Originally called The Young Leaders
Program, The Washington-Ireland Program for Service and Leadership (WIP),
is a six-month program of personal and professional development that brings
outstanding Protestant and Catholic university students from Northern Ireland
and the Republic of Ireland to Washington, DC for summer internships and
leadership training. The program begins and ends with practical service in
Northern Ireland and Ireland.
Photo by John H. McShane
participants get first-hand experience with U.S. government and
politics and an immersion in American culture by living with area
Host Families. Through an intense eight-week schedule, young people
from different sides of the political divide are challenged to work
and learn as a team and to create an environment of mutual respect.
The program aims to send students home with enhanced professional and
interpersonal skills and a new confidence in their own leadership
abilities which they are expected to demonstrate through service to
their own communities.
The goals of the program are to:
Train promising third level and
university students from Northern Ireland and Ireland to work as an
effective leadership team;
Build a trust between the participants
that transcends sectarian boundaries;
Celebrate the groupís identity in
Challenge the participants to achieve
professional and personal excellence; and
Equip participants with the skills to
meet the future challenges of peace and progress on the island of Ireland.
inception in 1995, the program has expanded from four to eight weeks,
allowing time for both leadership training and work experience.
Students are placed in offices across the Washington metropolitan
region representing federal and local government, businesses,
non-profit organizations, professional services firms and media
organizations. Placements have included The White House,
Congressional offices, The Northern Ireland Bureau, The World Bank,
Habitat for Humanity, AFL-CIO, CNN and CBS, among many others.
leadership abilities by committing to 30 hours of service in their
own communities before the summer and 40 hours in a Group Service Project
when they return. Students also help launch and run the
following year’s program by assisting with marketing,
recruiting, selecting and mentoring the succeeding WIP class.
candidates must be Irish-born, or Irish or British (NI) citizens with current
passports. They must be full-time students in Ireland or the
United Kingdom, between the ages of 18 and 25, and passing their
subjects at a better than passing grade. Moreover, they must be
willing to demonstrate leadership through service before and after
the program, and be ready to participate in diverse leadership teams.
Program applicants have represented more than 30 different
universities in Northern Ireland, Ireland, England and Scotland.
The Class of 2004 on the U.S. Capitol
To date, 300 young adults have graduated from the program. Many WIP
graduates have moved into important careers in politics, business,
media and education. These include: a research officer to the NI
First Minister in Westminster; television and radio news journalists;
reporters for major newspapers in Belfast and London; barristers and
solicitors; university professors and primary school teachers;
consultants with Accenture and PriceWaterhouseCoopers; Dublin PR firm
managers; assistant to Members of the NI Assembly and the Irish
Parliament; political party operatives in Northern Ireland and the
Republic; and Executive Officer for the Home Office in London.
in partnership with the Students’ Union at Queen’s
University, Belfast, WIP has received support from the Irish
Government through its Department of Education and the International
Fund for Ireland. The program is now actively developing
partnerships with other government departments, universities,
businesses, foundations and individuals that will support its core
program and help expand alumni programs.
Washington-Ireland Program is an extension of Project Children, a
program that sponsors six-week summer holidays in the U.S. for
Protestant and Catholic youth from Northern Ireland. The
participants, who stay with American Host Families, range in age from
10-14 years old and come from neighborhoods in which the
Protestant-Catholic conflict has taken an especially heavy toll. For
most children, these visits provide a first-time opportunity to get
to know people from the other side of the sectarian divide. In its
27-year existence, Project Children has touched more than 17,000
young lives. Project
Children also works with vocational trainees from Northern Ireland
and the Republic who get on-site work experience in the U.S. by
building homes with Habitat for Humanity.