The McPherson branch of the peace-building Ulster Project is in its 11th year, with no signs of slowing down growth in the lives of North Irish and McPherson teens.

The Ulster Project’s mission is to help Christian-based leaders from Northern Ireland and America to become peacemakers capable of uniting those divided by difference. Eight Protestant and Catholic students from Northern Ireland were paired with American teens of the same gender with similar interests. This fosters friendship between communities and strengthens ties through learning peace-building strategies through the next three weeks.

Two American and two Northern Irish counselors guide students through activities built to teach prejudice reduction and communication between sparring factions.

The project began in the United States in 1975, and now the Ulster Project International had grown to roughly 28 active American host communities paired with eight Northern Ireland communities.

Over 9,000 teens from Northern Ireland have participated in the various Ulster Project programs since 1975, and McPherson churches have hosted students since 2006.

Here is a look at this year’s Ulster Project teens.

Questions:

1. Who is the family hosting you?

2. What is the biggest difference between Kansas and Northern Ireland?

3. What have you learned about yourself in the project?

4. What is your favorite thing you have done in the project?

5. What advice would you give to someone who wanted to do the project next year?

Emma Ford

1. Linda and David Harger and their daughter, Raegan.

2. Kansas is very warm, flat and spread out and Northern Ireland is cold, hilly and close together.

3. I can get out of my comfort zone.

4. Lake Day and the family weekend.

5. Try all the activities and push yourself out of your comfort zone.

Rebecca Magee

1. Anne and Shane Kirchner and their daughter, Hannah

2. The roads are very straight and the land is very flat compared to Northern Ireland. The land in Northern Ireland is not flat and everything is very packed, whereas Kansas is spread out more.

3. Push yourself to conquer your fears. For me it was public speaking and heights.

4. Lake Day and family weekend.

5. Get involved and contribute to every task that is thrown at you, as you will achieve many things.

Cara Hegarty

1. Deb and Allan van Asselt and their daughter, Grace.

2. The weather is much hotter here, and a lot more flat land. Also the food is quite different, and there is not as much religious segregation evident.

3. I enjoy working with people, and I’m certainly not fearless. However, I try as many things as possible even if they do scare the life out of me.

4. The Ropes course on the Fourth of July, and I also really enjoyed the Lake Day.

5. Try everything and really push yourself so you can say that you did it in the end.

Caitlin Mcgrane

1. Matt and Julie Grieb and their daughter, Megan.

2. The main difference is the lack of segregation among the different Christian religions.

3. I am more able than I thought. The activities that I have done on this project have proven to me that I am capable of more.

4. Obviously meeting Megan, but apart from that I really enjoyed the demolition derby. Also, family weekend when we went to Worlds of Fun in Kansas City.

5. Make everything you do enjoyable, even weeding! It’s an amazing opportunity that goes by so fast so enjoy every moment of it!

Daniel Gordon

1. Becky and Todd Goss and their son, Kade.

2. Northern Ireland is a lot more crowded — all the buildings, houses, and shops are closer together back home.

3. I’ve got a very strong Northern Irish accent.

4. Lake day.

5. Participate in all the activities and get involved.

Kyle McLoughlin

1. Kristine and Jeff Houston and their son, Ben.

2.  The main difference between Northern Ireland and Kansas would definitely have to be the weather. I’m not used to 40 degrees Celsius weather, when I’m used to 15 degrees Celsius back home, but I’m getting used to it. Secondly, I would have to say it is a lot faster to go to a different city or anywhere at home as we are a smaller town. You have to drive for a couple of hours here. 

3. With the help of the Ulster Project I have learned essential skills that I can use in later life, like communication skills and leadership skills. For example, I am a very shy person at first, but with things like time of discussion, I have been able to come out of my shell and communicate, and express my thoughts and views with the rest of the group openly. Also I have been able to step up in certain activities and take the roll of the leader, which helped contribute to the team. 

4. Since arriving to Kansas the favorite thing I’ve done is probably lake day, as we got to hang out as a group and got to race each other on the lake on floats. However, Wendy’s and eating at the different fast food chains are a close second.

5. If you wanted to take part in the project, you would have to be willing to let down your guard and become vulnerable. Then you will appreciate the project more and really learn more about you and others doing the project. Also, be ready to be pushed out of your comfort zone, as you will be faced with new challenges and tasks each day.  Finally, I would encourage them to have a great time. It’s an opportunity not many get and may never get again, so enjoy it as much as possible.

Harry Armstrong

1. Alison and Shawn Replogle and their son, Adin.

2. It’s too hot over here compared to back home, and food portions are much larger here.

3. I have learned to talk slowly, because when I talk normally people don’t understand what I’m saying.

4. Lake Day

5. Try everything and don’t let any opportunities pass your by.

Peter Hamilton

1. Chris and Kathryn Whitacre and their son, Ira.

2. The people here are all so friendly and the roads are so straight.

3. I can just be myself and not worry what others think.

4. Lake Day

5. Go for it and don’t have any regrets.