Your Child's Life
Each year the children in the program are chosen equally from both religions. This year they have been chosen from Belfast and outlying towns in the area. Family financial status is not a consideration in the selection of the children. We have no way of evaluating this factor. However, the children are not permitted to have traveled to America prior to their participation in this program.
There is a very high unemployment rate in Northern Ireland: in some areas, as much as forty percent among the adult male population. Life has been disrupted many times by “the Troubles.” Indeed, all of these children have been affected in some way by the civil unrest and tension of the past years.
With very few exceptions, houses in Northern Ireland are built of brick or concrete blocks. Some are state owned, and tenants pay rent to the government. Others are privately owned, often having been purchased through a building society or passed on through the family. Central heating is common. Plumbing facilities are modern, but some children may not be familiar with showers and will prefer a bath.
The average summertime temperature in Northern Ireland is about 65 degrees. Rainfall in the lowlands averages 40 inches a year. The average winter temperature is between 35-40 degrees. Northern Ireland does get snow, but usually only an inch or two falls at a time, and it normally melts with very little accumulation. Because of the differences in climate, your Irish child will be interested in seeing pictures of our houses, snowplows, etc. in the winter, as well as winter outdoor wardrobes. Our summer clothing is similar to that worn in Northern Ireland, but going without shoes or shirts will be a new idea
The children will enjoy watching television and are familiar with most of the American TV programs. The American commercials are generally different from those they see at home. It is fun to compare products and terms. Many Irish families have VCRs, DVDs and Video Games. In many areas, children must spend much of their free time indoors for safety reasons, and television helps fill the leisure time. This is really a great opportunity to go outside and show them everything that Minnesota has to offer.
Remember, there is a six hour time difference between Minnesota and Northern Ireland. The international dialing code is 011; the Northern Ireland code is 44. When dialing, you must dial 011-44 followed by the remainder of the number.
Children between 4 and 5 are required to attend school. Their first year is P-1, which is comparable to our kindergarten. Nearly all children attend either a Protestant or Catholic school. Rarely are Protestant and Catholic children taught in the same facility. Schools are supported by public funds, and the standards are more strict than in our schools. At the end of grade school children must take placement exams. Depending on the outcome of these exams, children are placed in specific types of schools to continue their education (i.e., college prep, vocational, technical). Placement is based on ability and outcome of the exams. The children have no choice in the matter. At the university level, colleges choose the students.