“I ordered a large, and it came back three sizes bigger than I thought it would!” Tara Hillman excitedly jokes, as she tells me about her recent discovery of popular sugary drinks, Slushies. The Slushie is just one of many new discoveries for the West Belfast native, who is working in Boston for six weeks as a part of the Springboard Wider Horizons program.
The Wider Horizons Program brings young adults between the ages of 18 and 28 to Boston and places them in community service internships. The program fosters mutual understanding and reconciliation between Protestant and Catholic communities in Northern Ireland and Ireland. In addition, it strives to improve participants’ employability by providing them with essential skills and practical work experience to apply when they return home. The course is supported by the International Fund for Ireland, which “promotes economic and social advance, and encourages contact, dialogue and reconciliation between nationalists and unionists throughout Ireland.”
Tara has begun her internship at Sojourner House, a homeless shelter which aims to empower and provide adequate housing for families in need. She has already gained valuable experience: joining her supervisor on important meetings, volunteering at the House’s food pantry, working in their office, and getting to know the families who live at the shelter.
“It’s brilliant, when I wake up on days off I get disappointed because I want to go to work,” says Tara, who also admits to having been nervous on her first day, “I’m not aware of anything like this back home…I’d definitely be interested in joining or starting something like this there.”
Aside from work, Tara enjoys spending her free time hanging out on the Boston Common, where “everyone hears your accent and wants to stop and talk, maybe see if you’re related.” She has also visited the cinema, where she had a powerful experience after seeing the movie 42. 42 is about the struggles of Jackie Robinson, the African American baseball player who broke the “Color Barrier” to become the first black player to play Major League Baseball since the 1880s. “I couldn’t imagine living in those times; people need to stop ramming racism into kids’ heads, all around the world,” said Tara.
She is also having a great experience with her host mother, Olive Fagan. Olive is of Caribbean origin, and Tara has loved being introduced to a new culture, especially the food. “She brings home a lot of different bread and such, I like most things, not all, but I’m willing to try everything!”