“Hiking brings out the best in people”

In September, a group of St Mungo’s staff, supporters, volunteers and clients are hiking up Ben Nevis. We spoke to two staff members from Haringey Assessment Centre, Geran and Leo, about the hiking challenge and why it can help clients in their road to recovery.

How did you hear about Ben Nevis?

Geran: I was asked by Leo, to head up a training walk for our service before we head to Ben Nevis. We have two residents from our service with us on the training walk who have overcome significant hurdles to be here. Both clients are on alcohol detox programmes. This is the first training walk they have attended and they will come on the Ben Nevis walk if they are able to reduce their drinking.

We are the highest support service in the borough, so we tend to be the first place clients come after moving away from the street. As a service we see the hike as a good opportunity for them to have something to aspire to, something to overcome and a reason to reduce drinking.

We have a few other clients who are interested and might attend future training walks. Any clients from our service who want to do it have the opportunity to do so. It is often the ones you don’t expect that have the most interest so it’s a good mix of people.

Why are these hikes important?

Leo: I have been on a lot trips like this and have seen the beneficial effect it has on everyone. It brings people together in such a way that it brings the best out of people. It is a really uplifting experience. It helps the clients we work with get more motivated to achieve good things in their lives, which is ultimately the purpose.

Geran: It takes some of the barriers away from the different levels of management. Clients are able to see the human aspects of the staff who often call the shots in a lot of aspects of their lives. I think it’s a humanising experience that shows we are not that different.

Why do you think it is important for clients to take part in this challenge?

Leo: There is so much to gain for clients. They can find out more about St Mungo’s from other perspectives. It can also change relationships between service workers and clients as it takes away the power dynamic.

Geran: I think it’s inspiring for clients to have something to push themselves to do. Some clients have been struggling on this training walk and it is a good motivator to focus on making improvements. In the case of our two clients it’s an opportunity to reduce something that is having a detrimental effect on their life.

Did either of you climb Scafell Pike last year?  How was it?

Leo: I did. It was an amazing experience seeing so many people get uplifted. I love hiking so to get to do that as part of a wider vision is a really special opportunity.

After Scafell Pike, a few clients got onto training courses and some have moved on from St Mungo’s accommodation and got their own places. I know at least two clients who did it last year and are going to climb Ben Nevis this year because they got so much out of the trip last time.

Why are you personally looking forward to Ben Nevis?

Leo: From a selfish point of view I really love hiking and I know how good it is and how satisfying it is to get to the top of something.

To be part of St Mungo’s doing it in their 50th year is special. I am looking forward to the reactions of my colleagues and clients from my service. I am optimistic that it will be pretty amazing and mind blowing, because it always is.

Geran: I come from the countryside, I love walking and being out in nature. I want to inspire that passion in other people.

In September to mark our 50th year 50 clients, staff members and volunteers join staff from our sponsor Tokio Marine to take on the highest peak in Britain. Find out more about our Ben Nevis hiking challenge. 

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