Eight ways to help Ireland build a strong, happy future

For many Irish Americans the key to a strong future for Ireland is the strength and creative energy of its educational system. A highly educated population and work force not only attracts inward investment but it also generates innovation, new ideas, and happier, more informed lives for Irish people.

But Ireland is a very small country that has to balance its financial resources carefully. The social welfare of its people, relationships with other countries, roads, security, hospitals, and health care all require funding. And Ireland has a special problem in that it is a divided country and sensitive care must be focused upon the sometimes severe problems that separation presents in Northern Ireland.

All of this is not easy, especially when Ireland, with its small-country assets, must compete with the rest of the world. And educational funding must take its place amongst all these priorities; extravagant funding is not possible.

We find, however, that there are millions upon millions of people of Irish heritage throughout the world who would be willing, even anxious, to help if they are confident their support will be used wisely and effectively.

The people of the United States are the most generous in the world. Both world wars and our constant attention to humanitarian causes at home and abroad tend to underscore our care and concern. Irish Americans have been very successful in the United States, taking leadership positions in major universities, large corporations, state and federal governments, religious institutions, the armed services, and most every phase of our economic and social lives.

And as part of that, Irish Americans stand in the front rank of philanthropically inclined Americans. The Irish American Partnership tries to focus some of this caring and kindness toward Ireland.

It is in that spirit that we suggest consideration of eight Irish educational programs that need funding and may appeal to Irish Americans inclined to support the idea of a strong and successful Ireland well into the future. These are proven, effective programs already in existence and offering demonstrable evidence of their worthiness.

• Join in the Partnership’s program to support the 3,000 Irish primary schools in Ireland. Early learning can make a student for life. Our focus is directed toward the smaller rural disadvantaged schools in western Ireland. These schools average between 25 and 75 young children. Taught and cared for by two or three 3 teachers, these rural schools are amongst the most needy in Ireland. Partnership gifts to each school are usually between $1,500 and $2,000 each. This is a prime Partnership program and is intended to support these small-school teachers and replenish worn student library books and the purchase of cutting edge science teaching materials. The Partnership and its donors have funded approximately 400 of these schools in recent years.

• Choose your own school to support. Simply select the county, city, town, or village your ancestors came from and direct your gift to a school in the area. The Partnership will send the gift to the school in your name or the name of the ancestor you are honoring. You will receive recognition letters and pictures of the students you are helping. The gift can be anywhere between $500 and $2,000, even $5,000. Some families join together and make a joint gift. Over 100 Irish schools have been funded this way.

• Fund the search for identifying and retraining technology talented Irish lower wage earners. Young high school graduates who did not get into college, bartenders, waitresses, cab drivers et al. can become high-tech well-paid operators and supervisors with their unrecognized talent. The Partnership, working with the all-Ireland non-profit “Fast Track to High Technology” company, has had an impact on the lives of 200 young people in the North and South of Ireland with $10,000 each year for the past four years.

• One Irish American Partnership supporter from New York City became so upset at the condition of Tang National School in the village of Tang, Co., the school his grandparents attended, he asked the Partnership to manage his $50,000 gift to be used to build an extension on the school and modernize the existing building. The donor purchased the equipment and the teaching materials to provide the children with new computers and science teaching instruction. The donor and the Partnership were there for the school re-opening.

• Perhaps your ancestors emigrated from Northern Ireland. The Partnership funds support several integrated schools in the North helping them to teach and understand diversity. In 2013 we presented a $10,000 gift to the Glengormley Integrated Primary Schools in East Belfast, and in 2014 we are presenting a gift of $10,000 to the Drumlins Integrate School in Ballynahinch in Co. Down. The Partnership welcomes new support for this program. We have funded nine integrated schools over the past four years. As with all Partnership programs, American participation is welcome.

The Partnership has helped many deserving underprivileged high school graduates attend university through a program called Access to Higher Education. Dublin City University, Trinity, University of Limerick, and The University of Ulster have all received $10,000 grants over the past three years. We have met many of these students during our regular visits to the universities. Some are from families where no one has ever gone on to higher education.

• A Partnership supporter from the West Coast whose father went to the Cork Institute of Technology has provided a $25,000 grant to the school through the Partnership for a selected student to receive a two-year scholarship to study and report on the development of Ireland’s high technology sector and a general forecast of where the opportunities are in the next five years. This is a classic donor-initiated project that the Partnership monitors and sends periodic reports to the donor.

• Our final program is too comprehensive to fully describe here. It involves a large-scale study of 30 schools that was begun in 2005 to determine the most effective ways to teach young children the vales of understanding science, thereby generating a career interest as they go through their school years. The idea was to approach young minds to gain new scientists and engineers for Ireland. A donor from Virginia originally suggested and funded the initial research with gifts well into six figures. Today, this same generous and active donor still helps us manage the program and is delighted with its outcomes. The program found that teachers, no matter how willing and professional, needed additional training and that is how the program developed. The program has been managed by St. Patrick’s Teaching College in Dublin with the approval of Ireland’s Department of Education and Skills and the assistance of Mary Immaculate Teaching College in Limerick. The program today is active and growing in Mayo, Kilkenny, Limerick, and Kerry. Funding is approximately $50,000 each year. With support, this program can be extended to any and all counties.

The above are just a few of the Ireland programs funded and managed by the Partnership over its 28-year history. There are so many more. They all present opportunities for interested Irish Americans to participate in building the future of Ireland.