Submitted by John Hough
The Ulster Project season is upon us. To those who have never been involved, these are just words. But to our board of dedicated volunteers, to the former host families, and to the teens of the past, hopefully this statement brings forth positive memories and an underlying sense of the shift that occurred in their life as a result of their experience with the Project.
It’s not often that you can pinpoint the moment your life changed for the better. But I can. It happens every year when a group of teens, young and unknowingly naive, gather for the first time as a group that makes up the Ulster Project of (fill in the year). They come with their own ideas about the way the world works and their place in it. But when they leave, they have a better understanding of who they are, how they are connected—separated by miles and plane rides and oceans but together in their sense of unity and purpose.
Every year at the start of the Project, before our friends arrive from Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, I am asked to write a letter to inspire and encourage them before they embark on this trip that will no doubt in some way impact their life. Each year, I feel that my words fail to express how much they will be changed by this experience. The Project month is packed full of fun, laughter, memories, and new friendships.
But it also contains some tears, sunburns, bug bites, and growing pains. There comes a point in all of the planning and preparation that I have to stop and ask myself, why am I doing this again? And what it comes down to is this—I believe in peace. I believe that we are all connected, even around the world, and the gifts that we have to offer each other are far more beautiful when they are shared.
I believe that we all have within us the potential to make the world a better place—and that the Ulster Project brings that out in all of us.
But we are at a crossroads. In order to offer this life-changing, awe-inspiring, almost unexplainable experience we need host teens and families to participate. Each year we compete with sports, 4-H, family vacations, band camp, mission trips, and more. This year, we are currently two boys short. I understand that life gets busy—believe me, I know. But I also know that this work is important and we cannot do it without you. We still have space for two boys teens between the ages of 13-16 for this year’s Project. I can’t even begin to explain all the benefits it has in store for your teen and your family in this brief post. But I will give a few details below:
The teens arrive on June 30 and will be here through July 29. They will be involved in a series of activities that included Shared Worship, Service Projects, Discovery sessions where we talk about (mattering and marginality, racism, sectarianism, bullying, leadership development, and conflict resolution) and fun. There is no cost to participate in the Ulster Project, the teens from Northern Ireland arrive with spending money and insurance. All you need is a 13-16 year old teen, a bed for them, a little space to store their clothing and lots of love.
If you want more information, feel free to contact John Hough at [email protected] or by phone at (865) 405-5929.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
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