Social inclusion by the yard
Putting on your shoes and going for a walk isn’t just an effective way to brighten your mood. It can also help you get in touch with others and create more connectedness in a community.
This is the experience of From Isolation to Inclusion (I2I) partners The Canal & River Trust in the UK, and Diakonie Bremen in Germany.
“The work we do on the canals are very seasonal. We wanted to encourage people to get out and meet others in December, a time that can be lonely for many”, says Sharron Bright at the Canal & River Trust in Leeds.
She got in touch with the local knitting group Hookers and Clickers to collaborate on a yarn bombing along the canal. Yarn bombing is about using knitting to turn things into art, Bright explains.
Photo caption: Knitted decorations on a bridge across the canal. It took a million stitches to make it, and it was lit up for several months.
Around 220 people showed up for the walk, collecting vouchers for knitted decorations along the way.
“We set up meeting points for handing out the decorations. All our staff were there, and we had branding from I2I partner Campaign to End Loneliness as well”, says Bright.
As a result, many people made new connections. Some met people from other towns and swapped phone numbers. Along with the decorations, the walkers also got a note encouraging them to do something for others in the community.
Participants at the walk in Leeds.
Diakonisches Werk in Bremen also wanted to encourage citizens to go for a walk and connect (top image). But there the challenge was that people keep different paces.
“It’s not a good feeling if other people have to constantly stop and wait for you, or if you have to wait for others”, says Jürgen Stein in the Diakonie.
As a solution, they set up two groups walking two different routes, with meeting points at the start, the middle, and the end. To set up the routes, they got help from a local hiking club, and used a navigation app to find exact distances and obstacles.
Volunteers were charged with guiding and securing both groups, and the walk ended up making a splash in local media as well.
Now, groups meet for walk in Bremen every Friday afternoon.
“Several people told us that they either connected with new people, or were able to reconnect with others”, says Stein.
Planning the walk in Bremen.