By Anne Kirchner
Special to the McPherson News
Has your family ever pondered hosting an international student? If the answer is yes, what are you waiting for? If the answer is no, I hope you read my story and reconsider.
When our family committed to hosting a student through Ulster Project of McPherson County, we never imagined a group of teens from Northern Ireland could impact our lives in so many ways in just four weeks. Eight teens arrived in late June and embarked on a month-long journey with their American counterparts to explore diversity, develop leadership skills and communicate effectively.
Together the teens learned the value of community through service work, activities and discussions. Experiences included Maxwell Wildlife Refuge, MCDS, nursing homes, Broadway RFD, Strataca, a car wash, a rodeo, church settings and more. Celebrating the Fourth of July was a highlight. And we will always remember the talent show where the personality of each teen shone – Northern Irish and American alike.
Because my daughter Hannah embraced the Ulster Project experience, she gained meaningful moments and powerful relationships. She blossomed as an individual and learned the importance of expressing one’s thoughts and feelings. Her confidence increased to another level. My Northern Irish daughter, Rebecca, has a beautiful soul. I will be forever grateful to her for sharing a powerful journey with Hannah, a journey that resulted in meaningful conversations, experiences and friendships. Rebecca will always be a member of our family.
Though it’s been more than six months since we said goodbye to the Northern Irish, the friendships remain. Social media allows for timely updates and silly thoughts. We will reconnect with a Northern Irish counselor at a wedding in March. And my 50th birthday celebration includes a summer trip to Northern Ireland – I can’t wait to hug my Northern Irish daughter and the other teens!
Recently I learned Ulster Project 2018 is in need of volunteers. The program is in jeopardy if eight families are not identified by Feb. 15. My heart aches when I think about the many experiences and life-changing moments that will be missed if this program does not continue. Ulster Project and my daughter’s generation give me hope for a better world. If you are interested in being a part of positive global change, contact Ulster Project of McPherson County at 620.242.7551 or firstname.lastname@example.org.