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Walking and Cycling Grants London blog

Jan,2020 Nashat
Supporting the integration of refugees through walking and cycling

 Marwa Belghazi from Refugee Action Kingston talks about the beginnings of their new project, Nashat.


Today we finish the week with a simple exercise of walking.

Two volunteers from Refugee Action Kingston met with three people we support through the refugee resettlement scheme, and we walked from the space where we usually provide ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages) sessions at Piper Hall to the Stanley Picker Gallery.

It is an 11 minute walk, with quiet streets and the time to catch up on what we have done the day before and our thoughts about ceramics; as we approach the space where the gallery will be hosting us for a ceramics workshop.

This is a warm up for our Nashat series of walks and cycles that will lead us to different locations in the Kingston borough and surrounding areas. Thanks to the grant offered by TfL’s WCGL, we aim to energise the people we support and the staff by actively engaging in the exploration of the space they use daily.

But what happened along the walk was amazing: we walked past the Kingston School of Art and the building caught the attention of a participant. We spoke about it and he said that he would be curious to visit the place, he felt drawn to it. Towards the end of our session at the Stanley Picker Gallery, we were lucky to be offered a quick tour of the same building that we had seen. We were able to see the machines and workshops that the art students were using, and all participants were so inspired that they asked if they could volunteer there and/or how they could sign up for learning opportunities allowing them to use the space.

In the context of displacement, this also means starting to rebuild a new page of life through active initiatives, noticing a building, feeling curious about it, then finding a way to go through the doors and seeing what lies behind them. Is that something you want to try out? Does it trigger a passion or an interest that you want to pursue further? And while you are in the process of exploring, what relationships do you build with the people who welcome you, open the doors and also walk/cycle alongside you?

I am hoping that the walks and cycle explorations we do in the upcoming months to be light-hearted and full of human warmth, and that all participants come out feeling more connected to each other and having a better understanding of what coexistence feels like in real life. Active coexistence.

I couldn't have dreamt of a better taster to Nashat. This project is about simple activities such as short walks or cycle trips that allow people who are new to a city or borough to explore it and find ways to connect with buildings, spaces and people. 

Stay tuned for our upcoming events and get in touch if you are a resident, institution, organisation, or community group in Kingston keen to have us walk or cycle to meet you.