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Aberdeen charities team up for one million wellness steps challenge

Mohamed Jawed, Zoe Thomas, Tommy Webster, Linda Walker, Sam Raion, and Nathan King

Fresh Community Wellness is launching their one million wellness steps fundraising challenge this weekend alongside New Arc and Triple A’s.

Fresh Community Wellness reach out to vulnerable and isolated people across Aberdeen and provide them with outdoor befriending and wellness group sessions.

These groups encourage alternatives to specialised groups to enable a reduction in possible drug and alcohol abuse and for those in recovery preventing lapses and relapses.

Sam Raion has been operating Fresh for several years by connecting with people online and talking to them about any issues they were experiencing. He started running the initiative after realising there was a gap in services offered in Aberdeen.

He said: “I think Aberdeen’s the most prolific for food poverty, as there’s many options, and that was another thing I noticed when helping with things like that. People weren’t being given the option of ‘here’s some safe choices if ever you fancy’.

“Obviously we never take away anyone’s choices and we never point anyone in the direction to go but we can motivate, I call it planting seeds. It might just come that one day they wake up and they have their goodie bag with sweets and the flyer and then they’ll go ‘oh I’ve got that number, I will try that’.”

Throughout lockdown, when restrictions allowed, he started meeting people for distanced walks to ensure they were not feeling isolated.

Groups began to form and Mr Raion started training new volunteers to help him with the sessions. These volunteers have completed courses such as first aid training, naloxone training, and addictions and mental health training.

Looking after wellness and the community

He explained that Fresh is centred on all aspects of wellness, with looking after the community playing a part in it.

He said: “With the walk, talk and tidy there’s people who perhaps aren’t ready to speak about things and in my experience a lot of groups can be focused on a person when it’s their turn to speak about an issue which can be quite intensive for some people.

“The difference with walking we have found is similar to driving with someone, although you can still make eye contact you’re not constantly focused on the person and there’s scenery going past, so we find that helps with things like anxiety depression as well as other issues.”

Through these walk, talk and tidy sessions the group have teamed up with Keep Scotland Beautiful and have recently been accepted for It’s Your Neighbourhood 2021.

The sessions help people build self-esteem and confidence while boosting mental and physical health, and regenerating local communities.

Mr Raion explained that parks already have groups who look after the green spaces well, so the walk, talk and tidy sessions are aimed at other areas.

He said: “It seemed silly for us to start going into there so instead we decided to go look at tackling areas such as Woodside, Tillydrone, Hilton and Hayton which are all quite easy routes for our Saturday group which leaves from St Machar Cathedral.”

It is hoped that having pride in local areas will help reduce possible criminal behaviour from those attending the sessions, encouraging them to make a safe choice.

One million wellness steps fundraiser

Fresh Community Wellness are fundraising alongside other local charities, Triple A’s and New Arc, to raise awareness of each of the causes.

It is hoped that the fundraiser will help the group reach more volunteers and potentially people in need who may benefit from the befriending and wellness sessions. All funds raised will be split between the three charities.

The group had planned to co-host a launch event this weekend, however, due to Covid restrictions they decided to keep the event to representatives from each of the charities.

Representatives from the charities will be meeting for a walk around Duthie Park on Saturday June 26.

It is hoped that the one million steps will be completed within the next couple of months through the outdoor groups run by Fresh as volunteers, guests and service users will all contribute towards the final goal.

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