Category: Archive

Project Children kidsrelieved to be in U.S.

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

Patrick Markey

Watching a baseball game between local New Jersey teams this week, 13-year-old Ryan Groves did not want to think about what was going on back home in Drumcree. A Catholic from the embattled area of Portadown, Groves would rather try to enjoy his second homestay trip to America, he said.

“I haven’t really thought about it, I’d rather not think about it,” Groves said by telephone from the Evison family home in New Jersey, where he was staying.

Groves is one of the 712 Northern Irish Catholic and Protestant children over in the United States with the Project Children, a program which brings the children over for six-week stays in American homes from New York to Montana.

As the children here entered into their second week of sampling American life, the three young brothers burned to death in an arson attack were buried near their home in Ballymoney. For the children visiting America, Project Children was a chance to put some of that violence behind them, at least for a while.

It was the fourth trip to America for 11-year-old Catherine Hillick, and she was looking forward to her first Mets baseball game. But the deaths of the three youngsters had its impact.

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“I was glad I was over here, because I thought there might be trouble,” she said.

Belfast resident Deborah Kane, 12, was also anticipating her first trip to Disney World next month with the Driscoll family.

“I’m glad we’re here. It’s really sad. I’m glad to be away from all that trouble,” she said of the deaths, echoing the sentiments of other children here.

Through the movies, rollercoasters, trips and sports outings, that shadow of concern was not lost on the organizers.

“There’s a certain amount of worry when they see the television news,” Project Children founder Denis Mulcahy said. “But they’ve been back in touch with home. And they’ve busy schedules keeping them occupied.”

For Christine Markey, a 14-year-old from Glengormley, her fourth time in America still finds her thrilled at the size of New York City. It was a great change from Belfast and from the problems associated with life at home.

“I don’t really want to know, I’d rather just enjoy myself. I think most them are trying to enjoy themselves and forget,” she said of the other children.

Mulcahy started the program in 1975 with six kids. The project has brought more than 13,000 Northern Irish children to America since then, paying for the children’s airfare and insurance. Families pay for those costs if the children come back to stay with them a second time.

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