The beloved founder of Project Children, Denis Mulcahy, is best known for bringing Catholic and Protestant children to America for summer holidays at the height of The Troubles in Northern Ireland, and now a new scholarship program in his name will send American youngsters to Ireland.
The Mulcahy Scholarships will be formally launched next Tuesday by the Aisling Irish Center and the Irish Consulate at an event that is sold out. The annual summer scholarships are starting small but will undoubtedly be in high demand given the esteemed reputation of Co. Cork native Mulcahy, whose Project Children brought tens of thousands of kids from the North to all corners of America, giving them the chance to enjoy each other’s company despite their different religious backgrounds.
“We are doing well with them so far. The event on Tuesday is sold out and we have another one planned,” Mulcahy told the Irish Voice.
The launch event on Tuesday at Scandinavian House in Manhattan and the April 18 event in the same venue will also include a screening of the documentary How to Defuse a Bomb: The Project Children Story, which outlines the history of the group founded in 1975.
Mulcahy, a retired NYPD detective who worked on the bomb squad, is a board member of the Aisling Irish Community Center in Yonkers. The center wanted to do something special to recognize his contributions towards the Irish peace process, particularly in relation to bringing children on both sides together.
The Mulcahy Scholarships had a soft launch last year. One Irish American high school student, Conor James, was selected to attend the Celtic Irish American Academy in Galway City for two weeks to learn about Irish culture and forge new friendships.
“It’s a great thing for high school students. We will send at least two this summer, and I would like to expand it so the kids can go to Northern Ireland as well,” Mulcahy said.
The future of the scholarship program will depend in good part on fundraising, which Mulcahy says has been “going pretty good” so far.
“People are making donations, but it’s always good at the beginning,” he added. “We are excited about the future and where this can go. Giving Irish American kids the chance to learn about their heritage is a good thing.”
Though Project Children no longer brings Catholic and Protestant children to America each summer, the group is still involved in securing bright futures for young people in the North and the Irish Republic. It acts as a sponsor in the J-1 summer work and travel program and provides internships in many fields, thanks to Project Children’s decades of forging relationships in America.
“We bring about 30 university students over each year, 26 from the North and four from the Republic,” Mulcahy says.
The application period for the Mulcahy Scholarships will open at some point in March. Applicants must be over 16 and either a high school junior or senior at the time of entry; they must also submit a 1,500-word essay on why they should be selected.
“The long-term goal of the Mulcahy Scholarship is to develop the necessary funding that will facilitate growth of this unique program, enabling a large number of American high school students to attend cultural summer courses in Northern and Southern Ireland. It is integral to the Mulcahy Scholarship that we preserve and promote a strong and progressive connection between Ireland and America,” the Aisling Irish Center said in a press release.
For more information on the program, visit www.projectchildren.org/scholarship.html.