A first-of-its-kind solidarity-through-swimming initiative is set to come to beaches across Ireland this summer in a collaboration between the Sanctuary Runners organisation and Swim Ireland.
Commencing in Bray tomorrow, July 5th, the ‘Sanctuary Swimmers’ programme will see groups made up of locals, refugees and others who have moved from abroad, learn how to swim in Ireland’s coastal waters.
As well as in Bray, ‘Sanctuary Swimmers’ groups will be set up in Myrtleville (Cork), Dunmore East (Waterford), Dollymount Strand (Dublin) and Salthill (Galway).
“We’re so delighted to get our multicultural swimming groups into the water,” explained Ailís McSweeney, the Ireland Lead Manager of the Sanctuary Runners.
Sanctuary Runners is a multi-award-winning not-for-profit organisation which has been using running and walking to bring together locals, asylum seekers and refugees across Ireland since 2018.
“This summer’s expansion of the Sanctuary Swimmers’ programme follows a very successful pilot in Cork last summer. We found that as people learned to swim with their Swim Ireland instructor, they built a bond as a group and barriers to communication and integration were overcome. Swimming in the open water provides a unique opportunity for people, many of whom have had negative experiences with water, to overcome their fears, support each other, make new friends and learn a vital life skill which will help them enjoy our beautiful country for years to come.”
And Swim Ireland CEO Sarah Keane said: “The open water can, for some, invoke a feeling or fear, for others a sense of adventure. Those emotions are heightened for those who have never been in the sea before. Transcending these is the power of the Sanctuary Swimmers’ initiative and doing it all alongside people we care about and who support us is what makes it truly unique.”
The groups across Ireland will engage in four-week training programmes and each group will contain many different nationalities.
Supporting the initiative with the provision of wetsuits for people living in Direct Provision are Irish sportswear company PortWest and local sports partnerships in Galway, Wicklow, Waterford, Cork and Dublin are partnering with Sanctuary Swimmers for each location.
Ailís McSweeney added: “So much of our work focuses on mental health and well-being and there really is nothing quite like open sea swimming to help improve both. And its not just the swimming but also the time spent chatting on the beach, those much-needed coffees shared as swimmers warm up and the sun goes down, the dancing and joy that envelopes the initiative, the getting to know other local swimmers and that feeling of accomplishment at the end.”