From a mere ripple to one big wave of solidarity

by Rose Barrett
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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.

The Sanctuary Swimmer groups participated at Dollymount Strand, Dublin and at Salthill, Galway; Myrtleville, Cork; Bray in Co Wicklow, and Dunmore East in Co Waterford. Each group learned from 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 Dublin, Wicklow, Cork, Galway and Waterford.

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.”

Graham Clifford, Founder and CEO of Sanctuary Runners said this year’s programme was incredible: “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 five-group journey was captured on film by videographer and documentary maker Clem McInerney. 

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