About WIP

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

In Washington, 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 diversity;

  • 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.

WIP Intern, Corrine Norris, meets Senator Hillary Clinton.Since its 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.

 Participants develop practical 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.

Successful 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.

2004 Interns on the steps of the U.S. Capitol.
The Class of 2004 on the U.S. Capitol steps

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.

Queens University, BelfastInitially begun 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.

Project Chidren
The 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.

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