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Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES)
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Youth Empowerment Scheme International (YES International)

Encouraged by the success of the Youth Empowerment Scheme, the Washington-Ireland Program now incorporates, as part of the summer part of the program, an opportunity for participants come up with a proposal for an event or organization that will be of benefit to the community.

The team of 2004, led by Padraigin Creen and WIP founder Carol Weeler, decided to give something back to the US community, which has done so much for the program. It was decided that one way to say thanks was to bring some local U.S. kids over to Ireland and give them an experience of another country and culture. Aside from the fun activities organized for the kids they also learn about Ireland, its people, and its history.

Founder of the Washington-Ireland Program for Service and Leadership, Carol Wheeler, had this to say about the venture.

"A wonderful thing happened at J.O. Wilson Elementary school in northeast Washington on a hot afternoon last July. A little girl named Adaobi touched the heart of WIP intern Padraigin Creen, and a new program was born.

Padraigin had gone to the school with her fellow students to help renovate the library and to spend an afternoon with the children. The experience was eye-opening: “This is a school, minutes from the Library of Congress, yet here there is no librarian. There were—before the community-led renovation—only hopelessly outdated books, many of them damaged by water from the leak in the roof. I learned that many of the children and their families worried about being forced out of the neighborhood because of its on-going redevelopment.”

Padraigin had a great time and made a new friend in Adaobi who stayed glued to her side the whole day. She learned about cheerleading and hair braiding, and together, they tried Irish dancing and hip hop moves. “When it came time to leave, so too came the tears from Adaobi’s big beautiful brown eyes. Promises were made to write and keep in touch but that little girl and indeed the rest of the children stirred something inside me. I felt it would not be enough just to write—I wanted to do something more.

“I thought about how one of friendship had affected the children so deeply . . . And it was then that I thought how great it would be if we could bring some of these children to our country. They had so many questions about Ireland, why can’t we show it to them? Would it not be wonderful to give something back to Washington after experiencing the endless hospitality shown to us . . . And it would be much more than a gesture of appreciation. This would be an experience which would both enrich and educate the young people involved and also bring an awareness of cultural diversity to our communities back home.”

And thus it was that a group of 6 young people—2 from J.O. Wilson, 2 from Mt. Lebanon Baptist Church and 2 from Project Children host families—made a trip to Ireland in September. They were hosted by Belfast families and treated to a jammed-packed itinerary by Padraigin and others from the WIP class of 2004. The Americans had a GREAT time and are now serving as ‘focus group’ as plans are laid to continue and expand the program."

For more information on YES International, please check out their website.

Visit the YES International website


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