There are very few things that truly nurture health in its entirety, that being health of the body, mind, and community, but Madrid for Refugees’ (MFR) Benefit Hikes most certainly do. The event involves a guided hike starting from Cercedilla through the surrounding mountainside and incorporates a relaxing yoga session, with an idyllic backdrop. Hikers are simply asked to pay a suggested donation of €15 with all the proceeds going to MFR directly assisting in the betterment of displaced lives both in Madrid and abroad. Meanwhile, walkers are able to share their passion for nature and the refugee cause with like-minded souls in a brilliantly uplifting and refreshing experience.
The idea for these unique hikes was mapped out last year when some members of MFR (Talia and Jerome) decided to combine their dream of becoming hiking guides with their passion for the refugee cause. The initiative sets out to spread awareness of the crisis in Spain and raise precious funds for MFR, while relishing in a common love of the outdoors. In the words of Talia, it essentially “transforms an enjoyable activity into a solidarity event which brings people together in support of refugees”.
The day itself began in Cercedilla, from there all 23 of us were led through cool shaded forests by four knowledgeable guides up to a spellbinding peak where we paused for yoga and food. As planned, our calming yoga teacher Alice patiently guided us through a rejuvenating session that was a much needed remedy after the steady climbing. Following this, we were surprised by a laughter yoga class given by one of the participants. Strictly adhering to the only rule “fake it till you make it” within no time everyone had been reduced to all fours imitating giggling cats and dogs, as carefree laughter echoed across the rolling landscape. It was an unforgettable moment that perfectly reflected the warm liberating spirit of the occasion.
A crucial element fuelling this event’s triumph is undoubtedly the people who attend. Since the very first hike this has always been a multicultural melting pot attracting people from a plethora of backgrounds. Today was no different with a total of 12 nationalities represented. This vibrantly wide range of cultures was only matched, if not surpassed by the wide open minds guiding every pair of feet stomping up the Madrid slopes. “I’ve never before found so many interesting and welcoming people in such a wonderful place!” exclaimed one happy hiker. Throughout the day conversation endlessly meandered from one fascinating subject to the next as no ear was left un-chewed, and all present exchanged stories and interests, including some intriguing experiences working with refugees. In total the event raised €300 which will be vital in aiding refugees and their families here in Madrid and abroad. And it did so while giving people “a great opportunity to get out of Madrid” and participate in a “wonderfully social experience”, effortlessly healing the mind, body and community.
After another resoundingly successful hike, you can’t help but wonder what’s further up the path for this invigorating initiative. Along with the promise of more walks this summer, Talia also told me how she hopes to develop them into more integrating events for refugees themselves. The opportunity to engage with such a diverse and fresh-minded group of people in the peaceful comfort of nature would be cherished by any newcomer to Madrid. With an increased refugee attendance these hikes will undeniably serve as magical occasions of cultural integration for refugees which capitalise on, what Talia terms, the special “healing power of nature”.
A blissful weariness descended upon the group as each sun-kissed face sipped a well-earned beverage back in Cercedilla still grinning at having had the chance to shake-off the busy anxieties of the city and escape into nature breathing in fresh air, fresh ideas, and fresh company, all the while maintaining the “warm-fuzzy feeling of knowing the fun is making an immediate difference in the lives of real people.” And this was certainly not the last chance to participate in this refreshing experience; if you’re interested in stretching those legs in the name of a good cause then make sure you sign up to the next hike on the 27th May by following this link: https://ti.to/madrid-for-refugees/benefit-hike-may-27
It’s time to dust off those walking boots…
Written by Sam Allan
Translated by Jenna McDonald