Interview with Park Protector Awards 2022 winners AKA Health, Wealth & Oneness

After a brilliant Park Protector Awards ceremony in Parliament this week, we caught up with the winners of the New Perspectives award, AKA Health, Wealth & Oneness, to find out more about their work...

 Tell us about your work with National Parks - what do you do, why is it needed etc.

In the last year we have introduced hundreds of young people and adults to the National Park, through our monthly guided hikes and bespoke activities for groups. Many of whom are from minority backgrounds or underrepresented groups in National Parks. They would not usually have the means for travel and equipment; or the confidence to access National Parks. We provide equipment such as hiking boots & waterproofs, transport on our minibus, to allow participants accessibility. The National Parks have identified a lack of diversity among visitors to the parks, as well as in the outdoor industry. Much of this stems from the reasons above, but we have also found that minorities from other ethnicities and low income backgrounds do not feel or think they will feel welcomed in this space. Therefore, people from the inner cities and from minority groups are missing out on the benefits that come through connecting and immersing oneself in nature. Due to the pandemic, there has never been a time where people would need this healing and connections with the outdoors, and importantly other people more.

What impact has your work had in your National Park over the last year?

  • Increasing the number of people of minority groups and inner cities in the National Parks.
  • Changing the perception that they would not be welcomed in this space, through highlighting the work we do on social media.
  • Sparking an interest among young people, by introducing them at a young age to the National Park by people who look like them and come from where they are from.
  • Empowering people to engage in outdoor activities independently, after being introduced to it as part of the group.
  • Our work has encouraged wellbeing through connecting with nature, as well as connecting with other people – encouraging community cohesion and friendships in this post-pandemic time where it is really needed.

How does it feel to be recognised and rewarded by the Park Protector Awards 2022?

We feel proud that our work has been recognised and that our mission is being supported by various stakeholders such as the outdoor industry, funders and partners as well as the participants and volunteers. It is great to be acknowledged for the crucial work we are doing in the community, and the impact acknowledged. Over the last two and half years, we have worked relentlessly, expanded unexpectedly and are keen to continue the work that brings us so much joy. We feel accomplished and seen – which is a great feeling.

Why do you think National Parks are important?

National Parks provide a preserved space for all to enjoy. It is a healing space for all; to connect and rebuild through nature. National parks have allowed a space for our communities to restore spiritually, mentally, and physically through connecting with nature: people look forward to attending and ask about the next time. National parks are an important part of the English heritage, part of our cultural identity, for all to be shared and enjoyed.

To find out more about AKA Health, Wealth & Oneness, see here.