Irish youth and young asylum seekers are ship-mates on the high seas
Amidst the on-going refugee crisis in the Mediterranean, an Irish charitable enterprise is busy producing good news from the high seas. A sailing training programme, run by not-for-profit group Safe Haven Voyages, is giving children seeking asylum in Ireland, along with young Irish people, the opportunity to learn the ropes first-hand. The programme fills the vacuum left when the training ship Asgard II sank (with no casualties) in 2008. However, its intentions are as humanitarian as they are nautical.
During its week-long trips, young migrants and Irish children integrate both as shipmates and friends aboard the Spirit of Oysterhaven, Ireland's largest sail training vessel. Its maiden voyage, from July 20-24 this year, was manned by children from inner city Sligo and members of Ireland’s new migrant community, from Ghana, Kenya, Malaysia and Zimbabwe. The young people sailed from Sligo to Galway, covering 200 nautical miles over five days. The initial voyage was a huge success and immediately prompted a second trip which ran from 5-9th August, sailing from the city of Limerick to Bantry in West Cork. A third trip is now the offing, from Glandore in Co Cork to Cork city. This will take place from August 24th to 28th. All participants aboard will be Irish nationals and young people seeking asylum who are resident in a Direct Provision centre in Cork City.
Samantha Arnold of Safe Haven Voyages says: “Integration is so important in modern Ireland - sail training is an ideal way to foster bonds between communities. Participants on board are thrown into an unfamiliar and exciting environment and leave the voyage having gained new skills. We usually see evidence of a heightened sense of self-esteem, team-working skills and very often a new found love for the sea, the coastal environment and sailing.”
The young people involved in the second voyage have launched a fundraising campaign on Fundit.ie which closes this Sunday, August 16. Their aim is to create a video raising awareness of the crisis of migrant deaths in the Mediterranean. You can support them here:http://fundit.ie/project/funders/safe-haven-voyages
Coverage of the pilot week (UTV Ireland) here: http://utv.ie/News/2015/07/28/Resilient-youth-group-overcome-sailing-challenge-41960