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Friday 19 October 2018

Local Traveller women take on Mini Marathon

The group of Wexford Traveller women who took part in last year’s Women’s Mini Marathon
The group of Wexford Traveller women who took part in last year’s Women’s Mini Marathon

Anna HAyes

A large group of Traveller women, all of whom are engaging with Wexford Local Development (WLD), will take part in this year's VHI Women's Mini Marathon on June 3.

The event, which is taking place on Sunday for the first time this year, will see over 35,000 women taking part in the 10km route which starts in Fitzwilliam Square and finishes on Baggot Street.

Last year, WLD's Traveller Community Health Workers lead 33 Traveller women across the finish line on their first outing to an event of this kind. Not even the wet weather and sore feet could overshadow the feeling of accomplishment and achievement felt by the women, and that has spurred on their decision to enter the 2018 event.

Word of mouth within the Traveller community has been very positive with the experience of being part of such a unique women-only event leaving a lasting impression. WLD employs nine Traveller Community Health Workers who are working to encourage participation in activities such as the Mini Marathon.

The marathon women are all ongoing participants in an initiative aimed at increasing activity levels within the Traveller community, as part of a Chronic Conditions Heart Health Programme, delivered by WLD in partnership with the HSE's Traveller Health Unit.

In local areas such as Enniscorthy, New Ross, Bunclody, Taghmon and Clonroche, which have high Traveller populations, women enjoy weekly health education classes and avail of the one-to-one supports offered by the project. Classes are delivered with support from the Social Inclusion and Community Activation Progamme (SICAP) which targets projects within very disadvantaged communities.

Nan Moorehouse, a grandmother from Drumgoold in Enniscorthy, has been a Health Worker for over five years. Accompanied by her three sisters and two daughters, the 2017 Women's Mini Marathon was the first time Nan had ever been presented with a medal. After the event she felt such a sense of pride that she embarked on her own weight loss and exercise programme encouraging her colleagues, neighbours, family and friends to join in.

Physical exercise has now become part of Nan's daily regime. She also skips the scones on offer at Wexford County Council's Traveller Interagency Group meetings, where she represents her community alongside decision-makers from the Local Authority, the Local Sports Partnership - Sports Active Wexford, the HSE and other public bodies who work together locally to improve Traveller health outcomes. The dial on her weighing scales reflects her success.

Nan warmly remembers the feeling she had crossing the line, saying 'It made me very emotional to finish the mini marathon in the name of Crumlin Hospital'.

This year Temple Street will be the chosen charity.

Like many others, the Traveller women raised over €2,000 for Crumlin Children's Hospital, a charity that was close to their heart given the higher rate of chronic health conditions experienced by Traveller children and that the infant mortality rate is still almost four times highter than that of the general population.

The women are training hard at the moment and will, no doubt, be seen striding out on the local walking tracks and pathways of County Wexford.

The Vhi Women's Mini Marathon is the biggest all female event of its kind in the world and Ireland's largest one-day charity fundraising event. Since its inception, it has raised over €210m for various charities. Entries are open until May 18 at: www.vhiwomensminimarathon.ie

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