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Good InfoHanging tough: the free climbing sessions for refugees and asylum seekers -...

Hanging tough: the free climbing sessions for refugees and asylum seekers – Positive News

Fingers clinging to a crimp hold, eyes fixed determinedly on his goal, young Waleed (pictured above) scales the bouldering wall at The Climbing Hangar in Liverpool.  

Waleed was newly arrived in the UK from Sudan three years ago, when he became among the first to take part in Refugees Rock, then a fledgling project offering free climbing sessions to refugees and asylum seekers.  

It’s easy to imagine what might be going through his head. ‘Will I make it?’, perhaps, or ‘What happens if I fail?’ As a sporting metaphor for the challenges faced by refugees like him, climbing could not be more apt. 

“That feeling when people make it to the top for the first time and they look back down at you: they’re beaming and smiling because they’ve got there, and everyone’s cheering. It has a much deeper meaning than just climbing,” said Emma Leaper. Leaper is national coordinator with the Action Asylum initiative, which runs Refugees Rock alongside The British Red Cross and the Climbing Hangar.  

“It reflects the resilience of some of the people we’re working with, the journeys they’ve undergone and the fact that they’ve come all this way in the face of adversity.” 

Next month marks Refugees Rock’s third year in operation. Starting with just a handful of anxious newbies at The Climbing Hangar’s Liverpool branch, it now hosts hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers at 14 centres across the UK.  

 That feeling when people make it to the top for the first time and they look back down at you. It has a much deeper meaning than just climbing

Camaraderie is a huge draw. In a show of solidarity, local climbers have been recruited as volunteer ‘boulder buddies’ to show asylum-seeking newcomers the ropes, and extend a warm hand of friendship. 

“It’s just wonderful,” said Leaper. “You leave your problems behind. You’re not thinking about your asylum case, or the fact that you’re separated from your family and the trauma you’ve gone through – you’re thinking about the problem on the wall in front of you. 

“But the biggest difference I notice in people is in their confidence – up on that wall, they’re basically finding themselves again.”

Image: The Climbing Hangar 

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