It was wonderful to join the team from Sanctuary Runners Limerick as they launched the initiaitive this morning in Mary Immaculate College. The Sanctuary Runners idea is very simple – it enables Irish people to join in a healthy, friendly run alongside those living in Direct Provision centres in Limerick.
The initiative was established in Cork in February 2018 with a view to bringing together Irish people and those in Direct Provision on the one running team. Now that the Limerick team has been launched, it’s hoped the Limerick Sanctuary Runners will be able to enter a team in next year’s Great Limerick Run.
The Sanctuary Runners will also join forces with local Parkruns in the city and county so that members of the team can run together each Saturday morning.
Founder of the Sanctuary Runners, Graham Clifford who works as a feature writer with the Irish Times and broadcaster with RTÉ Radio 1, said he was delighted to be bringing the initiative to Ireland’s sporting capital:
“Limerick is a natural home for the Sanctuary Runners. And I am so confident that the amazing reaction and support we received in Cork will be replicated here. Our initiative is about resect, solidarity and humanity. Sport is a great equalizer and when people are running together, shoulder-to-shoulder its then that conversation flows, smiles emerge and friendships build.”
The Sanctuary Runners, which is a non-profit organisation run entirely by volunteers, had a team of 200 competing in this year’s Cork City Marathon including 51 runners from across the five different Direct Provision Centres in Cork.
Gillian Fenton, Marketing Manager with the Lime Tree Theatre will lead the initiative in Limerick and hopes members of the wider public will join the group.
“Often people don’t know how they can help people in Direct Provision. They don’t know if and how they can meet with them and show their solidarity. This is a simple, uplifting and positive way of making that connection and showing the how compassionate the people of Limerick are,” she said.
And Donnah Vuma, limerick community group founder of “Every Child is your Child” and Direct provision resident explained the importance of the Sanctuary Runners initiative
“We all know how important exercise is for keeping us physically healthy, it also reduces the risk of developing mental health conditions, like depression and anxiety which many people experience while living in direct provision.
To be able to exercise with friends and members of the local community bridges the gap between communities which makes Sanctuary Runners so great. This will help people living in direct provision make new friends and increase their sense of belonging in the community. It will also increase self-esteem, social skills and networks while reducing isolation and loneliness.”
The Sanctuary Runners initiative is about solidarity rather than charity so they will never ask any of its members to fundraise or donate a cent. Blue running tops, sponsored by companies and local authorities, will be given to every Sanctuary Runner for free. They are non-political and not a protest group. The initiative is based on positivity, dignity, respect and solidarity.
According to the latest figures available from the Reception and Integration Agency there are 438 people in the three Direct Provision Centres in Limerick and just over the border in County Clare. Hanrattys on Glentworth street had 116 residents in July, Knockalisheen in Meelick had 240 and the Mount Trenchard Centre in Foynes had 82.
Amongst those who’ve lent their support to the Limerick Sanctuary Runners are Cllr Joe Leddin and all the team behind The Great Limerick Run and Phelim Macken from Limerick Sports Partnership. Sporting icons such as Sonia O’Sullivan, Derval O’Rourke, Rob Heffernan and GAA’ s Tomás O’ Sé have all given their time to the initiative in recent months.
To find out more about the Sanctuary Runners in Limerick visit SanctuaryRunners.ie or email them at SanctuaryRunnersLimerick@gmail.com