Sanctuary Runners aim for 50 new groups

The Cork-founded solidarity through sport initiative has brought people together in communities across Ireland over the past four years, including asylum seekers and refugees.
Sanctuary Runners aim for 50 new groups

Former Irish international athlete Ailís McSweeney, South African Ignatia Ndlovu, Sanctuary Runners’ Annemarie Sheehan and chief executive Graham Clifford, and Ukrainians Andrii Starovoitenko, Oksana Khvostikova, and Viktor Khvostikov, 11, launching the Side-By-Side programme. Picture: Julien Behal

THE Sanctuary Runners are calling on people across Cork to form new running, jogging, and walking groups in their local area, as part of an initiative that aims to build 50 new groups in towns across Ireland.

The new Side-By-Side programme is about expanding the reach of the Sanctuary Runners, with a focus on areas where Ukrainian and other people have moved to in recent months and years.

The Cork-founded solidarity through sport initiative has brought people together in communities across Ireland over the past four years, including asylum seekers and refugees.

The Sanctuary Runners has attracted the support of almost 10,000 runners, joggers, and walkers over the years, with almost a quarter being people who either are or were living in direct provision.

Focusing on solidarity over charity, the Sanctuary Runners already have groups in 30 locations across Ireland and three in the UK with plans to expand to Germany and Belgium in the coming months.

Ailís McSweeney, Ireland lead manager with Sanctuary Runners, said they have already received “great support” from the people of Cork for their work.

“We’ve seen over the years how running or walking shoulder-to-shoulder on one team can be such a vital tool for community integration, for welcoming people who might be afraid, isolated, and worried, and also for building stronger communities,” said Ms McSweeney.

“Also, it’s lots of fun and good for everyone’s health.”

Earlier this year, the Sanctuary Runners initiative was celebrated at the United Nations in New York for its unique model and it contributed to a special report produced by the UN on the importance of sport as a tool towards developing peaceful communities and social cohesion.

Sanctuary Runners founder and chief executive Graham Clifford said he is “so proud” that this is an Irish initiative.

“It’s about being the change we want to see as individuals, doing our bit one step at a time to build stronger communities for all,” he said. “It’s about being sound and decent.”

  • If you are interested in starting a Sanctuary Runners group in your town, contact community development lead Annemarie Sheehan at annemarie@sanctuaryrunners.ie. All new groups will be given Sanctuary Runners tops, a toolkit, and guidance on how to start and structure your group.
  • The latest Side-By-Side initiative is supported by the Ireland for Ukraine Fund and the Sunflower Foundation Fund, both managed by Community Foundation for Ireland, with support from CFI and the One Foundation.

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