Class of 2019

Haleigh O’Neill, Sociology and Psychology student, Ulster University, Jordanstown.

Employment Horizons - New Jersey

For my internship, I worked with the non-profit organisation, Employment Horizons, in New Jersey. Employment Horizons works with individuals who have disabilities and other barriers to employment and provides them with the opportunity to work within Employment Horizon’s workshop. They also help the programme participants in working towards gaining employment out in the wider community and provide support during and after this process. During my internship, I was predominately working within the workshop floating between the five groups and helping out the supervisors. On a number of occasions, I was thrown into the deep end and tasked with supervising a full group of about 20 clients by myself, because I had to cover any supervisor that was sick or on vacation. Taking on this responsibility could be a lot of pressure at times, but it was a great way to learn and develop my leadership skills. I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Employment Horizons, I will definitely miss going there everyday and getting to see all the friendly faces of the clients and staff. I was welcomed in with open arms and I am very grateful for the opportunity to have worked with such wonderful people. During my stay in New Jersey, I lived with my host family, Sean, Kate and Dawn Parkot. They are a kind, generous and interesting family, and I am so thankful for them. They made me feel comfortable in my new surroundings and were up to do anything to make my experience in America the best possible. Some highlights of my time spent with them include, seeing a historical re-enactment on the 4th of July, visiting the sights of New York City, a Broadway Show, a Mets Baseball Game, and honestly just sitting at the dinner table listening to some of the fascinating and inspiring stories they had to tell.

Patrick Friel, Law student, Queen’s University Belfast.

Congressman Peter King - New York

When we arrived in Alabama I had no idea how much fun we were going to have over the course of the next week. On our first night we watched the Project Children Documentary, which gave a great insight into the history of the programme and how lucky we were to be a part of it. On our first day on the job site there was nothing but a slab of concrete and some timber ready to be put together, but by the end of the day we were already making huge progress with the house. Working on the roof all week was great fun and is an experience I will never forget. The week in Alabama was one of the most enjoyable parts of my entire Project Children experience. I would like to thank Denis, Denis Jr., Maureen, Sam, Brendan, Ritchie, Al and Bróna for a great week on the site and on the camp, with plenty of laughs the whole time. We also had some great trips while in Alabama, going to the lake, the swimming pool and an Irish Bar, which were great after a hard day’s work. Once we arrived back to New York, Steven, Darrell and I were staying with Vinny McGreevy. Vinny couldn’t have been a better host. From our first night staying with him to the last, he was the most generous person I’ve ever met and went above and beyond to make our stay the best it could be. Vinny even took eight of the other interns and I to Washington for the weekend and on another trip to Philadelphia. I will really miss Vinny and how much fun we had staying with him There was never a dull moment. For my internship I spent the next six weeks in the district office of Congressman Peter King. Peter King made a huge contribution to the peace process in Northern Ireland and is still extremely interested in Irish affairs. My work mainly consisted of taking calls from constituents, helping them with the issues they were having with federal agencies and discussing any concerns that they had. I would like to thank Congressman King and everyone else in the office for making my internship incredibly enjoyable. I would also like to thank everyone from Project Children for giving me the opportunity to have an unforgettable summer!

Steven Power, Business Information Technology Student, Queen’s University Belfast.

MSA Security, New York

We arrived in New York on 21st June 2019 and met our host Vinny with his entourage of dogs and had a nice dinner in a Classic American diner. The next morning we set off to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and were greeted by a blistering 37 degree heat at the YMCA campsite. A traditional Southern buffet was served courtesy of a Christian Church followed by a viewing of the Project Children documentary, narrated by Liam Neeson. The documentary really showcased the prestigiousness of the program and the positive impact it has made on so many lives. Denis is a true hero, on both sides of the pond! For the following week we helped build a new home from scratch with Habitat for Humanity. We used an array of industrial power tools and had an infinite supply of water at hand. On the final day we attended a dedication televised by NBC. This was when the family in need were handed the keys to their new home. At this point it hit home that we were all making such a significant difference to people’s lives which was extremely rewarding and made every second of grafting in the Southern heat worth while. Over the next 6 weeks I spent a lot of time seeing the city, from eating pizza in the famous Juliana’s in Brooklyn and scurrying the Empire State, to catching a night cruise by the Statue of Liberty and getting last minute tickets to King Kong on Broadway which was absolutely spectacular! I also had the opportunity to visit Washington, Philadelphia and Boston and see the historic sites including the Lincoln Memorial, Liberty Bell and the Freedom Trial - just to name a few! Interns in the Long Island and Bronx area had the opportunity to visit Greenwood Lake for a night to see the heart of Project Children which was worth every minute of the 60-plus stop bus ride from the labyrinth of Port Authority. During this time we met Sean Mulcahy of the NYPD Bomb Squad, who in his spare time, performs stunts in American police shows and award winning blockbusters such as The Dark Knight Rises - where he got to see Christian Bale in the bat-suit (nerd goals!!). Sean was also very generous to take us back into Manhattan and gave us a tour of his precinct, where we got to see some of the K9s in action and try on the heavy explosive suits. My internship with MSA Security involved 2 projects with the IT department. The first project involved creating a web application for HR to file the incident/injury reports for employees which got to beta testing by the time my internship was over. The second project involved converting outdated databases with SQL and creating resources that were centralized and more user friendly. The languages used to complete my work included HTML5, CSS and JavaScript. I was also required to code with C# for the first time which was both challenging and rewarding to be thrown in the deep end and will definitely benefit my return to university in September. Akil was also an excellent manager who helped me get up to scratch with the fundamentals of C# and the use of Microsoft SQL and Visual Studio. My time in America was unforgettable and truly ‘once in a lifetime’. The amazing people I’ve met and sites I’ve seen will always put a smile on my face. I’d like to thank the Mulcahy family and the extended Project Children gang for their infinite generosity and kindness. The stories they told and the astonishing lives they lived would leave anyone in awe. I will always be grateful for the experience granted by the program and I really hope it lives on and continues to grow. My internship with MSA Security was very valuable and I am grateful for obtaining new technical skills to take back to my final year of studies. The office dogs are definitely a policy every firm should adapt! I would also like to express a special thanks to Vinny McGreevy, who went above and beyond all expectations as a host and give us the best possible experience of living in New York that anybody could ask for - I will especially miss his sense of humor and his crazy dogs and look forward to seeing him again over his stay in Belfast

Darrell Larmour , Economics student, Queen’s University Belfast.

MSA Security, New York

Our first week in the USA was spent in hot and humid Alabama. I, like most of the interns, did not know what to expect in Tuscaloosa. It turned out to be an indelible experience. When we first arrived we explored the campsite which was our home for the week. The campsite turned out to be the perfect place for camaraderie as all of the interns and leaders quickly became friends. From the campsite we drove to the building site every day. We enjoyed the leaders’ stories and banter on every journey. Steven in MSA Security’s Manhattan office Under the expert tutelage of the habitat for humanity workers, interns with no construction experience grew accustomed to using power tools as we set out to build a house together. I spent most of the week working on the walls. Transforming planks of wood into four sturdy walls for a home was gratifying. The progress we made in the space of a week was astounding. Also, attending the dedication of a completed home made all our efforts feel worth while. However, it was not all work and no play in Alabama. During the week we visited Capstone Church. On the first visit we were greeted warmly and served a delicious southern buffet. We were then showed a documentary in the main hall of the church called “How to defuse a bomb: The Project Children story”. The documentary took us through the history of the project and told us all the successes and struggles the program has gone through. On our second visit to Capstone Church we took part in the Sunday morning worship gathering. We all felt welcomed and were treated like members of the church family. We also relaxed during the evenings by swimming in the lake and the University of Alabama swimming pool. Swimming was the perfect way to cool down and relax after the hard work on the site. Towards the end of the week we enjoyed a night out in Innisfree, an Irish pub frequented by college students and legal professionals. A good night was had by all due to Innisfree’s relaxed and friendly atmosphere. Alabama was the experience of a lifetime and it was a privilege to spend time in the state. I would like to thank Denis Mulcahy and the other leaders for the opportunity. After Alabama we headed north to New York for our internships. I interned as an accountant for 6 weeks at MSA Security’s New York Headquarters located on Murray Street, Manhattan. MSA is a great firm to work for and the finance team in particular had a friendly and professional atmosphere. The firm has many Irish-Americans employees and they were keen to discuss the Project Children Program with me. The work involved auditing accounts on MSA’s NetSuite system, reviewing legal and business documents, appraising fixed assets and perusing bills. During my internship I developed Microsoft Office skills and team working skills that will prove invaluable to my future career. One of the highlights of my time at MSA were the weekly coffee talks. The coffee talks were presentations taken by managers and directors covering an array of topics from dogs to patented technological security systems. The coffee talks gave my fellow interns and I a much broader understanding of the firm and how the security industry as a whole operates. During the coffee talks the managers and directors also imparted advice on becoming employable after university. As a part of the MSA intern program MSA took the interns and some full time employees for a tour of the Staten Island Ferry. MSA have a contract with the Ferry and monitor the ports 24 hours a day to ensure customer safety. It was interesting to see colleagues on the “front line” even though we had to endure the 90- plus degree heat! Another highlight was the finance team’s trip to the dog training facility in Windsor Connecticut. After being informed about dog training in coffee talks and brochures it was great to see firsthand how the Labradors are taught to detect numerous types of explosive substances. One of the advantages of being based in Manhattan was the abundant lunch options. On my first day the finance team had a “welcome lunch” for new interns and ordered pizza. During the following weeks I enjoyed a wide variety of lunches with my colleagues from salads to subs. No review of my time in New York would be complete without mentioning my host Vinny McGreevy. Vinny hosted myself and two fellow interns at his home in Wantagh. He has been a Project Children host for over a decade. I am grateful for his hospitality and his wit which made our stay in New York very enjoyable.

Finnula Hall, Politics, Policing Studies student, Liverpool John Moores University.

Superior Court Hon. Robert A. McDonald, New York

My time in America as an intern with Project Children has been unbelievable and unforgettable. I cannot thank my hosts, Tom and Terry Kinirons, enough for their wonderful hospitality. They welcomed me into their family with such open arms and really treated me like one of their own, they will forever be remembered for their huge generosity. They brought me along on their family vacation to Poconose, Pennsylvania where I got to spend the weekend with their children and grandchildren, going kayaking in the Delaware River, spending time at the pool and having a very American BBQ. I also got to spend many nights and weekends at their RV on the beach in Long Island with their family which I thoroughly enjoyed. My first week in Alabama will be remembered definitely for being the hardest yet most rewarding week while being in America. Although the week involved a lot of work it was made much more enjoyable by the people I was surrounded by. I had only known these people since getting on the flight in Dublin however we soon became very close friends and bonded in the heat of Alabama. It was an honour to work with Habitat for Humanity and see what they do for the people in the community. After a week of hard work it was really moving to see a house we worked on being dedicated to a much deserving family. For my internship, I spent the majority of my time with judge Hon. Robert McDonald and Judy Gann, his law secretary working in the chambers of Nassau County Court. Both the Judge and Judy were extremely helpful and answered any questions I had. They also helped me to understand how the justice system worked over in America compared to back at home. Judge McDonald works primarily on cases dealing with sex offences and homicide. While working with him I was able to see first hand many plea hearings and sentence hearings in the court room whilst also getting to sit in and participate in the conferences between the defence attorneys and prosecution in the court chambers. I also had the opportunity to observe two major trials from the start to finish which was fascinating, from the picking of the jury right through to a verdict. One of these trials was a homicide involving gang members and it was fascinating to see gang members being tried against each other. This is not something I ever expected to take part in but has certainly developed my interest in law. My time in America with project children has been nothing but great and I cannot thank those who work with project children enough for this opportunity

Taylor Meek, Business Management student, Queen’s University Belfast.

Turning Stone Resort and Casino, New York

Waking up at 4:30am, I was extremely tired yet excited to meet everyone I would be travelling to America with. All my nerves completely disappeared once I met with everyone, chatting the whole way down to Dublin airport! The week in Alabama was definitely one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences. Working in the Southern heat was something I could never have prepared myself or my pale Irish skin for. However, working as a team and seeing our progress from day to day was a huge motivation. We got the chance to attend a dedication for a family whose house had been destroyed in a tornado, which really put into perspective how life changing our hard work had been. Our breaks from working on the site included trips to the lake, campfires and a well-deserved night out to the local Irish pub, not to mention the anticipated 2 hour trips to Walmart, much to the coordinators delight. We had all bonded so much during the week that saying goodbye to everyone at the airport was tougher than I had imagined, but we all kept in touch through our snapchat group and facetime. Then myself and Bridget were off to Upstate New York to work at Turning Stone Resort and Casino as part of the Events Team. Working at the casino was an incredible experience in which I got to help out at a variety of events including VIP golf tournaments, host parties and gift giveaways to name a few. We also got to attend the grand opening of the Sports Book which was attended by the CEO Ray Halbritter, politicians and local press and media. It was amazing to work behind the scenes at the events and also witness the amount of work that goes into creating an event, from the idea stage to marketing to data analysis. There was never a boring day in the office as each day was completely different, meeting various people and working towards future events for the resort. Of course none of this could have happened without the support from our incredible coordinator Pat and our host families. I had the opportunity to stay with two families, John and Sue in Syracuse and Dan and Marie in Utica, who made us feel like part of the family from the get go and helped adjust us into the American way of life. They both went out of their way to plan activities for us, taking us to parties, lakes, water parks and Destiny Mall (the biggest mall in New York State). We also spent a weekend in Long Island over the fourth of July were we visited Manhattan and a weekend camping at the Great American Irish Festival. I would like to thank all of Project Children for this once in a lifetime opportunity.

Bridget George, Marketing student, Institute of Technology Carlow

Turning Stone Resort and Casino, New York

Strong friendships were formed from the moment I met up with everyone in Dublin airport. They had just arrived from Belfast. The flight to New York was our bonding session. Once there, I spent the day with Finnula and her host family in Oceanside. The next day we flew to Alabama. We met up with the four interns that flew from Shannon airport. I fondly remember landing in Alabama and the heat surprised us all. Bridget and Taylor at the Turning Stone Resort and Casino, pictured with Project Children co-ordinator Pat Costello All 21 of us interns got to experience the humidity of Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Alabama was a struggle. I have never been out rurally for so long in extreme heat. Fortunately, I knew everyone was in the same boat. The early mornings were not easy but we all had a common objective to achieve. We got the opportunity to work with Habitat for Humanity and when we started, the foundation was in place and over the course of a week we built a house. The hard work we put in paid off. I got the great opportunity to intern under events at the Turning Stone Resort Casino. This internship entailed working with the showgirls, learning about events, researching and presenting gift giveaways. We reported to Wanda who explained how everything worked and she answered any questions we had during our time there. The whole team were super friendly. This experience has been an eye opener into all events that are needed in order to run a business such as this one. We were fortunate enough to stay with John, Sue and Kendra in Manlius for 3 weeks. They kindly brought us to Long Island for the 4th of July celebrations. We got to experience a sophisticated party in the Hamptons. I got to go around New York City and on a tour around Syracuse University as well as a BBQ gathering and a graduation. We then stayed with Dan and Marie in Utica who brought us to the American Irish Festival where we pretty much went glamping in an RV and attended a lacrosse game which I have never seen before. I am very grateful to have had such an experience like this because I know not everyone gets an opportunity to work and live the American dream. I have made lifelong friends in both America and around the island of Ireland. Thank you to everyone involved in this programme.

Charlotte Nolan-Browne, History and Politics student, Queen’s University Belfast.

University of Colorado, Denver

Alabama was a fantastic and incredibly unique experience! I really enjoyed getting to know everyone, learning new skills and being immersed in a completely new culture. As soon as we arrived, we were introduced to the extremes of Alabama weather, swimming in the local lake and the wonders of Walmart. The screening of the documentary at Capstone Church was incredibly thought provoking and instilled a strong sense of perspective within the group, highlighting the profound impact of the Project Children program on its participants and the wider international community. The hospitality provided by Pastor Jeremy and the Capstone Church community was a fantastic start to our time in Alabama and I can’t thank them enough for their kindness. During our week with Habitat for Humanity we were thrown in at the deep end, with Brandon and the Habitat team putting us to work straight away. Within the first day, we had successfully built the entire skeleton of the house. By the end of the week, we had completed the roof and framed all of the walls in preparation for subcontractors. Considering none of us had done anything like this before, I was incredibly proud of our achievements as a group! At the start of the week all that was there was the foundations of the house and it was wonderful to witness the visible progress we made. Looking back on this week, it has been one of the most challenging yet rewarding weeks to date, but I have enjoyed every minute. We were constantly reminded of the importance of our work and it was truly humbling to see the gratitude of our homeowner and the entire Habitat team in Tuscaloosa. I would like to thank all of the staff at Habitat for Humanity and Project Children for making this week so amazing and memorable.

Kyle Briscoe, History and Politics student, Queen’s University Belfast.

Molly Brown House Museum and University of Colorado, Denver

Working for Habitat for Humanity in Alabama proved to be an extremely worthwhile experience. Not only were we able to bond as a group, having previously not meet each other, but we also felt an immense sense of satisfaction by giving back to a community which had been previously devastated by hurricanes. Furthermore the building work provided an ideal environment to develop key skills including communication, problem solving and confidence building with many using power tools for the first time. Converting imperial into metric took some time and several pieces of wood to get used to. Being able to see the progress of the build, which started with just a concrete foundation to ending the week by installing the roof was extremely rewarding and proved testament to the teams’ hard work. The hand over ceremony at another habitat project illustrated the importance of our work and the positive impact it creates for those less fortunate. Following our week in Alabama, I was extremely fortunate to stay in Colorado for the rest of my time in the states. Working in the Molly Brown House I was able to expand my skills as a young historian. Working on next years exhibition, women’s suffrage, allowed me to apply my research skills in a non-academic environment thus forcing me to think more critically over the information to include in order for it to be accessible by the general public. Being able to work as a tour guide highlighted the complexity of working in an historic building while the international visitors enabled me to put my language skills to the test. Alongside this I have also been working on a research project with Professor James Walsh, studying Irish immigrants who worked in Leadville’s mines. Looking at primary sources proved to be extremely fascinating while the sense of giving this list community a voice proved extremely enriching. Anthony and Darlene have been fantastic hosts taking us on unimaginable road trips, enabling us to see breath-taking scenery. My personal highlight has to be hiking with Anthony, summiting North Arapahoe just before a storm proving to be an awe-inspiring adventure. Overall my time with Project Children has improved me both professionally and personally, alongside providing such unique and unforgettable memories which will last a lifetime.

Odhrán Fox, Theology student, Queen’s University Belfast.

Community Food Share, Colorado

Having heard from previous interns about their experiences in Alabama, I was keen to experience it for myself. When we arrived in Alabama, we were just a group of strangers, but by the end of the week strong friendships were built. Our first night was spent experiencing real southern hospitality and sampling traditional BBQ, all provided by Pastor Jeremy and Capstone Church. This was followed by a screening of the Project Children documentary which not only set the tone for the next week but for the intern program on the whole. The next morning, we went to Capstone, which offers non-denominational services. It was interesting as Catholic and a theology student to experience something outside of the Catholic tradition. It was also nice to share in a service with people of interns from different backgrounds, an idea that is so foreign back home. Kyle at the University of Colorado Odhrán working hard at Community Food Share On the Monday we got to work on what was just a concrete slab when we arrived; by the time we eft we had constructed a house as far as we could without the help of licensed contractors. Brandon and Zach were always on hand to show us interns how to use the power tools and direct us on how the house should be planned out. We built the walls, lined the walls, constructed a roof, and put in windows and doors. All this was done in just five days, despite being hindered by an impromptu storm on the Thursday afternoon. While building this house we also balanced adding the finishing touches to a house across town in Tuscaloosa where the tasks consisted of landscaping, laying grass and cleaning. When we were not out on the worksite, most of our time was spent back at camp bonding over dinner, sitting around a campfire, or attempting to play American Football. When it came time to separate from the group and head to Colorado from my internship, I was not only excited about the adventure and experience that lay ahead but also thankful for the week that I had just had. The experience was as beneficial to Tuscaloosa as it was to the interns; for as much as we gave, we were rewarded back in experience, skills, and strong relationships.

Catherine McFadden, Criminology student, Queen’s University Belfast.

Yonkers Police Department, New York

Summer 2019 was memorable to say the least, countless memories were made with amazing people and lifelong friends gained. Arriving in Tuscaloosa, it was evident to see that everyone was out of their comfort zone, sleeping in cabins for a week, working in the blazing heat, getting bitten by dozens of bugs and not to mention the early morning starts. Some mornings too early that a handful of people missed the bus to the building site although a valuable lesson was learnt “on time is late, early is on time”. By the end of the week working with Habitat, the construction and painting skills were on point and in front of us was a house for someone who desperately needed it. This was a very rewarding moment and without a doubt everyone felt a sense of achievement. I spent my summer living in Woodlawn and interning at Yonkers Police in the records department and fiscal. This role involved filing cases, scanning documents and completing paperwork. The team were so friendly and welcoming. On one of the days I got a tour of the forensics lab and got a lesson on all the equipment and what it is used for, along with viewing the different forms of evidence they collect and the different procedures they have to follow. One of the sergeants set up a ride-along whereby I got to travel in a police car for a few hours when they got 911 calls and see first-hand what the officers have to do on a daily basis. This was very beneficial experience for my degree. On my days off I spent my time volunteering at the Aisling Irish Centre helping at a summer camp with young children which involved learning Irish language, dance, songs etc. With the Aisling Centre, one Monday night I took a trip into New York City to help out with their homeless program whereby we distributed sandwiches, pastries and juice to the homeless. This was extremely sad but eye opening. Both these organizations were enjoyable to work with and have provided me with valuable work experience which will help me with the career path I take. No time was wasted in the evenings after work finished we would travel into the city and see the New York attractions from the Statue of Liberty, Central Park, Times Square etc. The weekends were always occupied; one weekend we travelled to Washington DC with a few other interns, another weekend was spent in an RV on the beach in Oceanside and another weekend spent in Greenwood Lake. They were a lot of fun. I can’t thank the Project Children team enough for giving me the most amazing summer. It was a once in a lifetime opportunity and I will never forget it.

Madison Dunne, Criminology student, Queen’s University Belfast.

The Aisling Irish Cultural Centre, New York.

Thanks to Project Children, the summer I spent working and living in New York was an incredible and memorable one. The first week was spent building a home in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, which was such a rewarding experience knowing the aid being provided was going towards a family in desperate need after the disaster of Catherine with officers from Yonkers Police 3rd Precinct of the tornado. Knowing this, we were motivated to keep making progress despite the scorching southern heat. The week of Alabama was undoubtedly one of the best, where everyone bonded together so quickly. A massive thanks to the Habitat team for making it a challenging yet memorable week for everyone. I was given the opportunity to spend my summer living in Woodlawn and interning at the Aisling Centre. I was instantly welcomed with open arms into the team at the Aisling Centre, and because of this, every day was enjoyable. The Aisling Centre is an amazing resource for the Irish-American community, supporting individuals seeking employment, accommodation, legal and immigration advice, and counselling services. I mainly worked alongside Eugene in the children’s summer camp, teaching them the basics of traditional Irish heritage and music through rhymes and tunes, and encouraging them to interact through Irish dancing. I believe my experience at the Aisling Centre will be highly beneficial in hand with my Criminology degree, as I was able to witness first-hand how children interact and to understand different factors that may influence their behavior. Alongside gaining valuable experience working with children, I was given the opportunity to participate in the Feeding the Homeless program by serving sandwiches and hot drinks to the homeless living on the harsh streets of New York City. Participating in this program was a real eye-opener and a highly rewarding experience which expanded my compassion for others in a new way as they were incredibly appreciative. Our time off on the weekends and evenings were spent exploring what the city has to offer, and mainly in Ned Devine’s Irish bar. While 7 weeks in a different country sounds extremely daunting, my time in America flew by, and if I could stay longer I so would. Very quickly all us interns became so close and have bonded so well during our trip, therefore countless memories were made together in Manhattan, Washington D.C., Long Island, and Greenwood Lake. This experience would have never been possible without Denis and the rest of the Mulcahy family, who went above and beyond to make our trip one to remember, and I’m extremely thankful and grateful.

Brendan McCusker, Civil Engineering student, Liverpool John Moores University.

Tecta America Architectural Metals, Pennsylvania

Our first week with Habitat for Humanity in Alabama was some of the toughest work I have ever done but also the most fulfilling, knowing we were making a huge difference in someone’s life. At the start of the week it was clear a lot of people were dreading the hard work and labor in the heat of Alabama but by the end of the week we were all sad to be leaving because we all got so close hammering nails and having a laugh. Madison enjoying her time with the children at the Aisling Centre Brendan on the job site with Tecta America Alabama was a huge culture shock with the hot and humid climate, but then Alabama to Pennsylvania felt like a completely different part of the world. There were fields everywhere and Amish people on the roads with their horses and carriages which was bizarre at first but quickly became a normal daily experience. While interning at Tecta America I had such a wide variety of different experiences, from designing building facades and site visits to accounting and marketing. It was a small company base with a huge reach with projects all over Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and Washington DC which gave me the opportunity to see a lot of this part of the country in a limited space of time. Overall I have loved every part of this once in a lifetime experience and I am very grateful to Project Children and everyone who is a part of the organization for their selfless work to give all of us this opportunity that we will remember forever.

Courtney Doherty, Law student, Queen’s University Belfast.

Bruno Gerbino Soriano LLP, New York

My time in America is drawing to a close and soon I will be flying back to Belfast and heading home to Strabane. This year I will graduate from my Law LLB at Queens university and this trip has been something that will definitely secure me a position at home so that I have a graduate job when I return. This has been such an unbelievable experience from the people I have met along the way to the truly inspirational people who have created and added their own personal touch to the program over the years. 35 years ago to this exact time my mum and her four brothers were taken away from the chaos of the troubles and got to escape to a sunny Philadelphia thanks to the amazing and devoted members of this program and I never would have dreamed that some day I too would have been able to make the same journey. It was a long wait and a few applications later but I got the once in a life time chance to come out to America to live and work and amazingly meet some of the most genuine and hilarious people I have ever met in my life. The first day was a shock to the system with the warm weather in Alabama and meeting the people I would spend the next 7 weeks speaking to and spending literally all my time with. I soon got to know everyone and can honestly say I have ever experienced feeling so welcomed and a like a true part of a team in my life. All the coordinators’ and interns work together like a family, and its been like that right through the full time. I’ve always had a member of the team I could turn to for literally any need, question or even stupid thought I might have. We had late nights and early mornings working in sweltering heat and you soon forget completely about whatever pride you have in your appearance and you get properly immersed into the building site life, but you do it as a team. We spent every single second in close quarters and I would never have wanted to change that for the world. Maureen, Denis and Gwen had us stuffed with food morning, noon and night and gave us the 5-star treatment as we all pitched in and did our bit with kitchen duties. It’s hard to put into words how much I truly loved and am grateful for the entire experience of Alabama and the interns that were some of the best people that treated me like a friend they had known for years. I’ll cherish that experience for the rest of my life. There is something so special and close to my heart about following in my family’s footsteps and doing this program and meeting the heroes that don’t get anywhere enough recognition for all they do. Richie, Sam, Maureen, Denis Jnr., Brendan, Al, Pat, Denis and this year Bróna (and everyone else involved) these people work tirelessly amongst their everyday lives and they make dreams come true for others. The Project children team don’t ask for anything in return and they give us literally everything you could have ever wished for with this experience. It’s hard to believe that there are such good people in this world but this team are the best of the best. The full trip from start to finish was smooth and effortless (even with an unexpected cancelled flight and the quick thinking of Maureen to get a way back from Georgia). I worked for the rest of my time in Bruno Gerbino Soriano (New Jersey) which was an interesting experience and allowed me to put a large number of my skills into practice such as ADR and negotiation when Courtney in the office at Bruno Gerbino Soriano witnessing arbitrations and mediations in practice. From working on real cases, to helping the local people from the area, it has been great to get such professional and rewarding experience whilst being able to travel on my time off and be with the rest of the interns. During my time here I got to go to the original site of Woodstock, twice, on the 50th anniversary of the original festival, which was completely unbelievable. I got to visit both New York and Philadelphia city as well as live the high life out in Greenwood Lake on the weekends. We were treated like royalty the full time in Greenwood lake, between Sam and Unateresa making literal 5-star meals to Denis taking us out on the boat across the lake, to doing yoga on the beach with the sun splitting the trees, this will be a summer to remember. On my days off my host family took us hiking twice which allowed me to see between 25-30 different waterfalls on the way and I also got to go to my first ever baseball game. Today (as I’m writing this on the 2nd of August 2019) we have convinced the host families son to take us to Scranton to fan girl over the locations where the US Office tv show was filmed. I can’t begin to explain just how thankful I am for this full trip and how much this means to me to follow in my mother’s footsteps with an experience that she often talked about when I was growing up. I have had such a great time with amazing people I now call my friends and hope to keep in touch with as the trip really encourages you to make meaningful bonds. Thank you to Denis and the founders of Project children for an unbelievable 43 years of making peoples dreams come true.

Fiona Byrne, Law and Social Justice student, University College Dublin.

Bruno Gerbino Soriano LLP, New York

The Project Children Program has given me a unique opportunity to truly experience the American way of life. My time in America has been filled with new and extremely rewarding challenges that I will always be grateful for and will carry with me in both my personal and professional life. Working with Habitat for Humanity in Alabama has to be one of the most enriching elements of the entire trip. During our time in Tuscaloosa we were given the chance to meet and work with the locals on an incredible construction project - rebuilding the homes of people affected by family tragedy and the devastating 2011 tornado that destroyed much of the local community. The local people of Tuscaloosa made us feel extremely welcome, even providing us with a Southern BBQ feast and the opportunity to use the University of Alabama's impressive pool and facilities - they were a true credit to the notion of Southern hospitality and had us all embracing the Crimson Tide spirit! Working in construction is something I never would have previously considered doing, however, after being given immense and constant support by the incredibly inspirational construction crew we were all exceptionally motivated and succeeded in building an entire house from the ground up! Working up on the roof of the house with the others in the Alabama heat proved to be an unbelievably rewarding, albeit sweat-inducing, team-building exercise; getting to bond with the fellow interns through this unforgettable experience created an incredibly positive atmosphere and ethos that we carried with us throughout the entire 7 weeks, and which motivated us to keep in touch with one another once we embarked upon our respective internships! Fiona and Matt in the office at Bruno Gerbino Soriano Thanks to Matt, our host dad and partner at the firm, myself and Courtney were able to attend arbitrations, mediations and court hearings, giving us a true feel for what it is like to work as an attorney in the United States! In addition, we were shown an incredible amount of warmth and hospitality from our host family, Matt and Michele. On the night we arrived we were taken directly to a concert at Bethel Woods, the exact site where the Woodstock festival was held! Over the course of the summer we got to see Peter Frampton, Jason Bonham's Led Zeppelin, Elvis Costello and Blondie, all perform live! During our stay we were also able to visit New York City several times, including a trip over the 4th of July with the other interns where we watched the fireworks display across the Brooklyn Bridge - a truly unforgettable experience! Our host family also took us on a day trip to Philadelphia where we enjoyed a bus tour of the city, stopping at the countless landmarks of the historic city, not to mention, the famous Rocky steps and Paddy's pub from It's Always Sunny! Whilst staying with our host family we also got an authentic look into Americana culture through our trips to the Wayne County Fair and a Hudson Valley Baseball Game. I would like to thank Project Children for the incredible and unique opportunity they have given me to experience America, to meet so many amazing new people, and to have so many different adventures. I will never forget Summer 2019!!

Niamh McQuade, Aerospace Engineering student, Queen’s University Belfast.

Project Tech, New York.

The first week of our internship spent in Alabama was an unforgettable experience. On the first day I got to work in the warehouse where myself and five other girls worked on building the saferoom. It was hard, sweaty work and us girls had sweated off our fake tan within a few hours. The next few days I spent building the roof of the house. I really enjoyed this part as I never expected myself to be standing on top of a roof using a nail gun or a circular saw in the deep South in 40 degree heat but there I was and I loved every minute of it. Helping put that last roof sheet on the last day was so rewarding knowing that all my hard word over the week had actually paid off. Zach and Brandon from the Habitat team were so helpful they always had a smiley face every morning at 8am. I was also amazed at how hands on the coordinators were in the building. These older men were even more hard working than us interns. Project Children has always been something I heard of growing up as my mum was in the original program when it first began and getting to watch the documentary of how the organization started up and all the things they encountered over the years was amazing. It really put it into perspective what our parents experienced growing up and how lucky we are to never have to experience the troubles. While in Alabama we also got to go swimming in a nearby lake, trips to Walmart, we had a campfire one of the nights and we all got really close over the week. It was upsetting saying goodbye to everyone that last day in the airport but we had already planned to see each other again soon. I was placed in Woodlawn in the Bronx with John and Breda. Niamh on a job site in Manhattan John and Breda are both from Cork, their house was jam packed with Tayto cheese and onion crisps and digestives. Both John and Breda are such wonderful people they made me feel so welcome and they were people I could go to if I had any issues or anything bothering me. Breda is passionate about running and was always telling me about her upcoming runs and marathons, John was always cracking jokes and putting a smile on my face and they both made me feel right at home. Staying in Woodlawn was an amazing experience, it was a little Irish community, everyone was wearing GAA tops and there were tricolors everywhere - it felt as if I never left Belfast. Myself and the other two girls who were in Woodlawn with me visited Manhattan during the week after work as it was only half an hour away on the train. We got to go shopping and see all the sights. We visited Chinatown and women would whisper Gucci? Prada? They had every fake you could ask for and the girls and I had a good laugh. Right beside Chinatown was Little Italy and we had one of the best carbonaras I’ve ever tasted in my entire life. One of the sightseeing days we planned, we took the Staten Island Ferry and got to see the Statue of Liberty at sunset. Going to the top of the Rockefeller Centre was beautiful and the views were just breathtaking. Each weekend we would try to get out of the city to travel. We got to visit the interns staying in Greenwood Lake where we rode in the back of a pickup truck, went kayaking, paddle boarding and swimming in the lake. It truly felt like a real American summer. Another weekend was spent in Washington DC. Vinny (One of the host dads) took us down for the weekend. I got to see the White House and the Lincoln Memorial and it was definitely a very memorable part of our trip. The last day in Washington DC, I dragged everyone to the Space museum which the other girls weren’t amused about but I ran about like a child looking at all the different NASA equipment. The visit we planned to Long Island was one of the more relaxing trips as everything else was all go. We lay on the beach all day and had a splash about in the sea. Terrie (one of the host mums) let us stay in her RV. Any night at the weekend that we didn’t have any trips planned was spent in Ned’s, Clarke’s, and Behan’s - the best Irish pubs in Woodlawn, all only five minutes’ walk from my front door, the drinks were so cheap and so strong, perfect for three Irish girls. I got the opportunity to intern in Structure Tech. I study aerospace engineering at university and once I finish I want to get a job in CAD (Computer Aided Design) engineering and that’s exactly what I got to do this summer. I was given my own little office space and got to work on helping to design different buildings. One of the buildings I got to help design is called Powerhouse Arts and it’s going to be made into an Art Museum/Workshop in Brooklyn where anyone can go to and can take classes in pottery or painting or use it as a workplace for them to make their art. Its opening in 2020 and it’s exciting to know that I can go visit and know that I helped make it happen. Overall, my summer spent in America was truly a memorable experience I made lifelong friends and amazing memories, and I cannot thank the people that made Project Children happen enough for everything they’ve done over the years and for the opportunity they have gave me.

Patricia Murphy, Diagnostic Radiography student, Queen Margaret University Edinburgh.

USG Performing Arts, New York

Looking back on the past seven weeks here in America, it is unbelievable to think of all that I have experienced with such an amazing group of interns that I can now call friends for life. Alabama has been one of the toughest yet most rewarding weeks of my life and I can only thank all of the crew at Habitat for Humanity for all their help and guidance during that first week in the sweltering heat. Habitat for Humanity, Tuscaloosa, was set up in 1987 by Millard Fuller. Habitat’s mission is to give people in need a hand up, not a hand-out. Homeowners must contribute 250 “sweat equity” hours to qualify for a home, which is usually built up by working on the construction of their own home and other Habitat homes in the locality. For our week of volunteering with Habitat we worked on Miss Vaun’s new house. Vaun’s previous home burned down a few years ago and Habitat are working to get her new home ready for her as soon as possible. While we were there, Vaun worked on the painting of the outer sheeting for her house and was always very positive and grateful towards the habitat volunteers and us, the Project Children interns. The Alabama weather took a bit of getting used to, but in no time at all we were coping well with the mid 30-degree Celsius heat, keeping hydrated and topping up on our factor 50 sun cream. Every day we started off with a prayer by one of the leaders and a safety brief by Brandon, our site supervisor. He discussed personal protective equipment like hard hats and safety goggles which were compulsory, ladder safety and the safe use of power tools like the mitre saw and nail guns. Brandon, Zach, Jay and Barry were excellent teachers along with our own Project Children supervisors, Denis, Sam, Brendan, Richie, Al, Bróna, Denis Jr. and Maureen, and Pat and Gwen Kelly back at the YMCA Campsite. Volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and getting to experience the Southern hospitality in Tuscaloosa was a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that I’ll never forget. For the remaining six weeks of the program I was placed in Greenwood Lake with the fabulous Gormley family and two other interns, Peter and Andrew. During my time there I was caring for Grandma Teresa and there was never a dull moment with us. Whether we were heading to the senior citizen centre, reminiscing about Ireland in the old days or singing a few songs by Daniel O’ Donnell, it was always such a fun atmosphere to be in. Being situated in Greenwood Lake also allowed us to experience the real “Lake Life” - going out on boats, kayaks and paddle boards regularly. We also got to experience the 4th of July fireworks with some of the other interns who were living in the New York area too. We got to travel into the city and to various events with Unateresa, our host mom, who is heavily involved with the New York Rose of Tralee centre and the Irish American Young Leaders. Getting to network and build friendships with other young people our age who are doing such great work in their fields here in the states was so lovely and we thank Una for giving us the opportunity to do so. I’d like to thank Denis, Pat and all the Mulcahy's for allowing me to be a part of such an amazing Internship Program and Sam, Unateresa and Shea Gormley for warmly welcoming us into their home and treating us as their own. The experiences, memories and friendships that I have made throughout the past seven weeks will be cherished forever

Peter O’Donnell, Physical Sciences with Concurrent Education student, University of Limerick.

USG Performing Arts, New York.

I was so excited to get to the airport and start my time in America. When we arrived in JFK, Denis met the other interns and I at the airport, we got into his car and made the long journey to Greenwood Lake. The next morning, we left bright and early and headed for the airport. After getting off our third plane in three days, we were delighted to be met at the airport in Birmingham by Pat, Richie and Gwen. They picked us up in two large mini-vans and brought us to YAcres camp in Tuscaloosa which would be our home for the next week. We got an opportunity to explore the camp and get to know the other interns. We then went for a meal hosted by Pastor Jeremy from the Capstone Church in Alabama and his family. There was a feast waiting for us when we arrived at the church with loads of southern delicacies such as brisket and sweet tea. As the saying goes “When in Rome, do as the Romans do”, I tried both and they were delicious. After the meal and with full bellies, we watched the documentary “How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story”. It was so interesting to get a full understanding of the significance of the Project Children program and the role that Denis played in fostering the peace process. When the documentary was over, we all got back into the mini-vans and went back to the camp and after an early morning, I was only fit for bed. The next morning, we attended a service in Capstone Church. It was really interesting and the music was really good. Monday morning, we went to the worksite for the first time. We started with a safety presentation by the Habitat for Humanity workers and quickly got down to work. At the start of the week, I was a little nervous about using the power tools but was soon enough using the mitre saw and up on the roof. As all the interns were pushed outside their comfort zones, we were all forced to depend on each other which made us trust one another and helped to build friendships. By the end of the week, we were all so happy with the house and the work we had done. It proved to us that if we apply ourselves in any situation, we can complete it. After our week in Alabama and our goodbyes were said, I spent my internship working in Greenwood Lake for USG Performing Arts, working on Marketing and IT. It was my job to promote the New York Rose of Tralee Center on social media and create and design a website for the center. At the start I found this a daunting task, but I applied the lessons that I had learned in Alabama and the website quickly began to take shape with a lot of help from Andrew. I had to interview the 2019 New York Rose Elena Evangelou and Don O Neill, Irish fashion designer for the website. I also spent a lot of time fundraising for New York Rose of Tralee center. I stayed with Sam, Unateresa and Shea Gormley while on my internship. Two other interns, Andrew and Patricia, stayed with the Gormley's as well and we soon became a big family. Outside of the internship, I did lots with the other interns. The kayaks were rarely seen on dry land in Greenwood Lake and we made a few trips to New York City to see the sights. A highlight for me was getting to go onto the set of a musical in New York - it blew my mind. The best summer of my life wouldn’t be possible without the help of everyone who got me here. A huge thank you to Denis, Miriam, Pat, Ellen, Maureen, Denis Jr, Al, Paul, Richie, Brendan, Pat, Gwen, Bróna and the Habitat for Humanity workers, Brandon and Zach, for all they did for the project. I would like to say a special thank you to Unateresa, Sam and Shea Gormley for their amazing hospitality and always looking out for us.

Andrew Bennington, Business Information Technology Student, Queen’s University Belfast.

USG Performing Arts, New York.

The week spent building a house for Habitat for Humanity in Alabama was honestly one of the most enjoyable weeks of my life; constant laughter with the other interns, sun shining and it was hugely rewarding to see the progress we made each day. A massive thanks to all our excellent Habitat supervisors, Brandon, Barry, Zach and Jay, and the Project Children volunteers Sam, Brendan, Al, Richie, Bróna, Maureen, Denis Jr and Pat and Gwen Kelly. Their relaxed manner on the site meant the atmosphere Andrew and Peter recording video content with fashion designer Don O’Neill among the crew was always positive and everyone was willing to put the work in right until the end. After work, we kept ourselves busy with trips to Rocky Branch lake, University of Alabama alumni swimming complex, the local Irish bar and strangely the most anticipated – Walmart. We were also hosted by Capstone Church where we were fed with a truly Southern feast followed by a showing of the documentary: How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story. This was extremely interesting hearing about the role Denis and Project Children played in Northern Ireland and really set the tone for the week. I spent the rest of the summer in Greenwood Lake, living with two other interns, Peter and Patricia, and our host family, Sam, Unateresa and Shea Gormley. From the beginning, they couldn’t have been more welcoming to the three of us and we settled in instantly. My internship was working for my host mother, Unateresa, of USG Performing Arts. I was working on the Irish American Young Leaders, while Peter focused on the New York Rose of Tralee Center. The Irish American Young Leaders is a non-profit, volunteer-based organization inviting people of all ethnic backgrounds to explore the Irish culture, meet new friends in the community, and help support local, national and global charities. I performed many roles throughout the summer including building a website, creating content for social media channels, preparing sponsorship proposals, selling merchandise at a concert, and designing logos and t-shirts. It was cool to see something I had designed being made into something tangible. On one of the days we headed into the heart of Manhattan to meet Don O’Neill of THEIA Couture. Don is a famous Irish fashion designer and has made dresses for Oprah and Meghan Markle. We recorded and interviewed both him and the New York Rose of Tralee, which we then edited and uploaded to all the digital platforms. The internship was a great chance to improve my existing skills while also learning new IT and marketing skills, putting some of the knowledge learnt from my degree into an actual organization. Nothing was ever too much trouble for Sam and Una, and they were always willing to take us places and suggesting things to do. Two other interns, Eamonn and Sarah lived nearby so it was nice having a group to do things with. We managed to fit quite a lot into our 6 weeks in New York; going to a water park, drive-in move theatre, walking in the Greenwood Lake parade, heading out on the boat, kayaking on the lake, going to the weekly outdoor concert at the beach, taking in a few musicals, yoga at the beach, seeing the 4th of July fireworks in both New York and Greenwood Lake, taking part in the local 5k, watching the US Women’s soccer team victory parade through the city, playing 18 holes at the local golf course, and seeing a number of the famous attractions in Manhattan, including going to the Top of the Rock. All in all, I can honestly say this has been the best summer of my life and truly was a trip of a lifetime! I feel very fortunate and am extremely grateful to have been given the opportunity to spend my summer in Greenwood Lake. It is such a beautiful, relaxing place and I look forward to returning again sometime in the future. I want to say a massive thank you to everyone involved in Project Children, to the Northern Ireland coordinators Monica, Sally, Maire Therese, Paul and to all the volunteers in the US. To Denis and the whole Mulcahy family, you are a truly inspirational family; letting so many people into your family’s summer year after year and giving them an experience they will never forget. Thank you for your hospitality and all your interesting stories. We are all so lucky to have been given the opportunity and have created memories that will last a lifetime!

Sarah Flynn, Physiology student, University College Cork.

The Waterstone Inn, Greenwood Lake, New York

When we first arrived in Alabama as a bunch of strangers we didn’t know what to expect. On our first night Pastor Jeremy kindly welcomed us to Capstone where we all watched the Project Children documentary together. The following morning we returned to Capstone for church service which we all enjoyed. By now we were settled into life in Tuscaloosa and it was time to get down to work. I felt so honored to be a part of the team that worked on Ms. Vaun’s house after it burned down. It was so rewarding to see how in just a week we went from a slab of concrete to what actually looked like a house. The work that Habitat for Humanity do is truly amazing and I feel so grateful to have been a part of their team for the week. It’s such a strange thing how when everyone is thrown in together, spending almost 17 hours a day together for a week we really Sarah and Miriam at the Waterstone Inn Sarah and Miriam at the Waterstone Inn became like a little family. On the last day of Alabama I felt like I had known everyone all my life and we were all hesitant to say goodbye to each other. Then we arrived at the lake. Greenwood lake can only be described as a home away from home. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming and we’ve all just had the best summer ever. Working at the inn was fantastic. I really enjoyed meeting all the wonderful and interesting guests who stayed at the Inn and I cannot thank the Mulcahy’s enough; every single one of them did so much for us during our stay at the lake. Between boat rides and taking us different places and Miriam always making sure we were fed with the best home cooked food, I felt like I really hit the jackpot.

Eamonn Browne, Mechanical Engineering student, Cork Institute of Technology.

The Waterstone Inn, Greenwood Lake, New York.

21st of June - off we flew with one quick stop in New York for a few hours sleep before arriving in Tuscaloosa. Tuscaloosa, Alabama - we met our fellow project children interns and the journey from the airport to basecamp was like speed dating everyone, trying to get know as much as they could about the people they could potentially be living with for 7 weeks. We began work on Vaun’s house, with just a solid concrete foundation. Everyone was wondering how in the name of god were going to get on when the majority of us had never experienced constructing a house before. From swimming in rivers that were nearly warmer than baths at home, gathering round the campfire, waterparks, a cheeky trip to the Innisfree for a few pints and an eye opening trip to Walmart, we did it all that week. To top it off, by Friday we were not only able to look back on our construction work, but also meet another family at a house dedication and know that we had made a difference to someone’s life that had been torn apart by tragedy. I can honestly say that my trip to Alabama will live in my memory for years to come. Thanks to our Project Children leaders, Habitat for Humanity mentors and the interns who I can confidently call my friends. Onto Greenwood Lake next for our internships. I was based in the Waterstone inn working as a handyman and general upkeep of the place. Greenwood Lake - what a place! As picturesque as they come. During our time here Sean Mulcahy (Denis’ son) was able to take us out on their boat and also take us to visit the NYPD bomb squad which I thoroughly enjoyed. Seeing all the types of robots that the unit deploy to deal with different situations was fascinating and something I will definitely be looking into more when I get home. From working with Denis Mulcahy over the summer I have learned so many skills that I can take home with me, from running diagnostics on a car to building a shed - we did it all, and of course the work was made much easier when we got home to a cooked dinner from Miriam Mulcahy which I will definitely miss (no offence Mam!). Most importantly I would like to extend a huge thanks for the hospitality of the Mulcahy family as a whole, especially Maureen who took me in as my host as I became known as “the man in the basement” (a name which I can’t say I’m too fond of). The organisers and interns that were involved in our trip from Tuscaloosa to New York are a group of the most kind, talented and gracious people that I have ever met in my life and a trip that has helped me develop both personally and professionally and for that I am forever grateful.