St Augustine’s Centre is a charity that offers a warm welcome and safe space to people seeking support and sanctuary here in Calderdale; together we share food, stories and build relationships. We offer specialist advice on immigration and asylum support, and one to one support with welfare, housing, health and access to wider services. We provide hot meals, English classes, training, cultural, social and wellbeing activities, trips and volunteering opportunities. We build awareness about human rights, campaigning locally and nationally. We began in 1968 as a Church playgroup and in 2009 became an independent charity, continually evolving and welcoming all, regardless of faith, ethnicity or background. We have 15 staff, 150 volunteers and a community of 650 individuals and families from 57 different countries.

One of our Trustees, Katie Clarke, had been doing a few walks with us pre-pandemic and she felt (and we agree!) that it’s a safe way of getting out and about, to explore our beautiful valley, get fitter and meet other people. And apart from the cost of snacks that we bring, it’s totally free!

We call it ‘Walk and Talk’ because that’s what it is. People meet and chat as they walk. Others might like some solitude. The people who come are local people who have lived in Calderdale for some time, and also people who are seeking asylum and others with refugee status, some whom have recently arrived. Katie Clarke runs the walks voluntarily and is supported by other volunteers. She has a first aid kit and snacks. We ask everyone to bring water and some walking shoes. We try to provide donated walking boots where needed, especially in the winter. People seeking asylum are not allowed to work and have just £39 a week to live on, which means it isn’t easy to source walking gear.

The walk and talks are a lovely way for our centre members to practice their English and its great way of people from different backgrounds and cultures to come together. Everyone feels included – there is real respect, encouragement and positivity. There are so many benefits! We learn about the environment and local history. We can get to know Calderdale, overcome isolation, meet new people, keep active, have fun and connect with nature. It’s very relaxed with no pressure. Coming out of lockdown is it essential for wellbeing.

Recent comments include:

“I haven’t been out of Halifax since I arrived. This is the happiest I have been since I moved here 6 months ago.”

“It is the only time I feel free.”

“Walking helps me to feel calm and makes me breathe better. I enjoy seeing the colours in nature and being away from the noise of cars is very relaxing”.

“Thanks so much for a wonderful evening yesterday. I am so happy to join for walking with you all.”

We’ve had three walks so far. 12 to the first one, 26 to the second and 24 to the third. We’re really pleased with the turnout! We run them every two weeks on Wednesday evenings. ‘Whatever the weather we walk together’.

On Sunday 20th June we’re organising a big walk for Refugee Week ‘We Cannot Walk Alone’. We hope to engage 100 people walking in solidarity. Then we have a solstice walk on 21st June and then back to our Wednesday walks on 30th June and 7th July with more being planned.

There are a few of the group who would like to do a walking leadership course and we hope to introduce family focussed walking groups on Sundays soon.

Active Calderdale have been very helpful. They encourage us, provide some funding and help publicise our walks on social media. We hope to do more with them and the wider network of walking groups across Calderdale. We’d love to find ways of supporting our centre members to integrate into local walking activities.

If anyone would like to donate quality second hand walking shoes, or has ideas about how we can work together on walking projects, please contact kim.whymark@staugustinescentrehalifax.org.uk