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Cultural connection

Madison’s Ulster Project
seeks host families for 2009

Religious tolerance is goal
of international peace project

By Konnie McCollum
Staff Writer

(November 2008) – Barb Daugherty’s interest in the Ulster Project was peaked a few years ago when she saw participants from Madison, Ind., marching in the annual Madison Regatta Parade. She soon learned first-hand how monumental the experience can be for any family that participates in the program. Her daughter, Olivia, was an Ulster teen for two years, and now her son is hopeful he will get the chance to participate as well.

Daugherty family

Photo provided

The Daugherty family, Bedford, Ky., have participated in the
Ulster Project of
Madison for two years.
They hope to get the
chance to participate
in 2009.

The Daughertys and other families who want to be considered for the 2009 Ulster Project in Madison are invited to the “Party with the Project,” at 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday, Nov. 15 at 602 W. Main St. All Ulster alumni and prospective host teens and families will get a chance to mingle, ask questions and fill out applications. There will be pizza, snacks, drinks and a DJ during the event.
The upcoming 2009 Ulster Project will be the 10th season for Madison. During the international mission, teens from Northern Ireland, both Catholics and Protestants, stay with Madison families for three to four weeks during July. The teens stay with families that have teens of the same age, gender and religious denomination. All of the teens participate in a variety of activities that are designed to help promote and develop friendship and trust. They learn that people with different political and religious values can coexist in a peaceful and friendly manner.
“It is a great experience for all of the teens,” said Daugherty. “They make lasting friends, learn how to cooperate and work peacefully despite differences, and also manage to have lots of fun as well.” With the amount of activities that are scheduled for the teens, Daugherty said the time “flies by.”
Olivia, 16, said she didn’t participate when she first heard about the Ulster Project, but then some of her friends did and kept telling her how much fun they had. “I am so glad I ended up doing it,” she said. “I would definitely encourage anyone who has the chance to participate.” Her Irish friend from last year was Erin Flanagan, and they still keep in touch.
Julie Swartz’ family also participated in the Ulster Project last year. The Swartz family is Catholic, so their daughter, Samantha, was paired with Anita Conway, a Catholic teen from Fermanagh County, Ireland.
“Anita was a little homesick at first, and it was a little awkward for maybe a day or so until we all got to know each other, but that all changed,” said Swartz, who is also the publicity chairperson for the Ulster Project. “There was a lot of crying when we had to say our goodbyes.”

Erin Flanagan and Olivia Daugherty

Photo provided

From left, Irish student Erin Flanagan
poses with a cartoon character at
Kentucky Kingdom with host Olivia
Daugherty of Milton, Ky. The Daughertys
plan to host another student from
Ireland next year.

Swartz said the expense of hosting an Ulster teen is not much greater than “a few restaurant trips for the month.” The Ulster Project holds a variety of fundraisers during the year, including an auction and dinner in July of each year, to provide the necessary funding to bring the Irish teens here and for the various activities the teens do.
“The cost is really not even a factor in the decision,” said Swartz. “What is more important is the dedication and commitment to the project for the entire time the Irish teens are here. It has to be a complete family effort.”
While in the past, the Ulster Project usually starts organizing committees and the host families in January, project leaders want to get an earlier start this year. “We want to make sure we have everything well planned and in order by the time the teens arrive in July,” said Swartz. “We have lots of work to do.”
In a ceremony on Oct. 18 to celebrate the peace mission’s 10-year anniversary, the establishment of the “Mattson Draper Leadership Award” was announced. Sherry Mattson and Richard Draper were instrumental in bringing the international Ulster Project to Madison.
The award is to be presented in their honor to alumni of the Ulster Project of Madison for outstanding leadership and dedication to the mission of the Ulster Project International. The award will assist U.S. alumni in traveling to Northern Ireland to further the bonds of friendship and peace.

• For more information, call Chris Schwing, president of the Ulster Project in Madison, at (812) 599-5313.

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