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Schools row in with Karen to mark World Oceans Day at Long Strand

June 24th, 2022 7:05 AM

By Kieran O'Mahony

Karen Weekes, only the 20th female in the world to have rowed an ocean on her own, with pupils from Rathbarry National School at Long Strand last week. Also included are Kathy Kirwan, eco social artist; Emily Dulohery, Cathy Reid and Colette Barrett, acting principal. (Photo: Martin Walsh)

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PUPILS from two West Cork national schools got to spend time with world-renowned rower Karen Weekes in Long Strand last week and take part in a scavenger hunt as part of World Oceans Day.

In February, the Kinvara, Co Galway native became the first Irish woman to row solo across the Atlantic, sailing 3,000 miles from Gran Canaria to Barbados.

Pupils from both Rathbarry National School and St Joseph’s Girls National School, Clonakilty became actively involved in her ‘She Can Do’ project.

Sports psychologist Karen is only the 20th female in the world to have rowed an ocean on her own, spending 80 days at sea, and she posted regular video updates on her epic journey so that the pupils could follow her.

As her sustainability education lead, Kathy Kirwan, an eco educator and artist based in West Cork, connected with the two schools, as well as schools in Paris, Gran Canaria and Barbados, who all followed this inspirational campaign.

They also connected with a school in Barbados, making it a truly transatlantic project. In fact, the school in Paris  was led by Clonakilty native and teacher Leonora Minihan Focillon, daughter of renowned Tidy Towns activist Noreen Minihan.

The third class pupils from St Joseph’s Girls School made an ‘SDG Life Below Water’ video on Inchydoney beach focusing on ocean plastics, which was also launched at Long Strand last week.

‘It’s been an amazing campaign and you could say both schools followed the project from slightly different perspectives,’ said Kathy.

All the pupils at Rathbarry National School followed Karen’s progress across the ocean and completed lots of work and projects about her so they were delighted to meet Karen face-to-face last week.

If there was one quotation to sum up the inspirational afternoon it was from one of the senior girls from Rathbarry National School who, on leaving the beach, shouted: ‘I’m going to be the next Irish woman to row the Atlantic’, echoing Karen’s infamous motto ‘If she can do, you can too.’

Karen, who lectures at MTU, has already sailed the Atlantic twice and circumnavigated both Ireland and the Lofoten islands off Norway in a kayak. She has cycled solo 4,000 miles across Canada, through Alaska and the Yukon.

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