STAND’s 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth, with an exhibition that highlights the challenges faced by refugees around the world. Safe Haven Ireland write for us about the work that they do here in Ireland to promote integration between refugees and other communities through sailing. 

Safe Haven Ireland is a not-for-profit organisation which brings together young people from diverse backgrounds, including asylum seekers and refugees, to learn how to sail. Our aim is to promote integration between communities in Ireland as well as empower young people at risk of exclusion.

Our sailing project provides opportunities for young people to take part in voyages along the Irish coastline. The trainees recruited by Safe Haven Ireland come together to undertake the experience of a lifetime: a week or more at sea as the crew of a Tall Ship. Each of our voyages has a mixture of participants from different backgrounds. We prioritise young people from ethnic minority backgrounds, such as migrants and refugees. We offer places to Irish-national participants, often from inner city areas, who would not otherwise have this kind of opportunity.

During their time on board the participants learn how to sail a ship and how to navigate in challenging Irish coastal waters, making their own decisions about what course to plot over the week. In the process they learn the vital importance of working as a team 24-hours a day, as they take the helm, raise and lower sails, stand watches, cook for each other and keep the vessel ship-shape.


Each group of young people step onto the boat as its passengers and disembark as its crew. To date, our project has developed positive intercultural relations in Ireland by impacting the lives of more than 80 young people. Our programme enables the participants to gain much more than sailing skills. They build strong bonds with each other by virtue of a shared experience, which in many cases will go on to have a profound influence in the rest of their lives. The young people
educate each other about their backgrounds and different cultures and together forge a new vision for their shared futures on the island of Ireland.

The 8×8 Festival continues this week in NUI Maynooth. Check out their Facebook event page here for more information about what’s on this week.

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