‘Walk With Me’ offers one-to-one walking partners for refugees and asylum seekers in Bristol. The aim of the project is to promote regular exercise which will benefit physical and mental health, and provide an opportunity to practise spoken English, to meet someone new, and to explore the neighbourhood or new places.
Referrals are matched to a local volunteer who will offer a weekly walk in the location suited to the refugee / asylum seeker. The pace and length of walk are agreed by each partnership, and where possible same genders will be matched. Children may participate in the walk as long as they remain the responsibility of the parent at all times. Volunteers receive training around basic health and safety involved in planning and carrying out a walk, culture, supporting English learning and safeguarding. Support is offered to both the volunteer and the refugee / asylum seeker to set up the first walk, ensuring both parties know and agree to the expectations. They are then expected to arrange future walks themselves, with a guide of one walk per week to aim for. Support will be available where necessary, and follow up with both parties will be after the first walk, and then every 4-6 weeks. COVID government guidelines are to be followed by the partnership at all times, and both partners must be 18 years old or over.
There will also be a number of 'Walk With Me' group walks happening through the summer which volunteers, refugees and asylum seekers are welcome to attend.
Quotes from participants
“I am enjoying the walks – it’s good for my body and brain. Caitlin has become a good friend. I have enjoyed face to face conversation, learning expressions and new words – it has been a good opportunity to practice English. I enjoy knowing that someone is coming to support me and to share my daily life.” S“I have really enjoyed my time with S, she is a lovely person and I am enjoying getting to know her and her family. It is like we are friends - I am very comfortable with her. I would like to keep seeing her and walking with her.” Caitlin
“Emotionally I feel comfortable when I am with Sarah, and my kids really love her. Sometimes I am in a bad mood when she comes, but she turns my mood around 180 degrees. I am trying to practice English with her but it’s still not what I want to reach. I will recommend this program to the others… they will enjoy it!” Z
“The walking with Alex is good for me because I came at the beginning of the first lockdown so I could not make friends. I like to walk with her to improve my English.” L
“I have enjoyed the walks I have done with O. He is a really interesting man, and I have enjoyed getting to know him, I get a lot out of our time together even though I am the volunteer! I would like to continue to meet up with him.” David“Thank you for giving me this opportunity to get out of the house after 6 months at home caring for my husband because of his health. It’s been a really nice time.” G
“It’s nice to meet new people. We were feeling lonely, and it’s been nice to find people who were thinking about us.” E