Families from around Western New York who are interested in hosting an Irish child for a month this summer are invited to apply to a long-standing local relief program for consideration as host families, organizers of the project said.
The Belfast Summer Relief Program, an effort started in 1975 in Buffalo, is seeking host families for the 2013 season, said Maureen Fecio, co-director of the effort.
The children in the program are both Catholic and Protestant and come from Derry, also known as Londonderry, the second-largest city in Northern Ireland, to spend part of their summer in Buffalo, said Fecio.
While here, they live with local families, often in homes with children around the same age, she said.
“The cultural exchange is just amazing,” said Fecio, who runs the nonprofit program with her husband, Jack. “You think you’re doing it as a benefit to those children – but actually, what your own children get out of it is certainly amazing.”
The Buffalo-based program has brought nearly 1,700 children to the area since its inception, Fecio said.
The Irish boys and girls who participate are between 10 and 12 years old, said Fecio.
Families who apply do not need to have children of their own.
The group covers the expenses of the children in coming to Buffalo, Fecio said. Host families provide room and board while they are in town, she said. Some group activities are organized so that families hosting children may participate in if they wish, she said.
The dates of the 2013 program have not been finalized, but it is likely to run from late June to late July, Fecio said.
Interested parties are asked to respond as quickly as possible, due to the length of time it takes to process applications, organizers said.