The Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise
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About Us

The mission of NICE is to promote peace, reconciliation and mutual understanding

between the communities in Northern Ireland.


for NICE in Belfast please click here


Letter from Chairman Don Murphy

My first experience with children from Northern Ireland started in 1978 when our family had the pleasure of hosting a child from a troubled area of Belfast.  This experience had a profound impact on our lives.  Children growing up in Northern Ireland against a background of violent conflict and a divided society often live in an environment which deprives them of normal social development.  They face deep-rooted problems or misunderstandings, the effects of which may follow them in later life.

By taking children from both sides of the “divided community”, Roman Catholics and Protestants, and bringing them to a safe environment, we provide an opportunity for them to develop friendship, respect and understanding instead of prejudice and sectarianism.  Our success to date is very rewarding - parents and families from opposite sides of the community are brought together by the program, turning old prejudices into new friendships.  Our work has no political bias or affiliation, our motivation is purely humanitarian.  Our goal is about encouraging people to come together and begin the process of learning to understand one another.

Don Murphy, Chairman 
Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise
 New York      

Letter from Executive Director Carmel McCavana

Since I became Director of the program in 1992, Northern Ireland has witnessed some of the worst political violence since the "troubles" began.  The cease-fires and the subsequent attempts at a political settlement gave us hope, but all too frequently there are terrible warnings to any of us who thought lasting peace was going to be easy.  We in NICE provide opportunities for young people and adults to participate in programs that enable them to learn about each other’s tradition and develop friendships based on mutual respect.  By providing these opportunities and encouraging respect and tolerance, we will be ensuring that future generations have an alternative to the bitterness and mistrust that have

Carmel McCavana, Executive Director
Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise
Belfast, Northern Ireland


NICE - Our story since 1978

The Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise evolved from a group called the Irish Children's Summer Program which brought young people from the greater Belfast area to New York for a six-week holiday.  Similar to many other groups providing vacations for young people at that time, our involvement ended at the airport when the children returned to Belfast.  In 1989 we decided the long-term effectiveness of such a program would only be felt by providing opportunities for the young people to meet in Northern Ireland and continue to develop friendship and understanding, and so NICE was born.

Don Murphy established NICE as a charitable trust in the USA and, in conjunction with parents and volunteers, NICE was also established in Northern Ireland.  Funding was raised in the USA to purchase a facility in Northern Ireland and to set up a full-time office.  Through grants from the International Fund for Ireland and The Ireland Funds we were able to appoint a Director and purchase a minibus, and so NICE was on its way.


USA Host Family Program

For nearly thirty years, children aged eight to twelve years traveled from Belfast to the New York metropolitan area to stay with host families for five weeks.  During that time, over 2,000 children enjoyed a peaceful holiday in the U.S.  Each group of children included an equal number of Protestant and Catholic children.  For most of them, this was the first chance they had to meet someone from the other community.  These young people would then continue to meet during the year through our programs in Belfast and Ballycastle to renew the friendships they made while in the USA, and to develop new relationships.


NICE Center in Ballycastle

In 1989 we purchased a house in Ballycastle, a small seaside resort sixty miles from Belfast, to use as a follow-up facility for the children who had taken part in the summer programs in the USA.  On an annual basis, four hundred fifty young people and one hundred adults now participate in programs in Ballycastle.  In May 2002 the center was dedicated as the Donal J. Murphy Center to honor the continued contributions of the group's founder.


Our Goals

NICE exists to encourage and support young people, parents and adults to come together, to get to know one another, and to begin the process of understanding and reconciliation through involvement in our programs.  NICE has grown from an organization working with fifty children in a summer holiday program to a seven-day-a-week enterprise providing the opportunity for 10,000 meetings between individuals of the two Belfast communities.


Program aims and objectives:

We provide a neutral meeting space for young people, volunteers, parents and community groups

We develop links within communities and between communities

We provide a range of community relations programs where people can develop understanding and mutual respect

We create and expand programs which will give people the skills required to support our work and to develop work within their own communities

We provide a training and development base for volunteers  

Current Programs
The programs listed below, and others, take place at NICE facilities in Belfast and Ballycastle and in the schools of Northern Ireland.

Citizenship: Living in a Divided Society Level 1

This program encompasses many aspects of community relations work such as dealing with difference, prejudice awareness, sectarianism and how it affects our lives and conflict resolution.  It is organized in schools and for youth groups over one term, several months or weekends.  The program is accredited through Open College Network Northern Ireland (OCN), part of the largest accrediting body in the UK.  This is our biggest program; in terms of sheer numbers it can generate the biggest impact.  All the other programs are grown from this one.  We are now working in fifteen schools with approximately three hundred fifty young people in the last year.


Living in a Divided Society Level 2

This is a much more extensive program organized both in school and out of school during the weekend, and at the NICE Centre in Ballycastle.  Also accredited through OCN.


School of Culture and Leadership

This is a program organized between two or more schools, with 10 young people from a Catholic secondary school and 10 from a Protestant secondary school over a 10- month period.  During the program, the young people go together to a soccer game, a GAA game, an Orange band parade, and a St. Patrick’s Day parade.  They visit different churches, talking to Bishops, Priests and Ministers, and meet and engage with ex-combatants from both sides.


National/ International program

We run an exchange program bringing young people to the Republic of Ireland and to different parts of Europe.  This gives our volunteers and young people an opportunity to learn in an environment outside of Northern Ireland and to provide that same learning space for international students who come here.  We recently hosted the University of Georgetown at Qatar and exchange students from Serbia and Bosnia.  In the past we have also had programs with students from Lithuania, Romania, Serbia, Bosnia and Belgium.


Residential programs in Ballycastle

Throughout the year we provide opportunities for young people to spend time at our Centre in Ballycastle looking at various aspects of life and culture in Northern Ireland.  These are important opportunities to further develop the friendships started in schools.  They can range from getting ex-paramilitaries from both sides to come and talk about the conflict, or getting politicians from the various parties to engage with the young people in debate.


Change Makers Project

Change Makers is a collaborative partnership project between NICE, Community Relations in Schools (CRIS), and Belfast YMCA (YMCA), who have came together to develop a program for post primary schools.  The project is based at NICE headquarters and employs 7 full time staff, making it one of the largest projects supported by International Fund for Ireland.  Through the Change Makers program we worked with approximately three thousand young people in the last two years. The program was evaluated by inspectors from the Department of Education and was highly commended was given one of the highest marks


Uniformed Groups program

We were awarded a tender two years ago to deliver a community relations program for 80 young people and their leaders from all the uniformed youth groups across Northern Ireland i.e.: Scouts, Girl Guides and Boys Brigade.  Our Youth Program Manager Jill Caskey has just finished working on the first year of the program which was a huge success.  We start the second year soon and are also training 20 volunteers from the organizations in the methods and programs we use.


Other programs

We are involved in several other initiatives such as: designing schools programs with teaching staff; hosting students on placement from University and teacher training colleges; networking with a range of groups working in the voluntary youth and community work sector in Northern Ireland and in Europe.  We also have a wide range of groups using both our Centers, ranging from counseling to staff training days.


We need your support

NICE obtains nearly two thirds of its funding from donors in the US.  Over the past thirty-five years fundraising events (most especially golf tournaments) have been able to sustain the organization and help it to grow.  Recently individual donors have become increasingly more prominent in our efforts.

Golf tournaments have been an integral source of our fundraising since 1988. We have had over one hundred outings and raised over five million dollars in that time.  Our golf outings have been held from the west coast of California to the east coast of Ireland, and we would love to have you join us. NICE presently has an outing scheduld at Mt. Kisco Country Club on Thursday, September 26, 2013 and another later in the year at Olde Oaks near Shreveport, LA.  


How you can help

Please join us in fighting the prejudice and sectarianism of the past by helping the young people of Belfast today.  Your gift will help them examine the belief system with which they were raised, and can help them see a future that is different from anything they imagined before.

We understand that there are many important charities that also look to you for funding.  This is your chance to make a difference in the lives of young people in Northern Ireland today, and to help them envision a different tomorrow.


Letter from Former President of Ireland Mary McAleese



I am delighted to send greetings and best wishes to the Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise.

For many years now your organization has played an important role in the promotion of peace on this island by bringing together children from both traditions and providing them with an opportunity to develop mutual respect and understanding in a warm and friendly atmosphere. I commend everyone associated with the Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise for your proven commitment to what we all desire and pray for - the achievement of a sustainable peace for all the people on the island of Ireland.

I congratulate you on your many successes in the past and wish you every continued success in the years ahead.
Mary McAleese

NICE Board of Directors
Donal Murphy, Chairman
Tom Burns
Dick Crabtree
John Gallagher III
Gerry Gorman
Jack Hadlock
Mark Holland
Jack Houlihan
Carmel McCavana
Jack Nelan
Don Parson

Northern Ireland Children's Enterprise

202 Lake Shore Road

Putnam Valley, NY 10579

(845) 526-2571

(845) 526-2579 fax

Please feel free to call us with any comments, suggestions or questions.

Kate Cunningham

Executive Director USA


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