Now into the second part of my internship, I am beginning to understand that the peace process has many more steps and stages than I believed possible. This week I had my second workshop with the Creating Space for Learning and Sharing Project. This week we were focusing on the upcoming holiday on the 12th of July. This is generally the most discussed topic of the summer and is always a key time for peace projects. We also focused on Rural Loyalism and the future of the loyalist movement. I thought this was an important topic since I have not had a chance to understand the rural perspective in both the troubles and in the future of the country. I was able to hear from two of the political leaders of the loyalist parties and hear about their plans for the future and how they intend to move beyond the troubles. Though the talks were very informative and a great chance to understand and learn about rural loyalism, the best part of the day was the side conversations I had with all the men who attended the event. Since this was the second week we were all together, the men started opening up more and I was able to ask more personal questions. I also noticed a bit more honesty to their comments and more realistic expectations for the future. The first week many of the men would comment that the work they are doing is really important and that it was great that the country is moving on. But this week there was much more skepticism. I was glad I was able to attend this second session and form a closer relationship to the participants.
Back in the office I got a chance to meet and talk with the FACE team at Co-operation Ireland. This is the largest project within the organization and is the only one that is both developed and delivered by Co-operation Ireland. This means that they also have the biggest team and are always very busy, which is why I was very grateful that both project managers took the time to sit down and explained the project. FACE works with military families in Northern Ireland and aims to help include these families in their local communities. Working with military families is a completely new area for both Co-operation Ireland and the peace funders. During our discussion I expressed my interest in their work and seeing the project delivery. Both project leaders seemed very open to including me in their work and extended an invitation to attend any of their upcoming events while I am here. I am really glad I finally got a chance to sit down and hear about this great project and I hope they schedule an event while I am here so I can see the work they are doing. After speaking with the FACE team I realized how much more there is to do within the organization. I am now halfway done with my internship and I feel I have learned a lot but in ways that I was not expecting. I have had some wonderful experiences interacting with different communities and seeing projects up close.
At the end of the week CRIS invited me to come out and talk to the parents from another project they work with that is based in the city. The event was a wrap up session that would help CRIS get feedback on the program and bring some closure to the end of the school year. I talked with parents about what they would change about the program, how they would want to see it grow, and what were the benefits of participating. This information would be used in the annual reporting done for the funders. I was so glad I was able to attend, since this was a great way talk with the parents about their experience. I was very interested in hearing what they believed was unique about the program. Many of the parents expressed their gratitude towards CRIS for bringing them together with members of a different community and challenging their beliefs about a separated society. Once again I was glad to have met the CRIS team and been invited to participate in their events.
On the weekend I went down to Dublin with Co-operation Ireland for a fundraising event. I was able to see the South for the first time and the difference was quite evident. Dublin is much more metropolitan and I noticed that the city is filled with many different ethnic minorities. I also saw that there were many signs of the Irish heritage and culture but these symbols are less contentious and do not seem to be connected to religious affiliations nearly as much as in the north.