough to stay with my host family in Floral Park, Long Island.  They made it so easy for me to settle into New York helped me out with everything and anything.  They definitely went beyond their duties to make me feel comfortable in their home and help me in anyway possible. Without any doubt, these 8 weeks in America have been the best time of my life. I've met some incredible people along this journey, was told some great stories from other years, had some great laughs and most of all the other students I met, I think it’s  safe to say they are friends for life.  I cannot thank everyone in Project Children, JT Magen and my host family enough for this once in a life time chance. I would encourage any student looking to go to America is to apply for Project Children Intern Program, it’s just a no brainer! You won’t regret it!"





The Experience of A Lifetime

Denise Haslett a student at the University of Ulster studying Psychology, interned at Employment Horizons in New Jersey.

"As soon as I found out I was accepted to become an intern for project children, I knew it was going to be an experience of a lifetime. My time spent in America has been more than I could have ever imagined it to be. I stayed in New Jersey State with another intern named Nicole. We bonded well and it was fun to experience everything with another person. We stayed with the Grant family and interned in Employment Horizons. Employment Horizons is an employability workshop for adults with physical and mental disabilities. It is unbelievable the experience I have gathered from my internship. The Grant family are wonderful people. These two people are remarkable for doing what they did for me. They are the nicest, most caring and giving people I have ever met. They welcomed me into their home with open arms and made me feel like part of their family. While staying at Chez Grant, everything you want to experience becomes possible because the Grants help you make it possible. During my eight weeks here I have learnt so much about Americas history. Thankfully I received the opportunity to visit four states. As well as staying in New Jersey we got to visit Philadelphia, Washington, D.C. and New York City. It has defiantly been a mind blowing experience.

Working at Employment Horizons I have received more experience than I could have imagined. I met and worked along side some remarkable people. The production team have outstanding charisma and I am grateful I got to become part of the team. All the clients are amazing, they all are unique and have some many different personalities and characters who work there I am lucky I got an internship like this one.  Everyday at Employment Horizons is always different from the last. This non-profit organisation has opened my eyes to a new world. I have developed new skills to help me work alongside people with disabilities and have a more depth understanding about the many unrecognised abilities a person with disabilities have. I hope I can one day make a difference in Northern Ireland/Ireland by helping the country develop more to aid people with disabilities. 

I appreciate everything I have learned and experienced. The past eight weeks have flown in and I have enjoyed every single minute of it. I will certainly be back to visit one day soon. This experience has helped me develop and become a better person. I cannot thank everyone enough for this opportunity, I will never forget it or the people I have met. They are the ones who made it such a great time." 





Interns Alabama Bond

Gregory Creaney a student at Queen's University Belfast studying Politics, Philosophy and Economics, interned at the office of Peter King, Congressman.


"My time interning in the US was spent in Congressman Pete King’s District Office on Long Island. My duties predominately consisted of assisting constituents, be it contacting federal agencies on their behalf, listening to their concerns or following up on their enquiries. The experience is certainly unlike many other recent graduates and I feel advantaged not only to have the internship itself on my resume but to have developed myself and my skills while working there. My co-workers were genuinely interested in my learning and development and before long I felt a sense of accomplishment working there.

The entire experience was incredible, from nights in the city to singsongs on scaffolding in Alabama. I didn’t have a minute to myself in Alabama, I went to sleep listening to snores and woke up to laughs and jokes, but I loved every minute of it and it forged great friendships. It really allowed us to bond together and after Alabama my weeks working were spent in constant contact with the other interns, planning weekends into the Manhattan, Washington DC or just out in sunny Long Island. For the entire experience I have so many people to thank, Vinny for being the kindness and most welcoming host, the office of Pete King and his staff and all those involved in the program, those that were with us in Alabama and those in the background helping everything run smoothly. Altogether I can genuinely say my experience with Project Children has been the time of my life and I’m eternally grateful to everyone involved, all I can do now is encourage absolutely anyone willing to give it their all to apply."





Interning Summer 2014 - An Amazing Experience

Mairead O'Neill a student at University Collage Dublin studying Agricultural Science, interning with USG International and the Rye Harrison Veterinary Hospital

"I was lucky to be given the opportunity to do a two part internship. For the first part of my internship I worked for and lived with Una Teresa Gormley. Working in America was very interesting. The first couple of weeks after Alabama were very busy as we were preparing for our show in Madison Square Garden. We had to advertise the performance, which was on during the Liberty Games. This was an amazing opportunity as we got the hands on experience of organizing uniforms, tickets and performers. I was given the opportunity to perform on the stage which was the biggest performance of my life.  After Madison Square Gardens, we had summer camp, which I taught the tin whistle to some of the students. We also had to promote upcoming classes. Unateresa took Karen and I to different events during our stay. We helped to sell tickets at the Self Help Africa event in Stone Street. We also attended the IBO meeting where we helped sell tickets for the raffle. While we were at the event we got to meet the current consulate general and deputy consulate and we also got picture with the Liam McCarthy Cup and Sam Maguire Cup.

The Gormley family took us into their home as if we were family. They were very generous with their time and home. It was like living at home.  Unateresa took us to the Catskills an Irish music festival where I got to meet the Yanks, Matt Cranitch and Jackie Daly. We got to part take in a music session with these musicians, which was an amazing experience.  I also had the opportunity to perform at the Warwick Summer Fest with a dance troupe. The Mulcahy family was also very generous to us taking us out on the lake and BBQ’s at their home and Inn. This has been a very good experience. I have met many interesting people and seen many different places. I have gained hand on experience working in events and music performance.  

The second part of my internship gave me the opportunity to work at Rye Harrison Veterinary Hospital in Rye New York. This hospital is equipped to do laser surgery, endoscopy, ultrasound, and digital radiography. They offer full dental services including dental radiographs, as well as providing general surgery. Here I had the opportunity to shadow Dr Peter Romano as he carried out his day to day checkups and even surgery. He always took time to explain each case to me. It was a great experience and I learnt a lot about the small animal side of a veterinary practice. Each day at the practice was very busy, the hospital deals with a wide range of situations and each employee deals with each case as it arises with precision. On any given day there were at least three vets on call as well as numerous vet technicians,   there was wide range of appointments, ranging from a cat that needed a vaccine shot to a dog that had been hit by a car. It was a real exciting place to work and all of the staff were very nice and helpful and were always very encouraging and made an effort to teach me how to carry out certain tasks.

This has been an amazing experience and I’m very grateful to have been given the opportunity to come and to be able to work in America." 






Enchanting 4th Of July Experience

Nicole Killen a student at the University of Ulster studying physiotherapy, interned at Employment Horizons in New Jersey.

"Independence Day, also commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States of America commemorating the adoption of the Declaration of Independence from Great Britain on July 4, 1776 and is annually celebrated as a public holiday throughout the states. This year the holiday fell on a Friday, so a group of other interns and myself took this amazing opportunity to delve into the American custom and celebration in the heart of New York City. We booked a hotel room in Manhattan, the center of City, for the weekend. Myself and the four other girls staying in New Jersey headed in together on the train on Friday morning. When we arrived at Penn Station in New York I was ecstatic! I felt nervous simultaneously, I had never been to America before this life-changing trip and it had always been my dream to visit New York City; and at this moment it was quickly becoming a reality! 

It was everything I had imagined and more. We visited the Empire State Building, seen the World Cup play on the big screens as we walked through Times Square, shopped in 5th Avenue and met a group of the other interns in beside the lake with turtles and paddle boats in Central Park. That night we got the Subway to South Street Seaport to watch the famous Macy’s Fourth of July fireworks display over the East River, which included spectacular blasts from three barges and from the Brooklyn Bridge. It was out of this world, beautiful, enchanting and like nothing I have ever seen before!!"




Our 4th of July Jacksonville Jaunts

Dearbhla Boyle, a student at Queen's University Belfast, studying Law LLB and interning at The law office of Colleen A.White, family attorney in Jacksonville, Florida.

"To appropriately kick start our 4th July antics in Jacksonville Florida, Sophie and I firstly adorned ourselves in the patriotic red, white and blue. With our beach essentials in tow (a vital prerequisite to celebrating the 4th at the beach) we, along with our host family mounted the infamous beach cruisers and made our way down to the popular hotspot of Lillie’s where we recovered from Florida’s humidity with iced coffees and plenty of water. We then made our way down to our host’s family friend’s beach house – the perfect location for any 4th of July celebration. 

Only after indulging in the local area’s best pizzas did we make our short journey down to the beach where we sat amongst hundreds of other American’s scattered across the beach to watch Jacksonville’s famed Independence Day display. Afterwards our host family treated us to our own fireworks display before we ended the day (only after many questionable attempts as well as almost setting fire to most of the beach) by lighting and releasing lanterns. My 4th July experience at Atlantic beach can be described in one word as unforgettable and would not have been possible without my excellent host family’s efforts."




4TH Of July By The Brooklyn Bridge

Rubymarie Rice a student studying law at Queens university Belfast. Interning at New Jersey State Professional Firefighters Mutual Benevolent Society, Rahway, New Jersey

"I had the awesome opportunity to spend the an American national holiday, the fourth of July in one of the most visited and fast pace cities in the world, New York City. As my host family live in Cranford, New Jersey, I got the train in along with a few other interns also staying in New Jersey into the big smoke. It was exactly the same as was depicted in every movie I'd ever seen; tall and noisy with yellow cabs everywhere. We checked into our hotel in Manhattan and then went to explore. We spent some time wondering from store to store and ended up spending quite a lot of money in the department store Macy's. We had lunch in a little place near our hotel before catching the subway train to Staten Island Station to watch the fireworks display on the Brooklyn Bridge. They were mesmerizing and there were so many people gathered out to see them, it took quite a while to reach the spot for viewing the fireworks, but we didn't mind because we were so excited. We stayed out late and then the next day we went site seeing in Times Square before walking through Central Park and enjoying all the various land marks and sites it had to offer. 

At the end of the long day we got the train back to New Jersey, we were tired from the eventful weekend but it was definitely well worth it! Couldn't think of a better or more amazing way to spend our first ever Fourth of July!"




Independence Day at Atlantic Beach

Sophie Hynds studying Law LLB at University of Ulster interned at Osborne & Sheffield, Jacksonville, Florida 

"4th July Independence Day at Atlantic Beach in Florida was a very exciting day! Atlantic beach was packed. Everyone from morning to midnight was on their beach bikes dressed in red, white and blue. There were BBQs, drinks parties and music on the front lawn of every house in the area which created a great buzz for the celebrations. We went to Lillie’s, the local hang out for iced coffees then as it was a very sunny hot day with 98% humidity so everyone headed to the beach. We were at a house 50 yards from the beach were we played sports and ate pizzas. We then walked to the beach for the fireworks at 9pm. They were at Jacksonville peer and were so exciting to watch. The beach was packed full of Americans all celebrating Independence Day. Afterwards we lit Chinese lanterns and played more sports on the beach before heading back to the house to have our own fireworks show with our host family which was really fun. 4th July at Atlantic Beach had a great buzz and it was fun to be part of one of America’s biggest calendar days."


 The Importance Of Charity Work and Giving Back

Niamh McEvoy a student at University of Ulster studying Law with Criminology, interned with Judge Coogler at the 11th Circuit District Court, Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


"A week in habitat is challenging and simply put was the hardest working week I have endured in my young years. Yet when I looks back on what we have achieved, and what it is building towards, I am overwhelmed not only with a sense of achievement but also of humblesness. The tiredness and hunger brought on by days of working in humid conditions under a blazing sun all melted away when you remembered what, and who, you were doing this for. The homeowners whose lives had been turned upside down by a vicious tornado that had ripped the city of Tuscaloosa in two. When you met them and heard their stories nothing mattered except the end result and knowing that you contributed to the projects that helped those individuals avoid homelessness.


Anyone can donate a penny to a charity box, but to donate your time and energy to a cause such as Habitat for Humanity is so much greater. The cause is extremely worthwhile as you get to see first hand what your effort is producing. One big lesson I have learnt from our week doing Habitat is how important charity work and giving back to a community is both morally and personally. Without doubt I hope to continue my volunteer efforts in the future and upon my return to Northern Ireland!"




Rewarding & Challenging Experience

Andrew O'Doherty a student at the University of Ulster studying Architecture, interned at BHC Architects, New York City.


"We all boarded the flight heading from New York to Alabama, habitat for humanity was something none of us experienced, but had heard great stories from interns in the past. As we departed the flight into the air conditioned lobbies of Birmingham airport we didn’t realize the extent of the heat just yet. Greeted by faces of host families, and leaders such as Pat Kelly, we were shipped off to the Y acres camp just outside Tuscaloosa. Exiting the airport, the extreme heat and humidity hit us, the realization that in a few days we would be carrying out hard labor in this environment was scary, yet exciting.
From a weekend of gatherings, BBQs and the great hospitality of the southern people, we all started to understand why Alabama was such a ‘sweet home’. We spent the following week, in what they called mild heat, I know after two changes of t-shirts, to us this was more than mild. Early mornings being greeted by Gwen, painting, hammering and construction work helped us quiet 20 interns at the start to become lifelong friends who shared an experience of a life time. Habitat has all gave us humility and humbleness, and a sense that a group of people can give so much back on one week, but a lifetime of memories to take home.

Standing back at the airport in New York, the faces around us where no longer anxious, but full of tears, laughter and excitement for the next 6 weeks to come, as a group of friends working together for project children."





Habitat for Humanity: A Sense of Team Work 


Christina McCormick a student at Queen's University Belfast studying Business Economics, interned at The Irish Echo Newspaper, New York City.


"Thursday was another early morning for us at camp and at this point we were beginning to get used to 6am starts; we made our way to the buses as usual and morale was great in the group as it usually is early in the mornings. When we got on site we knew where we had to be and what we had to do. We were broken up into 3 groups some of us were on a “women’s build”, several of us on the main site at war veteran, Jennifer Miles’ house and the rest on other smaller projects.

Most of Thursday involved finishing touches, painting the house and carrying on from the work we had done the days previous. By lunch time the early mornings and later nights of Habitat Week were beginning to catch up with everyone and we were all more than ready for a quick lunch break and to be revitalized. We returned back to the camp for lunch and a short rest. But before long we were back on the buses with the group singing ‘Iggy Azaleas-Fancy’ which was always on the radio and quickly became our theme tune for our Habitat week in Alabama. It was a hot day and the work was intense, we had to push ourselves which in the end made it all the more rewarding! By day four the sense of team work was apparent as was the bond between our team!"




Final Day of Habitat And A One In A Million Experience 

Samantha Kirkpatrick a student at South West College Omagh studying Engineering, interned at Calorique LLC.


"It was our final day at Habitat, Nancy the house coordinator had briefed the team the evening before that this was the final day to complete the house. Myself and four other Project Children Interns; Anna, Maireàd, Niamh and Natalie had formed a team on day 1. Where we were assigned the responsibility to complete a home for the Poe family. The home we had worked on was known as the Woman's build, where only a team of women had volunteered to build a home from the ground up. As we were present for the final week of the build we had the responsibility to add the finishing touches to the home.


On Day 5 our main priority was getting the garden perfect. We had laid the sods, scattered the grass seed and planted scrubs in the flower beds. We had bonded well as a team and developed, what I've heard described as "fast friendships" with each other and with AmeriCorps NCCC Girls (who supervised us during the week). As the garden eventually came together the feeling of accomplishment was overwhelming. The physical work was exhausting and adding the heat on top was tough but it was worth it to be part of an amazing cause that helps those in need.


At 2pm there was a dedication arranged where project Children presented a plaque to the home owners. Niamh and I worked that morning getting the plaque finished and signed by all the Interns. We finally got to meet the lovely lady Jennifer; Jennifer told us all her story and how her dream was to own her own home, Habitat for Humanity and the work we had contributed made this possible. Hearing Jennifer talk about her experience summed up the entire week and clarified how amazing our work was. I had a feeling within myself that I have never experience before and the gratitude the home owners showed was astounding.

My experience with habitat was one in a million and I will never forget the time I spent in Tuscaloosa or the people I have met."