Twenty lucky Irish American students touched down in Ireland this past Wednesday to take part in the first ever Global Irish Summer Camp, Ireland’s program modeled on Israel’s famous Birthright trips, which allow young members of the diaspora to visit and learn about the motherland.
Plans for the program were first announced last November by then Minister for the Diaspora Jimmy Deenihan, with the summer camp billed as “an excellent opportunity” for children of Irish emigrants who have never been to Ireland before to “strengthen their links with Ireland though a short immersive visit” aimed at “deepening their engagement with the country of their ancestors."
The summer camp is based at the Institute of Study Abroad Ireland's campus in Bundoran, Co. Donegal, and includes classes and workshops on Irish history, language and culture in addition to field trips to important sites across the island, including day trips and outdoor adventures.
All costs while in Ireland are covered, including accommodation, meals and transport. However, unlike the Birthright program, the participants were responsible for covering the costs of their travel to and from Ireland - for this pilot year at least.
So, what have they been up to since arriving at Dublin Airport on Wednesday?
A brief look at the Boland Mills site along Dublin’s River Liffey, and then a tour of Google HQ for a sample of Dublin’s burgeoning tech scene.
A visit to EPIC Ireland, the new museum celebrating the massive impact of the Irish diaspora around the world.
Learning about Ireland’s Great Hunger at Dublin’s famine memorial.
An up close look at Ireland’s incredible archaeology and geology in the Cavan Burren.
A tour of the Beleek Pottery Factory in Co. Fermanagh, which also brought them across the border into Northern Ireland and back again.
Lessons in the Irish language, Ogham writing and ancient Irish history.
A visit to Devinish Island the old monastic settlement in the middle of Lough Erne, Co. Fermanagh.
Lessons in traditional Irish music and dancing.
Up next for the group is Galway City.
The Israeli Tagalit-Birthright program, founded in 1999, sends young men and women of Jewish origins to Israel for a ten day immersion in the language, culture, history and modern day life of Israel. To date, more than 400,000 young adults from all over the world have taken part in Birthright Israel, which began as the initiative of two philanthropists, Charles Bronfman and Michael Steinhardt, who shared the belief that it was “the birthright of all young Jews to be able to visit their ancestral homeland.”
Since then, a number of other countries have adopted similar initiatives, including Armenia, Greece, Macedonia, Hungary, Cuba, and, now, Ireland.
Would you attend or want the younger generations in your family to be able to explore their Irish heritage on such a program? Share your thoughts in the comment section.