The work we carry out here at Halifax Opportunities Trust (HOT) is ultimately to ensure we create opportunities for people to make positive changes. Through a range of Services, we are able to deliver programmes that support individuals and groups in overcoming challenges in many aspects of their lives.
In many instances service providers across HOT collaborate to deliver holistic support that crosses over; from employment to wellbeing, Children & Families to Apprenticeships – we are able to deliver complimentary programmes that meet the unique needs of our vibrant and diverse community.
Stepping Into Spring
An example of this is the Stepping into Spring walking group. It was created by our Employment Support Project Team and the Community & Wellbeing Team (Active Calderdale), through Hopeful Families and run by Pluss; it is joint funded by National Lottery Community Fund and European Social Fund, helping families manage the tough times and build a brighter future.
It is a weekly support group that encourages attendees to keep active while meeting new people, talking about their experiences and building relationships. All in a relaxed setting, surrounded by the rolling Yorkshire landscape.
How it began
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a greater need for community groups and organisations to change how they reach their members. Like many, HOT quickly adapted its services through Zoom to continue to offer much-needed help to those who were isolated, lonely, afraid and demotivated.
As the world began to re-open and restrictions started to ease, Halifax Opportunities Trust worked closely with Active Calderdale, and identified a need for outdoor social activities.
That’s when Stepping into Spring was born. A walking group with one goal in mind: to increase opportunities for people to meet informally and discuss their worries, concerns, and barriers.
A safe space
What started as an idea has now grown in popularity, with an average of 15 attendees on each walk! Additional support and attendance from a Mental Health team has enabled new activities and, for each participant to have access to one-to-one care during all of the outdoor activities.
Step into Spring walkers have praised the walking group as a safe space to speak, to feel part of a non-judgmental group, and an opportunity to come out of comfort zones. Other walkers have expressed further benefits like keeping active, getting fit, losing weight and generally having fun.
One centre member told us:
“I now feel confident. My fitness levels have risen, and I feel able to explore other external activities that I wouldn’t have necessarily considered, such as kayaking, paddle boarding or even having a go at a climbing wall!”
It doesn’t stop there. The Hopeful Families programme, run by Halifax Opportunities Trust, has recognised the huge impact that this walking group has had on each of their members, and are already developing plans for the future, including how they can further encourage and promote more outdoor walking in a way that allows sessions to be inclusive and easy for all to enjoy.
What we’ve learned
“Walking is an inclusive activity that should be enjoyed by all however due to certain conditions and lack of self-confidence, this is often a barrier for individuals hence why they need extra support to take the first step. Once they’ve had the opportunity to experience an outdoor walk, individuals usually always come back for more having experienced first-hand the many benefits that walking offers us.”
Hopeful Families is a flexible community programme designed to help participants overcome whatever challenges they face.