Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Irish Youths Set Aside Conflicts to Help HabiJax

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Irish Youths Set Aside Conflicts to Help HabiJax

Article excerpt

The 11 Irish young people who came to Jacksonville to build

HabiJax homes will take two valuable lessons home with them.

One will help them find jobs, while the other will help them

overcome differences.

The nine young men and two young women ranging in age from 17

to 21 came to Jacksonville from Belfast, Newry and Dundalk in

April under a program co-sponsored by Habitat for Humanity and

Project Children, which provides opportunities for Protestants

and Catholics from Ireland and Northern Ireland to meet on

neutral ground.

"It's really a reconciliation program," said Ray Walshe, a

HabiJax board member.

The young people, who are in trade schools in Ireland, are

building two HabiJax homes in the 1000 block of Pearce Street.

Their work here counts as an apprenticeship at their schools. It

also is allowing people who might have never met in Ireland to

get to know each other.

"They've used the houses as a means of them coming together and

working together," Walshe said.

Emonn Roe, 18, who is from Dundalk, said he has learned a

valuable lesson about his Protestant colleagues.

"They are the same as ourselves," Roe said.

"Everyone thinks they're different, but they're not," added

17-year-old Dawn Montgomery, who is from Belfast.

The close friendships the people in the group have formed

wouldn't have been possible in Ireland. Walshe speculated that

if some of the young men had met at a pub six months ago, they

would have fought. There have been no fights in Jacksonville,

Walshe said.

Their work requires the group to get along. At first,

Protestants only wanted to work with other Protestants and

Catholics only wanted to work with Catholics, said 18-year-old

John Morgan. Now, the young people don't think about their

religious differences. …

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