Foroige, the leading youth organization in Ireland, launched its first international club in Philadelphia on Sunday. Diaspora Minister Ciaran Cannon traveled to the U.S. for the festivities at the Irish Immigration Center.

Foroige works with over 50,000 young people and 5,500 adult volunteers annually, through a network of more than 650 youth clubs and cafés, 160 targeted projects and national programs such as entrepreneurship, health and well being and citizenship.

According to a press release, the pilot collaboration between the Irish Immigration Centre and Foroige “will serve as a model to engage Irish American youth and give many more young people the opportunity to connect with their Irish heritage in a contemporary way. The pilot includes Foroige’s suite of developmental programs, such as leadership for life and civic engagement.”

Cannon, who spent two days in New York and Connecticut last week prior to visiting Philadelphia, said, “The Irish Immigration Center is a vital resource for the vibrant Irish community in Philadelphia and I’m delighted today to officially launch this new, innovative collaboration between the IIC and Foroige, which has broadened and deepened the center’s youth engagement in a most meaningful way.  I congratulate all the young members of Foroige Philadelphia for their work to grow and develop their club.  I hope that this becomes a template for other Irish American communities across the U.S., to consider starting their own Foroige club.”

Chairperson of Foroige Sandra McIntyre said, “Much of adolescence is about belonging and this launch is about celebrating the opportunity that Foroige and the Irish Immigration Center are giving Irish American young people to belong, not only to a Foroige club, but to Ireland and the global Irish family.”

John O’Malley, chairman of the Irish Immigration Center added, “Part of our organization's mission is to help strengthen our community.  Our partnership with Foroige helps achieve that goal by allowing us to reach young people, some of whom may not have been exposed to their Irish heritage through Irish dancing or youth GAA programs, and connect them to their heritage and today's Ireland.”