History of the Ulster Project


The Ulster Project was started in 1975 by Rev. Kerry Waterstone, a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest in Tullamore, County Offally.  Following an extended pastoral exchange with a clergyman in Manchester, Connecticut, Kerry Waterstone witnessed the freedom and safety of exchanging ideas and viewpoints among people of different religious beliefs while in the United States.  After the experience of his own family in America, Canon Waterstone felt that the attitudes of Teens from Northern Ireland could be changed.   If they could see and experience the way Americans have learned to live together in their “melting pot” society they might influence the future of religious interaction and discourse in Northern Ireland.  The plan was to help ease the tensions in Northern Ireland by recruiting various Protestant and Catholic clergy to support the idea of a project based on reconciliation, trust and the destruction of stereotypes. 

After obtaining approval from church leaders, Canon Waterstone traveled into Northern Ireland to secure the cooperation of clergy willing to help in the implementation of his plan. Forming the original guidelines for the Project, he focused on addressing and minimizing the prejudices and stereotypes, which are the root cause of the bitter strife labeled Catholic/Protestant.

The Project expanded to Arlington, Texas in 1994.  Under the sponsorship of the Ulster Project, 16 Teenagers from Belfast, Northern Ireland participate in te Arlington-based program each year. This teen group is comprised of half Protestants and half Catholic, half girls and half boys, and they come to Arlington for the month of July to live with host families in private homes. The teens are paired with American teens of the same sex and approximate age. They live with Host Families, becoming an extra son or daughter, who are on the same side of the Catholic/Protestant “Faith line” and are “matched” by a Committee, selected by the participating American churches.

Accompanied by two adult Counselors, the Northern Irish participants range in age from 14-16 years, having been evaluated and selected for the project by their teachers and clergy for their leadership potential. Both American and Northern Irish teens must go through an application process and home interviews to ensure the willingness of the family to participate and to prepare them for the busy schedule that will be followed during the month of July.  It is hoped that at this age, the young people have not committed themselves to any underground militant group and are mature enough to garner and promote the benefits from this experience.

Once selected for the project, the Northern Irish teens meet extensively to form strong bonds with each other before leaving their country.  During the month-long project in July, the entire group of Northern Irish and American teens meet almost daily for activities, which include encounter sessions (Times Of Discovery), social activities, community service projects, and worship experiences, learning to play, pray, and work together.

Because the Project works so well, developing mutual trust and friendship among the Northern Irish youth and their families, participating Northern Irish leaders plan reunions and meetings after the youth return to Northern Ireland, encouraging and allowing the continuing friendships formed during the Project.        
"Hands Across the Divide" Statue on the west end of Craigavon Bridge, Northern Ireland

**Did you know the hours that your teen spends doing Ulster Project are considered Community Service hours? 

  • How Do I Participate?

    One key role (perhaps “the” key role) in making the Project successful is the participation of the...*ReadMore

  • What Is It About?

    Following an extended pastoral exchange with a clergyman in Manchester, Connecticut, Canon Kerry Waterstone, a Church of Ireland (Anglican) priest, received a request from... *ReadMore

  • Why Participate?

    Offer leadership training in reconciliation with the goal of empowering Ulster Project teens to oppose discrimination of any kind. *ReadMore

  • Does It Work?

    In Northern Ireland: An evaluation of the Ulster Project from all the participating towns and cities reveals success far surpassing the original expectations... *ReadMore

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