Almost 100 Swimmers from 19 Countries Participate in Sanctuary Swimmers in 2023

ByEmma Porter |

An incredible solidarity-through-swimming programme, a collaboration between Swim Ireland and Sanctuary Runners, brought 19 different nationalities into the sea this summer.

Each of the five Sanctuary Swimmer groups consisted of 18 to 22 people and included local Irish people as well as others who had moved from different countries. Amongst these were many refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants.

The aim of the initiative was to use open sea swimming to bring people of different backgrounds together and the programme was a huge success.

Participating swimmers came from Ireland, Algeria, Ghana, Ukraine, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Pakistan, India, Spain, Germany, Nigeria, England, Afghanistan, Morocco, Congo DRC, the Netherlands, USA, Ethiopia and China.

Sarah Keane, CEO of Swim Ireland explained why this programme is so important, “Through our vision of ‘An island of swimmers’ we believe it is vital to increase the opportunities for people to swim regardless of their age, background or ability.  Sanctuary Swimmers is a programme that speaks right to that vision; through it, participants are learning an important life skill, making new connections, integrating into communities and are doing it in a fun and safe environment. This is what swimming is all about. We are delighted to grow the programme from last year and look forward to the wave of solidarity rolling right across the country in the years to come.”

Graham Clifford, Founder and CEO of Sanctuary Runners said this year’s programme was incredible, stating “There’s something about being in the sea together that empowers people to learn, to take the plunge and to cherish the moment. The adrenaline rush, conquering the initial coldness, the smells, the feeling of liberation. Many of our swimmers live in confined settings, some have negative views of the sea because of previous traumas, others may not have been in the sea for years, but because of the Sanctuary Swimmers inhibitions are overcome, serenity and calm is restored and, most importantly, new friendships are created.”

The Sanctuary Swimmer groups took place in Salthill, Galway, Myrtleville, Cork, Bray, Wicklow, Dunmore East, Waterford, and Dollymount Strand, Dublin. Each group learned form a dedicated Swim Ireland instructor and swim gear was generously sponsored and provided by Mayo-based outdoor wear company Portwest.

The initiative was also supported by Local Sports Partnerships in Cork, Galway, Waterford, Dublin and Wicklow.

The five-group journey was captured on film by videographer and documentary maker Clem McInerney – short films will be published online from Monday, September 18th.

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