“The pandemic has had a big impact on people's well-being. Unable to do some of the things that they loved during those lockdowns hit especially hard. It was during this time that we were introduced to hiking in remembrance of a manager that passed away and who loved the outdoors. We immediately felt the benefits and wanted to share this with others.”
Antwon, Kevin, Anton. The AKA in AKA - Health Wealth & Oneness. Three passionate guys making a positive impact on their community. Building on their youth work they wanted to expand opportunities for people from disadvantaged, socially isolated groups of all ages in Nottingham to improve physical, emotional, and mental well-being and to create community cohesion.
Having been introduced to the delights of the outdoors themselves they knew that they could have an even greater impact by organising and leading inner city young people and adults on hikes and activities in the Peak District National Park, primarily those who would not normally access the outdoors. This has now led to a bustling and inclusive community of people all coming together from different backgrounds and situations, but sharing the same enjoyment of time outdoors away from the city.
Kevin chatted to us about how he felt the hikes are making a difference.
“There aren't many things more healing than feeling connected with nature and connected with other people. It's the perfect combination! To have a sense of community is something a lot of people don't have, more now than ever. Hiking with others lowers the guard that most of us normally have up, and allows people to talk openly and actually be heard, because there are no other distractions or other things competing for our attention... Except the views!”
Joining them on one of their recent hikes out across Birchen's Edge in the Peak District, it soon became evident how refreshing, joyous and infectious the community they have managed to build is. Highlighting the pleasure and positivity that spending a day away from the city can bring.
AKA piloted their hiking project through 2021 with some National Lottery funding and supported by the Peak District National Park Authority, looking to lead those least likely to access the outdoors on hikes and activities. The three guys approached us here at the Alpkit Foundation for further support and we were super keen to help out.
It was important for them to take a very personal, proactive role in gaining the experience, skills and knowledge needed to deliver the best experiences possible. So we were really pleased to be able to provide the opportunity for subsidised Hill and Moorland Leader training, which helped them build that knowledge. Alongside this we also provided grants towards essential equipment that they could use on their hikes, but also back it up with some support from Alpkit Continuum in establishing a kit pool that others could access.
“The support we have received from the whole outdoor industry during the last year really helped us as newbies learn and develop the skills, knowledge and confidence needed to lead others into the outdoors. We are really passionate about developing the skills to allow us to be independent, as this is how we would like others to feel. It's also incredibly important for us all to enjoy the outdoors responsibly and safely.”
This has gone a long way to breaking barriers facing others getting out. Having these skills can really be used to educate those they take out and ensure they can not only offer fun experiences, but also fulfilling ones that can have longer term benefits. Whether that’s building awareness, confidence and know how. Or simply supporting through access to suitable equipment and travel.
It’s amazing to hear the huge impact and long term benefits this project has been having. Giving people confidence to go out on their own and encourage a real love for the outdoors.
With their monthly hikes now well established, there's no signs of it slowing down.
“Many people who attend the events have never been hiking, and cannot believe that it has been under their noses their whole lives. Seeing faces light up with genuine awe is priceless! We have facilitating events almost every month engaging over 250 young people and adults. There is now a strong established core group, but we have new faces attend our hikes each month and it's amazing to see new friendships created and for people to feel a part of something, sharing new experiences. This has also fed into other projects that we run in the city from our fitness camps, to conscious meet ups and youth clubs. Many people have also expressed the desire and taken the opportunity to join us as volunteers.”