Wider Horizon Program
By Sean Hansen

"It was my first taste of freedom," recalls Dylan Freeburn, fondly reminiscing over his time in Boston. The Portadown native has come a long way since arriving in September 2011, as a part of the Clanrye 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. The program is facilitated in America by the Irish International Immigrant Center, who arranges work placements, host families, and social activities. The IIIC will have its fourth and final Wider Horizons group of 2013 arrive in Boston on August 3rd.

Following his time in Boston, Dylan has since immigrated to Manchester, England where he is employed with the National Trust, a non-profit dedicated to preserving the United Kingdom’s historic sites and keeping them open to the public.

While in Boston, Dylan was an intern with the Food Project. The Food Project practices sustainable agricultural methods to provide healthy food to Boston community. They run on a model of identifying young leaders and helping them grow by giving them important responsibilities. Dylan fit this mold perfectly, stepping in to supervise volunteers, harvest crops, and sell them in farmer’s markets. His supervisor, Robyn Burns, fondly remembers working with Dylan, recalling: "Typically after our Summer Youth Program ends, we face a brief staffing shortage… Dylan started right during this period and because of circumstance we threw him immediately into positions of leadership quicker than we would usually do so. I remember asking him to lead a volunteer group of students in farm work and just hoping that it turned out well. I soon witnessed that Dylan was a natural and handled everything wonderfully."

Freeburn has been able to apply these skills to his new job in Manchester where he manages over 50 volunteers. In addition,  he has been given added responsibilities of restoring and maintaining the historic properties as well as serving as a gardener.

Moving to England was a tough decision for Dylan, but "my experience in Boston gave me the courage to follow my work abroad." Dylan was adamant about the role of the IIIC in the program. "It was a hub, you know, where the magic happens, you just build your day around it." He is still in regular contact with his host mother, Cathy Urneck. "She always wants to know when I’m coming back." With all the parks and monuments that create the historic landscape of our city, it would not be a surprise to see Dylan working here some day.

The Irish International Immigrant Center, Boston