Wicklow woman swims the English Channel to support sight Saving Charity

Wednesday morning, Sarah Mortimer from Enniskerry, set off on her point-to-point Channel swim from Dover on the southeast coast of England. After 13 hours and 35 mins of swimming she arrived in Cap Gris Nez, France.

Following a trip to Ethiopia with Orbis in 2015, Sarah set herself several sporting challenges, all to raise funds for the sight-saving charity. These challenges included a blindfolded 10K run, a marathon and a half ironman (to name a few). So far, Sarah has raised €25,000 for Orbis’s work in Ethiopia, where they are working to eliminate avoidable blindness.

Sarah, who is not a competitive swimmer, began training for the 33 km point-to-point Channel swim in 2018, and on the 1 July 2021 made her first attempt. Unfortunately, after swimming over 25 km, Sarah had to withdraw this initial attempt. 

Before leaving Dover, Sarah said, “In 2015, when I stepped onto the flight to Addis Ababa to take part in the Great Ethiopian Run for Orbis, I had no idea the impact this charity would have on me. Having seen the incredible work on the ground in Ethiopia, I realised I needed to do more to support. And here I am, ready to take on my biggest challenge yet – none of which would have been possible without amazing friends and family. I am humbled by the support for both me and Orbis.”  

Speaking of the support, Dr. Maurice Cox, Chairman, Orbis said “Orbis is thrilled to receive support from Sarah. As a friend of Sarah’s, I am so proud of her today. It has been a long journey of sweat and tears, but I never doubted she would finish. Having known Sarah’s father, Liam, who was a former Irish international swimmer, I know he would have been bursting with pride to witness this magnificent achievement.”

The rules state that swimmers cannot touch the boat and they can only stop to feed every 30 minutes for just 15 seconds. Like most things, Covid-19 impacted the normal circumstances of a channel swim. Sarah was not able to have any friends or family travel to Dover with her, other than the essential crew. And once she completed her swim, she was only allowed five minutes on French soil, before she got on the boat to return to Dover. 

Through supporting Orbis Ireland, Sarah is helping to address one of the world’s most pressing needs – the treatment and prevention of avoidable blindness.  Since opening its doors, thanks to generous donations from Irish individuals, corporate organisations and an annual grant from the Irish Aid Civil Society Fund, Orbis Ireland has been at the forefront of eliminating the threat of blinding eye diseases across regions of southern Ethiopia. The charity brings together medical and behavioural components to treat and reduce the prevalence of blinding eye diseases, like trachoma.

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