“Beyonce hasn’t got a patch on them,” says Gemma, reflecting on the singers she heard during a trip to Morningstar Baptist Church in Mattapan. “It was brilliant, so exciting for a service.” The Dubliner was here in Boston on the Springboard Wider Horizons program.
The Wider Horizons Program brings young adults between the ages of 18 and 28 to Boston and places them in six week 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, which arranges work placements, host families, and social activities.
Gemma spent her six weeks in Boston working at Hyde Square Task Force, a community after school program in Jamaica Plain. Her responsibilities included helping kids with homework, using her artistic skills to decorate signs, and coming up with imaginative ways to entertain the kids, such as presenting a show and tell about her pet tarantulas! “She’s been awesome,” says Barbara Civill, her supervisor. “She jumped right in, took work really seriously, worked creatively, and got along with other staff.” Gemma was grateful to work with a community based youth organization here in the US, as she is unable to work with kids until she is 25 according to Irish law. “We’ll really miss her, the kids, all the staff, we’d love to have her again,” concludes Barbara.
Gemma has been living with Sandy Mendez in Roxbury along with fellow intern Jolene Reddington. “I love them,” says Gemma. “They’re so nice, I couldn’t ask for anyone better. It’s tough to leave.” She has been at home in her Dudley Square neighborhood, reporting: “I love all the public art, the colorful buildings, and the expression of culture, it’s very open.”
When she returns to Dublin, Gemma plans on possibly continuing her former role as a disco teacher, working with animals, or preparing to become a youth worker once she turns 25. She will miss Boston dearly, hanging out on the Commons, working with kids in Hyde Square and spending time at the IIIC. Gemma summed up her time with: “I love Boston, it’s a place where you have to try to be bored!”