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BMC Equity Symposium 2014: Breaking Down the Barriers

20140329_170754I have just returned from attending a weekend long symposium held by the British Mountaineering Council (BMC). I am invigorated and enthused with new ideas. The BMC are committed to help with addressing the barriers facing the most underrepresented groups, namely women and girls, people with learning disabilities and those from black and ethnic minority (BME) groups.

I guess I fall in to two of those categories, and when I came across the event by chance onTwitter I decided to seize the opportunity to actively engage and learn. And there was a lot to learn:Indoor sessions centric around practical advice, guidance and ideas to support the BME community coupled with outdoor sessions providing skills. Set in beautiful Yorkshire Dales and with a stay in YHA Haworth the whole event was enticing. A Youth Hostel is a little out of my comfort zone now, but, hey, life begins where your comfort zone ends!

Ok, I admit, I cheated. For the sake of my children, I decided I needed to return home on Mother’s Day fresh-faced and full of energy instead of sleep-deprived and shattered. So, I booked into a simply wonderful,serene and peaceful little B&B: Cherry tree Cottage. I was treated to the yummiest and healthiest breakfast with homemade bread and jam too! Though, to be honest, the hostel was clean and very pleasant. Maybe next time?20140329_150928

The Outdoor sessions were brilliant! Leading and Navigational skills ,rock climbing and first aid. We walked the Bronte Way and learned to read maps (haven’t used a map since O’Grade Geography!). Claudia, our leader, even showed us some funky moss that you can use as toilet paper!! The session was confidence building and fun as we worked as a team to get back to the van…eventually!

Indoor we heard talks on a whole host of subjects , too many to list but can be found here

All talks were fabulous but a few key things stay in my mind. I learned about the Mosaic National Network, an organisation “to build sustainable links between black and minority ethnic communities and nine of the National Parks in England and Youth Hostels Association” Check out their website.

Rehan Siddiqui, ex-BMC vice president gave a keynote speech in the evening.He shared all his great achievments with us but what stood out for me, as a British Asian, were his childhood holiday snaps. I could relate to them , he was one of us, similar lifestyle, beliefs, culture and yet had managed to do something so “different”. It made me (and perhaps others) feel that these achievements and adventures are all possible . You dont have to be from a certain place or “type of person” . You just have to want to do it and be given the opportunity.

The work IMAYLA do around Bristol in helping people “learn in new places and in new ways and to make connections across cultural, artistic and physical divides” really touched me. The video, “Leaning on the wind” about getting young Somalian kids and families out into the countryside and to reconnect them with their nomadic heritage was truly inspiring.

You know, there are some really amazing people in the UK who take time and effort to care for others despite being from different countries, races and religions. We are lucky to be part of this wonderful nation.

Lastly the talk by Jeremy Henzell-Thomas, “Spiritually in the Outdoors” was my highlight. 20140329_165733Obviously a gifted orator, he captured us with the beauty of his message and the gentle rhythm of his mellifluous tones. He truly understood his subject and his audience, inspiring us with words from prophets and poets, quotes from Islamic,Christian Buddhist, Hindu scriptures as well as those affiliated with no religion. He gently encouraged us to slow down, centre and orientate ourselves in life with the simplest and most therapeutic of activities – a walk, whether it be in the city or in the hills, but one that is mindful and takes notice of the wonder and majesty of our world.In a frenetic world where we have no time to spare, we find that when we take ourselves out in a vast space suddenly time slows down, giving us a precious opportunity to re-balance,to de-stress, to contemplate and orientate ourselves. A really thought-provoking talk.

Lastly, and I would say most significantly, this event brought people together. In a relaxed atmosphere we could link and connect with those whose paths may never have crossed if it weren’t for such events. It was wonderful to meet so many people and to see that although we are under-represented there are plenty who are full of enthusiasm and desire and some who already have the skills to get out and get active. It really was a celebration of how the outdoors can overcome barriers and bring all people together and a reminder that this is within everybodys reach.

Thanks BMC and all the volunteers and speakers that made this possible!

Let me know if you attended and what you got out of it by leaving a comment below , or if you have had experiences of the outdoors bringing people together. It would be fabulous to hear your story.

Afsha Malik-Founder Bloomin Health

UPDATE

This blog was published by The British Mountaineering Council – for a copy please click on the link below

BMC Blog

9 Responses so far.

  1. Ann says:

    Afsha- this is just a great piece of writing! Many thanks for the share… and look forward to promoting on @twitter. Ann from @exerciseworks :)

    • afsha malik says:

      Ann, Thank you for your kind words! It was an inspiring event and made me realise, as active as I am, I need to get out and do MORE!! Thank you for your support.
      Afsha

  2. Andy says:

    Afsha: After the event finished I moved out of the Youth Hostel into a little room I had book in Haworth….Cherry Tree Cottage! Thanks for leaving me some jam. Great to know you had a good time. Andy Say

  3. Glen says:

    Afsha, I am so happy you did this and that with your well phrased blog, managed to bring together not only the beauty of the majestic Dales, but also the amount of dedication and work that the BMC provides in collaboration with the YHA and National Trust to make such venues, talks and multitude of activities, that are designed to take you just outside of your comfort zone yet keep you safe and leave you with a massive WOW.

    I am glad that it allowed you to see the efforts being made for all to enjoy, no matter what your background

    Well done

    Glen Rosser

    • afsha malik says:

      Thank You Glen!
      We always seem to focus on what is not available, lack of facilities, lack of opportunity. But delve a little deeper and you find so many people are out there doing whatever they can to help.Large organisations like the BMC can bring all that goodness together to be able to make an impact, make a difference and we must thank them for that.Specifically focussing on BME communities, especially Muslims, we must push aside our self-inflicted barriers and engage, enjoy, be part of all that GB has to offer! We need to buld up confidence at a local level: parks,walking clubs,local climbing centres and before you know it we’ll be climbing mountains too!
      Best wishes,
      Afsha

  4. Yes, like the others I’d also like to say thankyou also for writing this up so well. I did a much less thorough & self-centred blog at the link below (about 2 events, 1 in Barrow and 1 in Haworth).
    This is the link – http://zine-it-yourself.blogspot.co.uk/2014/04/weekend-trip-about-wildlife-and-outdoors.html
    And today I had the treat of sharing a woodland campfire/streamdipping/wide games experience with children who had never been out before. A really worthwhile endeavour!

    • afsha malik says:

      Hi Michael,
      Thank you for your lovely words! I love your sketches- they really capture the essence of the event Had a look at the link you sent. Sounds like you get to do a lot of great stuff outdoors. Fuelled with enthusiam and momentum from the event,I am off with the family walking /cycling in Pembroke, Wales. really excited! Might even blog about it!
      Take care and it’d be great to hear what kind of things you did with the kids…if you write about it please send me the link,
      Afsha

  5. Margi Bryant says:

    Hi Afsha
    It was a great weekend and I really enjoyed sharing that walk with you and all the other inspiring women in our group! As a BMC member, I’ll make sure I pester them do some kind of follow-up. Meanwhile it looks like Mosaic is going from strength to strength, which is great. I hope you got back in time to enjoy the rest of Mothers’ Day with your children.
    Warmest wishes
    Margi

    • afsha malik says:

      It was a lovely walk,with so many people from different backgrounds:talk about Diversity in the Dales!I am joining up too and will be encouraging all my friends (they’ll be rolling thier eyes skywards in a “what now” fashion) to look into the BMC and Mosaic membership. Hopefully we’ll meet again at another fabulous event.
      Best wishes, Afsha