Jennifer Redmond’s a Cincinnatian with some Irish heritage, but until a couple years ago, she hadn’t heard about Ulster Project Cincinnati
, which places teens from the Northern Irish town of Enniskillen with local teens and host families to engage in community service, relationship building and important dialogue.
“We had a young lady named Emma, and she taught us a lot about life,” says Redmond, Ulster Project Cincinnati’s host committee chair. “She’s very wise for being only 15 years old, and a lot of these kids are—which is why they’re chosen.”
The teens come here because they intend to become leaders, Redmond says.
Northern Ireland is a region divided because of religious differences and a struggle for power; but the goal of the Ulster Project is to bring both Protestant and Catholic teens together in a safe environment to discuss their differences and begin finding ways to connect.
“Even though there was a ceasefire there in the early 2000s, they really live in a very extreme society—there are peace walls to separate different neighborhoods—Catholics live in different neighborhoods; there are different sports teams, segregated schools, different flags,” Redmond says. “It’s a very separated society, but the U.S. is considered neutral ground, so they get to meet each other and leave as friends.”
According to Redmond, the neat part is getting to see the ways their work and fellowship in Cincinnati translate to life in Northern Ireland.
“Thanks to Facebook and social media, we can watch what happens when they go back, and it’s beautiful to see,” Redmond says.
“At one point, we had a Protestant teen and a Catholic teen stay with us, and they’ve gone back to their own country and made these arrangements online with each other. They go to each other’s sporting events, and the parents are starting to meet—and that’s what it’s all about. We set the foundation, and our kids act as conduits for peace.”
• Consider being a host
Ulster Project Cincinnati. Business sponsorships are always welcome.
• Learn about the history of Northern Ireland, and check out this video
about Irish Reconiciliation.
By Brittany York
Brittany York is a professor of English composition at the University of Cincinnati and a project manager for Charitable Words. She also edits the For Good section of SoapboxMedia.