Make a St. Patrick’s Day Difference

The streets of Manhattan are already clogged with drunk teenagers with bobble-head shamrock antennae and felt tophats. It must be St. Patrick’s Day (and the Shamrock Shake at McDonalds was a dead give away).

One of the dearest friends I’ve met while doing volunteer work around the world, the lovely Marianne, is from Ireland (and part-time in Washington DC), but there aren’t a ton of voluntourism opportunities for visitors to the Emerald Isle…you may already have your day planned out with green beer and carousing…but here is one volunteer opportunity I found for (Northern) Ireland when you next visit:


HEALING RELIGIOUS DIVISION–The local partner organization for this project works with those in all Christian traditions to find harmony in an area that has been torn apart by religious differences. In addition to boots on the ground volunteer work, there is an extensive program of workshops and talks by leaders in the peace process. Volunteers come to learn about the Northern Irish situation, work with schools and youth groups, support families and family organizations, and explore multi-denominational faith-based education and community bonding. Catholics and Protestants have been killing one another over the struggle between the two Christian faiths, so finding common ground is the most important work being done in the region.

Your workdays will be divided between morning cultural and touring activities to surrounding villages, and afternoons enmeshed in community service projects. Some of the projects that will benefit from your efforts are school support across the area where teachers are overworked and can use some classroom assistance with small groups of students to help give more direct, personalized attention to the children. After school youth groups allow a chance for ministering and having kids learn ways to express themselves and share their experiences. Family support programs give direct aid to those coping with breakdowns, death from the struggle, domestic violence, incarceration of a family member, and general family issues as well as practical survival issues such as hunger and education. There is also a children’s bereavement program with which you can help kids coping with the death of a family member. Faith and Life Christian education programs need you to support the after-school programs that explore contemporary issues facing the Christian communities and exploring newly inclusive worship open to everyone. Your work will be in many locations, in both Protestant and Catholic neighborhoods and the community centers striving to minister to both.

Your home base will be at a religious retreat center or hostel with shared rooms and bathrooms. Meals are provided and taken together with the volunteer community. There are scheduled cultural exploration field trips as well as an educational series to help you understand the “troubles” from a perspective within the communities. You’ll be taken to museums and places of worship, to the town of Derry, the City of Walls, and Northern Ireland’s Parliament. There is a full and diverse itinerary that will leave plenty of time for worship as well, and you’ll come home an expert on the religious struggles of the country. Amizade (Tel: 304-293-6049; Two weeks, US$2,928, covers shared housing, meals, in-country transportation, and a thorough program of cultural classes and field trips as well as coaching and support for the array of volunteer tasks the group will pursue.

One response to this post.

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