Engage in meaningful service with your host community while immersing yourself in the unique heritage of Ireland

All IHS programs are built on an inclusive, partnership approach, with the underlying ethos that for a program to be successful, it must be of tangible value to the local community. The IHS only works within local communities, with whom we have long-standing and committed relationships, who are positioned at the core of each of our programs. This ethos marks us aside from every other provider in the country.

Our community engagement takes many forms including: supporting local research initiatives; filtering economic benefits from the program to the host community; fostering economic growth within local communities (especially through tourism); supporting grassroot partnerships to academic institutions; training, outreach and education; partnering with local organisations, charities, trusts and NFPs. Faculty community engagement programs we offer vary widely (for example from Community Health to Community Arts), but we specialize in the provision of Service Learning programs, which not only provide the traditional attributes of Service Learning but also the added benefits of a unique holistic heritage experience. Our distinctive programs aim to bring you, your host community and their heritage together in innovative, imaginative ways, to engender positive changes within your host community.

Working with and as part of a community is the best way to immerse yourself in local culture, custom and traditions.  Currently we provide programs in Ireland’s most beautiful Heritage Town – Birr in County Offaly.  Birr is one of the most community activated towns in the country, and we are well established with community bodies throughout the town and surrounding region. The Service Learning programs we provide with Birr Town is unique in helping to maintain both the towns heritage integrity and improve the quality of this ‘hidden gem’ for both their residents and visitors alike.

Service Learning participants are housed in home-stay accommodation; home-stay is the preferred accommodation type of IHS as it supports opportunities for cultural exchange and immersion, as well as bringing tangible benefits to the communities that host us. Through the exchange of time, skills and knowledge with their host community, participants will not only help promote several social projects but (through critical thinking and reflection) will foster the growth of their own social and civic responsibilities.

Currently the IHS only offer Service Learning Programs for groups of participants lead by a faculty member and do not cater for individual participants. Programs are specifically designed to match each individual institute to their most suitable local partners, but can include projects focused on:

  • Partnerships with specific community charities, trusts or societies
  • Project designed for (and with) local children
  • Engaging with programs designed for elderly locals
  • Maintenance and creation of community green spaces
  • Horticultural and bio-diversity projects
  • Upkeep of community facilities for voluntary groups
  • Contributing to amenity and conservation projects
  • Projects maintaining the outstanding natural and cultural beauty of Birr
  • Education and outreach projects
  • Projects with minority and/or vulnerable groups (such as the Travelling Community)

Frequently Asked Questions

How can we apply for a customised service learning program?

Our Service Learning placements can be arranged at anytime throughout the year (although certain local partners do not work year-round).  We individually match each institution to their most suitable local partners, so typically we ask for a minimum of two months notice to confirm details of any Service Learning program.  For further information please contact us.

Service Learning Program Fees

All our programs are bespoke and cater individually for institutions based on their budget and desired length of stay. If you wish to discuss an individual program/fee, please contact us.

What's Included?

Each program is bespoke and created to service both sending institution and the desires of the Birr Town. However, typically our programs include:

  • Placement on program led by expert IHS staff and community leaders
  • Airport transfer
  • Homestay accommodation and all meals
  • All required facilities, laboratories, field stations, classrooms etc
  • Field trips, workshops and lectures
  • Welcome/project pack
  • In-country orientation and welcome event
  • Pre-departure advising and application assistance
  • 24/7 in-country support team.

What else can be included on request?

All our programs are uniquely designed for your institution. Assistance which may be included as part of your program or offered as an extra include:Health Insurance (if not already offered by the travelling institution) and Additional extras (as requested by the institution)

What's Not Included?

Airfare and spending money


This experience has revived my passion for community engagement. Through this program I have gained skills to make me a better leader, communicator, and a better server to my community.’

‘As a faculty member I certainly have the knowledge, but I don’t have the connections they do, so being able to go to the nursing home it was above and beyond what I would have expected. One single student wanted exposure to dentistry, that was made to happen! Every single minor request was considered and accommodated

Dr Kielty TurnerVice President for University Engagement, Marywood University, Pennsylvania

Indiana State University’s service-learning partnership with the IHS was a model of how service-learning should work. Our projects were planned in collaboration with a diverse group of community partners, the work was meaningful and well-designed, and the students were deeply immersed in the community. The balance of cultural and heritage programming with the service work was just right… it is one of the finest community partners we have worked with over the past decade. We look forward to continuing our partnership with them for years to come.’

Dr Nancy Rogers and Dr Linda MauleVice President for University Engagement and Dean of the University College, Indiana State University.