What is the Ulster Project?

Airport Welcome in July

Airport Welcome in July


How the Ulster Project Works:

Each July, a group of 12 teens from Enniskillen (County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland) come to Cincinnati and stays with host teens and their families. The teens are half Catholic, half Protestant, half boys, half girls, and typically 14-15 years old. They are matched with a host family teen of the same gender and based on factors like hobbies, interests, and church tradition.

The goal of the project is for all the teens to learn to appreciate and respect one another’s differences here on neutral ground.

During the month, all of the teens, both Northern Irish and American, participate daily in a variety of service projects, social activities, and discussion groups. These include things such as volunteer work at daycare centers, orphanages, nursing homes, swim parties, Kings Island, water parks, canoeing, Reds games, and a weekly facilitated discussion group where character issues and conflict resolution are discussed.

The bonds of friendship between the teens that are formed during the month are often long-lasting and provide an invaluable insight into another culture for many of the teens.

The ideal mix of the group is as follows:

US Teens

  • 12 teens total = 6 Protestants/6 Catholics (equally split between boys and girls)

  • 2 college-age counselors (must be 21 or older) one male/one female

N. Irish Teens

  • 12 teens total = 6 Protestants/6 Catholics (equally split between boys and girls)

  • 2 college-age counselors (must be 21 or older) one male/one female

We end up with a group of 24 teens plus the 4 young adult Counselors.

We also have one or more adult coordinators who attend every activity – just in case someone is injured, or some issue comes up that the Counselors aren’t prepared to handle.

We receive quite a few applications each year for US host teens and their families.  We have a screening process to narrow it down to just 12 families that will be selected to participate in that year’s Project.

(If you have an older child (21+) who would like to apply as a counselor, please see the Counselor Page for more information.)

Requirements for US Host Teens/Families
(N. Irish teens are selected in a separate process by our counterparts in N. Ireland).

  • The preferred age is 15 years old, but we will accept applications from teens 14-16 years old. This year’s Northern Irish teens will be from the 2005 birth year.  US Teens can be born anywhere from 2003-2006.

  • Must be from a practicing Protestant or Catholic Christian family.

  • Must be comfortable in a large group (being a bit shy is fine, but if your teen would be very uncomfortable or anxious in a large group like this, they might not want to apply).

  • Families must be of good Christian character and can provide references. They will participate in an in-home interview with both the teen and the parents. The N. Irish parents are entrusting their children to our care, so we have to ensure that the home is a safe and caring environment for them. We do require a background check on all adults living in the home.

  • Families must be willing and able to transport both the teens to all daily activities during the Project time frame. Many of our host parents have full-time jobs or other responsibilities, but often families are able to arrange carpools or make other transportation arrangements. If your teen is selected, we will help you to find a way to get them to the activities.

  • Families must provide proof of insurance. Just standard vehicle and home insurance, just in case. The N. Irish teens will have their own medical insurance for illness or medical emergencies.

Time Commitment

The Ulster Project requires a serious commitment for the four weeks the Northern Irish teens are here.  Your teen will be very busy and may not be able to participate in Scouts, cheerleading, football, or youth group – whatever other extracurricular activities they are involved in.  We will help host teens to work around schedules when possible. Fortunately, most coaches and other leaders are usually very understanding about the benefits of this unique experience.  They are usually able to find a way to excuse the teens for these crucial four weeks.

The month goes by so quickly and the group becomes extremely close, so they would miss your teen if they had to miss a day.  Naturally, if one of your teens is ill, they are excused, but we do ask for a firm commitment from beginning to end and full participation as much as possible.  The friendships and experiences the teens have throughout the Project are invaluable, so we hope you can arrange your schedule to be able to participate.

The exact Project dates won’t be set until Spring.  It depends on school holidays, weekends, and when we can arrange for various activities, but generally the Project runs from the last week in June to the first three weeks of July.  We will announce when the exact dates have been set.  See sample calendar for more details.


This is usually a surprise to most families, but the cost to the US Teens is fairly minimal.  The fees for all Project activities are covered through Corporate grants or other fundraising activities by the Ulster Project Cincinnati. 

Host Families extra expenses during the month: 

  • Feeding and housing an extra teen for a month (packed lunches can offset these costs)

  • Gas for transport the teens to daily activities

  • Food for potlucks or events

  • Some spending money for your teen – the N. Irish kids come prepared with their own spending money and usually do quite a bit of shopping for gifts and goodies to bring back home.

Application Process

The Host Family Committee selects our host families from a variety of places around the tri-state.  We do presentations at some schools.  We also visit a number of church youth groups.  We usually get some recommendations from past Host Families and many siblings participate in successive years.  We’ve had many families with two (or more) children be involved in the Project as participants and come back as counselors.  That speaks well of what a positive experience this is for both the families and the teens.

We have an online Google Form to begin your application.  Usually a member of the Host Family will contact you to answer any questions.  Then the family is scheduled for their in-home interview.  We do ask for quite a bit of information to help us select a compatible match with the NI Teens. Teens will also be asked to do a separate group interview session with the selection team on a date in November.

Once all the applications are received and the interviews are complete, the Host Family Committee sits down for the difficult task of selecting the applicants for the year.  The determining criteria is mainly if we feel the teen is going to do well in the group and make a harmonious fit.  And also that the family is going to be a safe and happy place for the visiting teen to stay.

In Cincinnati, we start meeting with our selected teens early in the year to begin the process of orientation, education, and socializing. Parents are also included in some of the sessions to begin to get to know “Ulster” themselves.

Sometime after that, we receive the Match Forms for all the teens and we schedule the Match Meeting.  We do our very best to match up the teen pairs based on their interests, personality types, and just our feeling of which teen is going to be a great fit with which family.  Per nationwide Ulster Project policy, the matches are not announced to the families until June 1st.

Here is a very rough time-line of how the process works

Sep – Oct: Visit schools and youth groups to obtain applicants and begin talking to potential host families. Begin receiving applications from interested families.

Nov./Dec: Complete in-home Interviews with parents and teens and begin selecting our 12 teens for the year.  Complete group interviews and teen interviews during late November. Hopefully will have the selection meeting at the end of the month or late in December.

Jan/Feb: US Teens start meeting once a month to start Pre-Program Orientations and Meetings.

March: US Teens gather together to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in the Cincinnati St. Patrick’s Day Parade.

April/May:  Announce US Teen selections and start determining matches. Teens participate in annual Flying Pig Marathon fundraiser together.

June 1st:  Matches are announced.  At this point, the teens are permitted to begin Facebooking, Snapchatting, or whatever teens are doing these days and the parents are encouraged to get acquainted with the N. Irish parents.  Everyone is very excited to get to know everyone else.

End of June:  Showtime!  The teens arrive and the project kicks off for a month of fun.  Airport day is a day of huge EXCITEMENT when the teens all meet for the first time!

End of July: Time for tearful goodbyes and the Project is closed for the year.

If you are ready to begin the application process – please CLICK HERE to move to the Application Page.


Are you ready for #theJulyofyourlife ?