Irish Minister for the Diaspora, Jimmy Deenihan, completed a five day visit to California where he spent time with Coalition of Irish Immigrant Centers members, the Irish Immigration Pastoral Center, San Francisco (IIPC SF) and Irish Outreach San Diego (IOSD).

While visiting both Centers, the Minister had the opportunity to experience the range of programs and services offered by IIPC SF and IOSD to their local Irish and Irish American communities. Discussions included the support being provided to those struggling with alcohol and substance abuse, mental health issues, depression and the J1 exchange program.

Minister Deenihan indicated, "The work being done by IIPCSF and IOSD is exemplary and I know is indicative of the work being provided by their colleagues across the US. The level of support and care they provide for the Irish and Irish American communities in San Diego and San Francisco is a credit to the staff and Boards of the Centers and I am delighted that we are in a position to support this work through the Emigrant Support Programme.

"It has been great to hear what a marvelous and positive experience the majority of J1 students have in San Diego and San Francisco and indeed, across the US, every summer. It is a program of which government is most proud as it enables our young people to experience the culture and work ethic of the United States, an experience that will stand to them in their future careers.

"We are delighted that it is a reciprocal program and we would like to invite more young American students to participate in the program and enjoy the opportunities and hospitality that Ireland has to offer. These young people are ambassadors for their countries and as such will continue the long and historical relationship between our two nations."

Celine Kennelly, CIIC Board President and Executive Director at Irish Immigration Pastoral Center,San Francisco welcomed the Minister to the West Coast adding "The appointment of a dedicated Minister for the Diaspora and the continued support of the work being done by Immigration and Pastoral Centers across the US is testament of the importance of the Irish Diaspora to the Irish government. We welcome the opportunity to work with the Minister and his Department to continue to expand the programs and services that we offer to the Irish in the US.

"Our member centers look forward to welcoming and assisting Irish J1 students for Summer 2015. The J1 experience offers so much opportunity and adventure and brings an increased level of vitality and energy to our communities in the summer months. We do ask students to remember that they are fortunate to be guests of their host cities and part of the local Irish community during their time here.

Stephen Aherne, Executive Director of Irish Outreach San Diego added, "There is a great Irish community here in San Diego who are ready and willing to help the J1 students who visit us and in return, they simply want students to remember that, while here, they are representing themselves, their families and the Irish people. Come and have a great J1 experience in San Diego!"