All the way from South Boston to the North’s Giants Causeway
By Steve Burke
In furtherance of Belfast's sister city agreement with Boston, eight teens from South Boston recently completed a weeklong leadership development, civic engagement, and cross-cultural awareness program in Belfast.
This marks the second successful year of the Boston-Belfast Youth Empowerment Program.
The program took place during Thanksgiving week as four U.S. universities (Boston University, Yale, UCONN and Union College) brought their teams and supporters to Belfast to compete in the fourth annual Friendship Four ice hockey tournament at SSE Arena.
Jim Donnelly and his staff at Active Communities Network (ACN) provided the Boston youth with a historical and cultural perspective on Belfast, introduced them to the ACN methodology of youth work, and arranged for several interactions with Belfast teens, youth centers and primary schools.
The Boston teens also enjoyed civic engagements with U.S. Consul General Elizabeth Kennedy Trudeau and Lord Mayor Deirdre Hargey, who also brought members of the Belfast Youth Council to share information about social issues they are actively addressing across the city.
Visits to the Giants Causeway and the Titanic Belfast Museum were also highlights of the week, which was capped off by a traditional Thanksgiving dinner at Belfast Castle, and friendly ice hockey matches with the Belfast Junior Giants before, and during, the Friendship Four tournament.
We were thrilled to bring this second group of Boston teens to Belfast this year to participate in this impactful program and engage with Belfast city leaders, youth service providers, and Belfast young people.
They thoroughly enjoyed exploring sights of the city, especially during the festive Christmas season. We were received with open arms everywhere we went, and made many new friends along the way. We can't wait to bring even more youth back here in the future.
Plans are already underway for a new group of Boston teens to return to Belfast for a week in November, 2019 during the Friendship Four.
Program leaders are also discussing trips involving other sports during other times of the year, as well as the possibility of Belfast young people traveling to Boston to participate in similar programming.
Steve Burke is the founder of Boston-Belfast Youth Empowerment