What is the Ulster Project?

WHAT IS THE ULSTER PROJECT?

The Ulster Project is a unique social and cultural experience.  This group of teens has a chance to aid in the peacemaking process in Northern Ireland while also enjoying a variety of service-based, faith-based, and fun activities.  They often develop close long-term bonds with both the US and N. Irish teens in the Project.  It is an experience they’ll never forget and many of our past participants have declared it the “Best summer of their lives”.

How the Ulster Project Works:

Every year, sometime in late June, we bring over a dozen teens from Northern Ireland.  We place them with local families who have a compatible teen of approximately the same age and same gender.  The ideal mix of the group is as follows:

US Teens

  • 12 teens total = 6 Protestants/6 Catholics (equally split between boys and girls)
  • 2 college-age counselors (must be 21 or older) – one male/one female

N. Irish Teens

  • 12 teens total = 6 Protestants/6 Catholics (equally split between boys and girls)
  • 2 college-age counselors (must be 21 or older) – one male/one female

We end up with a group of 24 teens plus the 4 young adult Counselors.

We also have one or more adult coordinators who attend every activity – just in case someone is injured, or some issue comes up that the Counselors aren’t prepared to handle.

We receive quite a few applications each year for US host teens and their families.  We have a screening process to narrow it down to just 12 families that will be selected to participate in that year’s Project.

(If you have an older child (21+) who would like to apply as a counselor, please contact the Host Family Committee for a Counselor application.)

Requirements for US Host Teens/Families
(N. Irish teens are selected in a separate process by our counterparts in N. Ireland).  

  • The preferred age is 15 years old, but we will accept applications from teens 14-16 years old.
  • Must be from a Protestant or Catholic family.
  • Must be in relatively good health – we do lots of hiking, river rafting and outdoor activities.
  • Must be comfortable in a large group (shy is OK, but if your teen would be uncomfortable or anxious in a large group like this, they might not want to apply).
  • Families must be of good Christian character and can provide references and participate in an in-home interview with both the teen and the parents. The N. Irish parents are entrusting their children to our care, so we have to ensure that the home is a safe and caring environment for them.  We do require a background check on all adults living in the home.
  • Families must be willing and able to transport both the teens to all daily activities during the Project time frame.  Many of our host parents have full-time jobs and our Host Family Committee tries to help arrange carpooling or rides as needed.
  • Families must provide proof of insurance. Just standard vehicle and home insurance, just in case, but the N. Irish teens will have their own medical insurance for emergencies.

Time Commitment

The Ulster Project requires an exclusive commitment for the four weeks the Northern Irish teens are here.  Your teen will not be able to participate in Scouts, cheerleading, football, or youth group – whatever other extracurricular activities they are involved in.    They will simply be too busy.

The month goes by so quickly and the group becomes extremely close, so they would miss your teen if they had to miss a day.  Naturally, if one of your teens is ill, they are excused, but we do ask for a firm commitment from beginning to end and full participation as much as possible.  Fortunately, most coaches and other leaders are usually very understanding about excusing the teens for this time period.

The exact Project dates won’t be set until Spring.  It depends on school holidays, weekends, and when we can arrange for various activities, but generally the Project runs from the last week in June to the first three weeks of July.  We will announce when the exact dates have been set.  See sample calendar for more details.

Costs

This is usually a surprise to most families, but the cost to the US Teens is fairly minimal.  The fees for all Project activities are covered through Corporate grants or other fundraising activities by the Utah Ulster Project.  The River Trip is free, Lagoon is free, Boondocks, museums, Camp Tuttle, it’s all covered….

However, Host Families will have some extra costs during the month.  You are feeding and housing an extra teen for a month.  The kids normally pack lunches every day.  The gas needed to transport the teens to daily activities, and you may be asked to bring some food for potlucks or events.  And definitely some spending money for your teen – the N. Irish kids come prepared with their own spending money and usually do quite a bit of shopping for gifts and goodies to bring back home.

Your pay for all this – is a single rose from your teens at the closing ceremonies and most host parents count that as payment in full.

Application Process

The Host Family Committee selects our host families from a variety of places around the valley.  We do presentations at Judge Memorial High School, Juan Diego High School and Intermountain Christian School.  We also visit a number of church youth groups around the valley.  We usually get some recommendations from past Host Families and many siblings participate in successive years.  We’ve had many families with two (or more) children be involved in the Project either as participants and/or counselors.  That speaks well of what a positive experience this is for both the families and the teens.

The Host Family Committee usually receives a one-page contact sheet with basic contact info for interested families.  We then touch base with the parents by phone or Email to determine if the project is a good fit and if the family is available for the required dates.  We have an application form on the next page to formally apply.  Then the family is scheduled for their in-home interview.

Once all the applications are received and the interviews are complete, the Host Family Committee sits down for the difficult task of selecting the applicants for the year.  The determining criteria is mainly if we feel the teen is going to do well in the group and make a harmonious fit.  And also that the family is going to be a safe and happy place for the visiting teen to stay.

Sometime after that, we receive the Match Forms for the N. Irish teens and we schedule the “Match Meeting”.  We do our very best to match up the teen pairs based on their interests, personality types, and just our feeling of which teen is going to be a great fit with which family.  Per nationwide Ulster Project policy, the matches are not announced to the families until June 1st.

Here is a very rough time-line of how the process works

Jan – Feb:  Visit schools and youth groups to obtain applicants and begin talking to potential host families.  Begin receiving applications from interested families.

March:  Complete in-home Interviews with parents and teens and begin selecting our 12 teens for the year.  Hopefully will have the selection meeting at the end of the month or early in April.

April/May:  Announce US Teen selections and start determining matches

June 1st:  Matches are announced.  At this point, the teens are permitted to begin Facebooking, Snapchatting, or whatever teens are doing these days and the parents are encouraged to get acquainted with the N. Irish parents.  Everyone is very excited to get to know everyone else.

End of June:  Showtime!  The teens arrive and the project kicks off for a month of fun.  Airport day is a day of huge EXCITEMENT when the teens all meet for the first time!

End of July: Time for tearful (very tearful!) goodbyes and the Project is closed for the year.

If you are ready to begin the application process – please CLICK HERE to move to the Application Page.