From Direct Provision to the United Nations: Cork’s Busie to represent Sanctuary Runners at the UN in Geneva

A former international protection applicant, now working with Cork City Council, will represent Sanctuary Runners at a major international conference in Geneva this week as the Cork-founded solidarity-through-sport movement launches its first ever Global Solidarity Run.

The Global Solidarity Run is a Sanctuary Runners’ initiative supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Ireland Funds and Strava.

Sibusisiwe Mhlophe, better known as Busie in her adopted city and originally from Zimbabwe, will be part of the Sanctuary Runners team there to help launch the event with a run by Lake Geneva.

Busie arrived in Ireland in 2017 and went on to study International Development and Food Policy at University College Cork as a Sanctuary Scholar.

She graduated last year and, after a spell as an intern administrative assistant in the Community, Culture and Placemaking Section at City Council she was made permanent in June, 2023 working as a clerical officer in the Franchise team.

This Friday’s launch event at the United Nations, which will attract some 300 participants including the Ambassador of Ireland to the UN, Noel White, is part of the ‘Consultations of Resettlement and Complimentary Pathways’ for Refugees conference – held by the UNHCR and this year chaired by the Government of Australia.

A major milestone in the Sanctuary Runners’ evolution. it will provide an important pathway for Sanctuary Runners to grow internationally.

And for Busie, it’s a very proud moment to represent the organisation on the world stage. An original member of the first Cork Sanctuary Runners group to take part in the Cork City Marathon in 2018. Busie went on to join Togher AC and competed in the Dublin City Marathon in 2022 as well as many half marathons and other runs since. She was part of the 350-strong Sanctuary Runners’ team to run in the Cork City Marathon last weekend.

She said: “The Sanctuary Runners changed my life. When we found each other I was in a dark place, lacking hope, energy and motivation – like so many people in the Direct Provision system. But they believed in me and helped me make so many friends in Cork. They helped me to stand on my own two feet, to feel valued, respected and seen. Now I am so proud to represent Sanctuary Runners at the United Nations in Geneva this week. And to make it extra special Sanctuary Runners and Cork City Council are such strong partners. They move in step with each other so this is a wonderful moment for the Council too.”

Graham Clifford, founder of Sanctuary Runners and now the Head of International Development, said it’s a wonderful recognition of Busie’s impact and a significant moment for the organisation which champions community integration.

“When we first started Sanctuary Runners we could never have imagined how it would develop. Today we have 40 groups across Ireland. Now, with the support of the Department of Foreign Affairs on the 50th anniversary of their hugely impactful Irish Aid programme, we get to bring our concept across the world. The Global Solidarity Run, which will take place on Saturday, October 19th will see people running, jogging, walking and rolling right across the globe in solidarity with all those who are displaced and those living in extreme poverty. We are so proud that Busie, who came to Ireland needing safety, sanctuary and support, is now telling the world about our concept and its huge impact. She’s a shining example of what can be achieved if Irish society just opens its eyes, its mind and its heart to those coming from afar.”

And it’s a very proud moment for Cork City Council too. “Busie first joined Cork City Council as an intern through the UCC Sanctuary Scholarship programme and has since become a valued and popular member of our Franchise Team which has been working flat out over the past month’s registering new voters for the Elections,” explains Paul Moynihan, Director of Services in Corporate Affairs and International Relations at Cork City council.

He added: “Her life journey is truly inspirational and we are so proud of her and what she continues to achieve, but we’re proud, also, that we have become part of the latest chapter in her amazing story. She is a terrific lady and has that unique ability to brighten every day.”

Sibusisiwe Mhlophe is pictured below with Lord Mayor of Cork, Cllr. Kieran McCarthy

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