NEWCASTLE, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Ten teenagers will leave Maine on Saturday, hoping their visit here will help change hearts and minds where they live.
The teens are from Belfast, Northern Ireland. There are five Catholic and five Protestant, and they were brought to Lincoln County through a program called Friends Forever. The goal is to help bridge the deep divisions that have split that country for so many years. The kids have lived together at Camp Kieve in Nobleboro, gone through the leadership training program there and done clots of community service projects as a group.
On Friday, they visited Lincoln Academy and spent time talking with local kids. All of the Irish students say they want to end the suspicion and hatred between the religions, and try to end the prejudice that was taught to them at home. Many of the teens say that in their own schools and neighborhoods in Northern Ireland they have no chance to associate with people of the other religion. They say that in many places it would still be dangerous for someone of one religion to walk into the other's neighborhood. "Its how we been brought up," says Jenni. But she hopes to bring the messages of understanding home with her, along with the new friendships."And if we can tell our friends they can tell their friends. That's how it gets about and the only way it will be done."
Friends Forever is a project of Rotary Clubs in Lincoln County. This is the only program in Maine, but there are other groups in New Hampshire and Massachusetts.