“Well, you see that stuff in the movies, [and] then it’s almost just like that,” recalls Siobhan Lappin, fondly remembering her trip to Morning Star Baptist Church. “The singers were amazing; I remember one girl’s voice was just crackin’.” Lappin, who hails from West Belfast, loved experiencing the different cultures of Boston. Thanks to Springboard Opportunities, based in Belfast, Siobhan had the opportunity come to Boston through the Wider Horizons program, which brings unemployed 18-28 year olds from Ireland and Northern Ireland to Boston and places them in community service-oriented internships. Lappin graduated from the program last fall and has returned to Belfast, implementing what she learned here in Boston to build a stronger community at home.
The Boston Wider Horizons program is facilitated by the IIIC and works to empower and educate these young adults; not only through work placements, but also through cultural experiences such as trips to a Baptist church or a mosque. The IIIC hosts several groups each year, working to bridge the communication gap between nationalist and unionist communities while simultaneously attacking the high levels of youth unemployment present on the island. The Wider Horizons program is funded by the International Fund for Ireland.
Siobhan worked at the Hyde Park YMCA, assisting with teen programs. “I was worried when I found out I’d be working with teenagers,” she confided, “but it turned out great….getting to know the kids from different backgrounds and seeing that what I was doing was making them happy.” Upon her return, she found work in a warehouse but has since moved on to a volunteer position with her local youth community center, the Willowbank Youth Club, where she has returned to working with teenagers. Siobhan helps by teaching dance, sports, and other skills; drawing on the experience and knowledge she gained in Boston. “The teenage years are important– when I was a teenager, if I wasn’t fighting, it was something else, so it’s great to have an effect at this point in their lives,” explains Siobhan. “I looked at my supervisors at the YMCA, Reggie and Latoya, and thought, these are the people I want to be like when I’m older.” Since returning, Siobhan has set up such goals and is actively taking steps to achieve them. She is looking to enter a certificate program at Belfast Metropolitan College and then wishes to attend a full time university, hoping to study social policy, sociology or psychology. The J-1 Irish Work and Travel program, a university internship program also facilitated by the IIIC, has become an interest to her as well.
Siobhan would love to return to Boston one day and remains in contact with her host family, Liana Williams. In her short time here, Siobhan became quite the Celtics fan and considers her time at the TD Garden as her fondest memory of Boston. “It was great, with everyone behind the team all loud and such; I loved being a part of that.”