Ulster Project Delaware
A Life-Changing Experience for Teens and Their Families
What is Ulster Project Delaware?
Ulster Project Delaware (UPD) is a project of Pacem in Terris, a non-profit organization active in the quest for peace and justice throughout the world. Each year UPD brings 18 Northern Irish Catholic and Protestant boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 16 to our area for a month of trust building and reconciliation activities in July. While here, they are hosted by families with a teen of the same age who also participates in the daily activities organized and supervised by UPD’s Operating Committee. The project is hosted by one local Catholic and one Protestant church where many activities take place.
Approaching its 42st year, UPD is highly experienced and organized, with excellent communications tools between UPD leaders and the teens and their families.
What is the purpose of UPD?
In bringing Northern Irish teens of different faiths together in a strife-free environment, UPD promotes reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants. During the month-long project in Delaware, tolerance and understanding is fostered, stereotypes are dissolved, and deep friendships are formed. These future leaders return to their N.I. towns with a changed view of the relationships among people of different faiths and contribute greatly to the long-term peace efforts between Catholics and Protestants.
Who can participate?
Boys and girls from Delaware and nearby communities who are between the ages of 14 and 16 and who have completed 9th grade may apply. Eighteen host teens are selected: 9 girls, 9 boys, a mix of Protestants and Catholics. Each family hosts one Northern Irish teen for the month. Participants are not limited to those of Irish descent.
What do the teens do throughout the month?
American and Northern Irish teens participate in a full calendar of activities throughout the 4-week project. The 36 teens, N. Irish leaders and UPD leaders meet almost every day for a wide variety of activities. For example:
- Discovery Days: Led by an experienced Discovery Director, teens explore the nature of prejudice and what can be done to overcome it.
- The American Experience: Visits to D.C., New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, the beaches.
- Service Days: In recent years teens have contributed to Shoes 2 Share, Waggies by Maggie; Ministry of Caring and other nonprofits; and they participate in a 5K and car wash to benefit UPD.
- Ecumenical Understanding: In addition to group attendance at a Catholic Mass and Protestant Service, teens visit a synagogue, mosque, Friends Meeting House, and the Amish.
- Leadership/Team Building: Teens take part in a day of supervised team and confidence building at Fellowship Farm. Additionally, on bus trips, at beaches, during social events and in their travels, teens take on various intellectual and physical challenges to build relationships and cohesion in the group.
- Social Events: Canoeing on the Brandywine, dances, bowling, picnics, Dorney Park, square dancing, pool parties, shopping, and more!
What do the American teens get out of UPD?
This is an extraordinary opportunity for teens aged 14 to 16 to begin moving into young adulthood, to be exposed to the world and people outside of their local community, and to become aware – on a very personal basis – of the prejudices and intolerance that negatively affect peace in communities. The teens truly become world peacemakers. There is a serious side to this month of “fun.” They learn about the political, economic and social situation in Northern Ireland; they visit a wide variety of houses of worship and learn about their beliefs; and they mature in their concern for others. Throughout the month, teens are expected to behave and talk with respect in all circumstances – and they do. The American teens also gain a new network of local friends from different local schools and these relationships continue for years.
N.I. teens return home at the end of the month, but the bonds of friendship and understanding between the teens, and the attitudes engendered have been fused. American teens incorporate the same qualities of tolerance, understanding and leadership learned during the project in their own schools and communities. They exhibit a new maturity, and a new sense of how peace in the world begins with each one of us. On college and scholarship applications, teens are able to articulate their in-depth understanding of the program and their part in it, and their exposure to the international community far beyond vacation travel is evident—and personal.
What is the family commitment?
Families who host a Northern Irish teen act as surrogate parents for the teen throughout the month. The N.I. teen quickly becomes part of the family. U.S. and N.I. teens participate in daily activities for which they need transportation (local meeting locations, or pick-up and drop-offs to bus areas – car pools are usually arranged), packed lunches, and sometimes meal money on trips. Daily events are chaperoned by UPD leaders. There are a number of family activities throughout the month (family picnics, church services, square dance, pot luck dinners, progressive dinner…) that include parents and siblings, though all family members are not required to attend. Parents supply drinks, snacks and other food for some activities. Teen activities consume all but a few days of the 4-week project, so family schedules, vacations, etc., must be arranged around the UPD calendar.
What do parents and siblings gain from the experience?
Host parents gain another son or daughter – forever! The N.I. teens and their families are truly grateful for the care and love given to them. Relationships are often formed between families that continue long into the future. Siblings acquire an additional sister or brother, and they themselves become part of the bigger UPD family. American parents and siblings get to know each other throughout the course of the project during the family events and carpooling, and easily share the infectious UPD enthusiasm.
During the month, parents will see true joy and happiness on the faces of their young teenagers. Before jobs, cars, and college pull the teens further from the family circle, parents witness their son or daughter becoming an integral part of a happy and enthusiastic group with a positive focus.
What is the cost?
Host families pay a nominal participation fee, currently $150. This includes all buses, fees (museums, canoe trip, amusement park, beaches, etc.), and tee shirts for both the U.S. and N.I. teens, as well as family photos and the farewell dinner for families. The N.I. teens bring their own money for souvenirs and gifts, but normal living expenses (food, laundry…) are provided by the host families. Families also incur some additional expenses to provide drinks and snacks for teen parties and some other activities, and some dishes provided for family events, as well as providing packed lunches most days for both teens.