- A group of 50 hillwalkers, across a dozen different nationalities, come together to walk as one promoting solidarity, friendship and respect.
- A collaboration between Sanctuary Runners and the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation
- Mountaineering Ireland provides qualified walking guides and equipment for walkers.
An organisation which uses sport to bring people of all different nationalities in Ireland together has held its first ever hillwalking event in the Wicklow Mountains.
Sanctuary Runners worked in partnership with the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation to put together a team of over 60 hillwalkers for Saturday’s event (August 19th) – many of whom are seeking international protection and living in rural locations across Wicklow as well as Ukrainian people living in the local area.
And Mountaineering Ireland also supported the Sanctuary Hillwalkers’ initiative bringing along experienced guides and providing equipment.
Graham Clifford, CEO of Sanctuary Runners, said this latest development enables even more people to come together as one and enjoy the beautiful Irish countryside.
“Already we use running, jogging, walking and open sea swimming to break down barriers and bring people of all different nationalities together, many who have arrived in recent times, with people who have lived in Ireland for years. When someone suggested hillwalking, we jumped at the opportunity and could not have asked for better partners than the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation and also Mountaineering Ireland.”
He continued: “Saturday’s event was magical with people who’d never met before, and from completely different backgrounds, learning about each other, sharing stories and songs, listening, laughing and spending such a special afternoon in this amazing place. No one wanted to go home at the end. The walks were challenging but so rewarding and the sun shone after the storms of the evening before. Our walkers came from Ireland, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Ghana, Nigeria, Ukraine, Bangladesh, Georgia, Poland, South Africa, Kazakhstan and Botswana.
The base for the hill walk was the Glencree Peace Campus near Enniskerry.
“Our new Glencree Welcomes Refugees Project was delighted to partner with Sanctuary Runners for this wonderful Sanctuary Hillwalkers event,” explained Naoimh McNamee, CEO of the Glencree Centre for Peace and Reconciliation.
“The event started and finished in the beautiful grounds of the Glencree Peace Campus which celebrates its 50th anniversary next year as the Republic of Ireland’s only Peace Centre. Glencree works to prevent and transform political and inter-communal conflict and build peaceful, inclusive societies,” she added.
And this latest partnership fits perfectly into Glencree’s existing series of wellness sessions using the outdoors to support the wellbeing of refugees and those who work with them.
Naoimh McNamee explains: “Since 2016, our Intercultural and Refugee Programme has been building trusted relationships with, and facilitating intercultural dialogues among, refugees, migrants, and members of ethnic and faith minority communities. As both ourselves and Sanctuary Runners both focus on promoting wellbeing through the natural environment and intercultural relations, this is a very synergistic partnership, and we hope to work together on an ongoing basis in the future.”
A special guest on the day was RTÉ presenter Brendan Courtney and the day’s events were captured on film for a series of clips to be released online in the coming weeks.
Murrough McDonagh, CEO of Mountaineering Ireland, feels the Sanctuary Hillwalkers programme can help attract newcomers across Ireland to the pursuit.
He said “We’re delighted to partner with Sanctuary Runners to share the physical and mental health benefits of hillwalking in the Wicklow Mountains with new members of our community. We know that the participants got a huge amount from their day in the outdoors and we in Mountaineering Ireland look forward to building on this initiative in cooperation with Sanctuary Runners.”
Sanctuary Runners hope to establish new groups of hillwalkers in the coming months.