Safe Haven Sailing
I am someone who barely sees the sea from one end of the year to the other, but recently I spent a week sailing on one of the biggest yachts in Ireland off the coast of West Cork with 10 young people (five Syrian, five Irish). What a week!
Safe Haven Ireland is a not-for-profit initiative that empowers young people and fosters integration in Ireland. They give children and young people, including members of the migrant community, life-changing opportunities to take part in exciting youth development initiatives. Managed by a team of volunteers led by CEO and Founder, Shauna Gillan, the organisation has been operating since 2015.
Safe Haven Ireland offers amazing opportunities to young people on different boats. I was lucky enough to be one of ten young people living in Ballaghaderreen to go sailing on a yacht in West Cork called the ‘Spirit of Oyster haven’, Ireland’s largest sail training vessel.
Earlier in the year it was announced that a number of Syrian Refugees would be coming to a centre in Ballaghaderreen where they would live until they could be granted full refugee status. My local Fóroige club took part in an integration project with the young Syrians in the centre which I was very involved with so when the opportunity arose for ten young people to go sailing with the young Syrians I jumped at it.
The trip was a week I don’t think we’ll forget any time soon. We bonded in a way that is only possible through such a unique experience. I learned so much about boats, sailing, sea life and life at sea! Everyone aboard was a pleasure to be with and the crew were so kind, helpful and were excellent mentors to us all. We were given plenty of opportunity to show our worth and take part in the running of the vessel. Steering at the helm, raising the sails, keeping watch, letting out and taking up the anchor are all key tasks but we also took turns cooking and cleaning throughout the week. This was very rewarding and it made me proud to be able to serve my crewmates. The week has sparked a very keen interest in me and I have been earnestly looking for more sailing opportunities since I’ve come home.
We traversed the West Cork coastline travelling from Oyster haven to Baltimore, watched closely by fantastic weather. We were able to swim in the sea on a daily basis and enjoy the sun. I particularly liked Oyster haven bay itself. We went ashore on Sherkin Island in Baltimore, once again the weather blessed us and we very happily walked around Sherkin singing Arabic songs.
As we were making our way home I received news that the first group of Syrians who arrived had received their refugee status. Two of the Syrians who were with us on board were in the first group. We congratulated the new citizens of Ireland and for the rest of the way home I couldn’t help but feel honoured to have taken a trip with such a fine group of young people.