Two Meath women are among a group of seven deaf swimmers who will cross the English Channel from Dover to Calais in July to raise funds for the Irish Deaf Women’s Group (IDWG).
Lisa Finn-Carroll, originally from Dublin, has been living in Beaufort Place, Navan, for the past 11 years and has already been training for a year for this challenge.
Michelle McLaughlin from Duleek will also take part in the relay swim which will see the seven women from around Ireland complete the 21-mile route in relays.
Each swimmer will complete two hours before the next swimmer takes over; it is estimated that the swim will take 14 to 16 hours.
In advance of the swim, the women have been undertaking several fundraising events, mainly among the deaf community, but they are hoping to also gain the support of the hearing community.
Funds raised will go towards the Irish Deaf Women’s Group, a voluntary non-profit organisation which aims to provide information, events, workshops and services, facilitated by interpreters of Irish sign language (ISL) to deaf women all over Ireland.
Ms Finn Carroll explained that many deaf women are very isolated and communication is a huge barrier for them. Because Irish sign language is not recognised as an official language, deaf people are not entitled to the services of an interpreter. This means that they often do not fully understand what is being said at doctor’s appointments and solicitor’s appointments, for example, and their access to everyday information is also limited.
IDWG is seeking to organise training workshops on assertiveness and empowerment for deaf women to participate fully in Irish society and to reduce the barriers and social exclusion for deaf women scattered around Ireland.
This would include producing ISL-based DVDs that provide information for all deaf women in Ireland.
ISL is deaf people’s first language while English would be considered their second language. Some 80 per cent of deaf adults would have an English reading level of an eight to nine year-old.
Among the fundraisers the Irish Deaf Channel Swimmers have organised are cake sales, dog shows, Zumba dancing, a Christmas fair, blind food tasting, raffles and car boot sales with monthly events taking place in the Deaf Village in Cabra, Dublin.
The group will travel to England for the swim between 1st and 8th July. They have already put in a huge amount of training and will be doing much more before making the trip.
Ms Finn Carroll explained that she commenced training this time last year, starting off with one or two days a week.
From May to October last year, they undertook sea races every Saturday and Sunday all over Ireland, covering a mile or a mile-and-a-half swim each Sunday in the sea to get them used to swimming in sea conditions.
After that, they continued to swim at the 40 foot in Sandy Cove every Saturday and Sunday, and they even swam for 20 minutes on Christmas Day and New year’s Day.
There are high costs associated with the training and trip which are being covered by the participants out of their own pockets. For example, the pilot boat to accompany them on their English Channel crossing costs £2,600, and they also have flight and accomodation costs, registration fees and transport costs.
The other women taking part are Nora Duggan and Bernadette White from Co Kerry, Deirdre Byrne-Dunne, Dublin; Bridie Power, Wicklow, and Patricia Heffernan, Galway.
The group includes five swimmers who have competed in the Deaf Olympics in the past and two non swimmers, including Lisa Finn Carroll.
Ms Finn Carroll has thanked the deaf community for supporting them in their fundraising and also a number of local businesses who have provided some sponsorship.
She explained that she is hoping to get more sponsors on board but finds it difficult to ask people for sponsorship or donations because of communication barriers.
For more information, see Irish Deaf Channel Swimmers on Facebook. Donations can be made at their idonate page on www.idonate.ie/idcsswim