A DULEEK woman is among a group of seven deaf swimmers from around Ireland who will cross the English Channel from Dover to Calais this July to raise funds for the Irish Deaf Women's Group (IDWG).
Michelle McLaughlin who has two bronze medals from the European Deaf Swimming Championship in 1986 has already been training for over a year for this swim.
'This swim is one of my biggest challenges in my life so far,' said Michelle, who has five children, aged from seven to 16 years, and is married to Eugene.
'I swim at the 40 foot in Sandy Cove every Saturday and Sunday, and also train in the Aura in Drogheda and am very thankful for their support and so glad they have the facilities and pool to help my preparation.'
This is a relay swim on the 21-mile route, and each swimmer will complete two hours before the next swimmer takes over; it is estimated that the swim will take 14 to 16 hours.
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 accommodation costs, registration fees and transport costs.
'I am hoping to get some sponsors on board but it is difficult to ask people for sponsorship or donations because of communication barriers,' she explained.
'I want to thank the local and wider community and deaf community for supporting us in our fundraising and I am hoping a local businesses could provide some sponsorship.
Michelle explained that many deaf women are very isolated and communication is a huge barrier for them.
'Irish Sign Language is deaf people's first language while English would be considered their second language,' she exlained. 'We are doing this swim is to raise funds for 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 to deaf women all over Ireland.'
Irish sign language is not recognised as an official language and deaf people are not entitled to the services of an interpreter.
This means they often do not fully understand what is being said at school, doctors or solicitors appointments, their access to everyday information is also limited.
'Our group 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,' added Michelle, who has presented programmes for the deaf on RTE.
'This would include producing ISL-based DVDs that provide information for all deaf women in Ireland.'
Michelle and the group will travel to England for the swim between July 1 and 8. They have already put in a huge amount of training and will be doing much more before making the trip.
'For more information, see Irish Deaf Channel Swimmers on Facebook or contact Michelle on (086) 8090727 (text only) and she will be happy to promote any local business.
Donations can also be made at their idonate page – www.idonate.ie/idcsswim