(May 2, 2014) With students expected to begin arriving at the end of the month, Ocean City’s advocacy group for foreign student-workers, Irish Outreach, is still in search of a space for the summer.
“We have looked at places that would work, but we just didn’t’ have the funding for those rents,” said the group’s director, Rick Fairbend.
Although it assists visiting students of any nationality, Irish Outreach specifically targets students from the Emerald Isle, who often arrive in the resort without guaranteed housing or jobs.
Because Ireland qualifies for the U.S. State Department’s Visa Waiver Program – which includes the J-1 work-travel visas used by most summer students – many are not required to have accommodations in order to get into the county.
Irish Outreach helps them find work, housing, and supplies students with donated household goods.
“We’re still collecting supplies, but we don’t have anywhere to put them,” Fairbend said. Most of the group’s leftover materials are in a storage unit in Delaware.
The group receives funding from the Republic of Ireland itself, via the embassy, and from the Irish Apostolate USA. The total budget for rent, Fairbend said, is $4,000-$5,000 dollars, but most storefront spaces in the resort would need twice that for a summer.
In its fourth year of renewed operation after a long hiatus, Irish Outreach operated mainly out of Fairbend’s van in 2011.
“We really do need a physical location,” said Fairbend’s wife and co-director, Pat. “I’ve always told the students that our center is their home away from home. They can come in and talk at any time.”
The group is trying to solicit funding from local businesses and associations, or find a space that will offer a break on rent.
“The businesses want these kids here and need them here,” said group volunteer Jim Wahl. “It would be great if they would give us some support.”
The group recorded over 550 visitors to its location on 33rd Street last year, Rick Fairbend said. Although that storefront provided the group ample space last year, it has been rented to a commercial tenant..”
Anyone wishing to make a donation, or with a viable property to rent, can call Rick Fairbend at 302-258-3615.