Fife charity worker, Magdalena Augustyn-Lygas, has been named as the first-ever overall champion of the new Scottish Walking Awards.
The walk group leader helps migrants boost their health, social life and spoken English.
The panel of expert judges were wowed by Magdalena’s Sole Sisters community health walk project, which is run by Fife Migrants Forum.
More than 160 entries were submitted to 10 categories in the Scottish Walking Awards.
Magdalena scooped the Community Walking Champion and Overall Champion titles.
The Sole Sisters project brings together women from the migrant and local community through walks in Kirkcaldy and Dunfermline, providing regular health walks and conversation cafes, enabling participants to make social connections and build confidence speaking English.
During the pandemic, Magdalena has worked tirelessly to keep the project going, organising online workshops and group activities wherever restrictions allowed.
Recently, she has supported the Scottish Health Walk Network to translate Paths for All’s health walk advice into nine new languages to reach even more people across Scotland.
Magdalena said: “I am delighted to win this award for the work we have done through the Sole Sisters walking group. The project has been really important for reducing barriers to walking for migrant women, increasing cultural understanding and reducing isolation, and increasing physical and mental wellbeing.
“While it has been challenging to keep the work going during the pandemic, we are so pleased with what the project has been able to achieve. Sole Sisters is not only about walking, but also about building strong, lasting relationships within the community.”
Lee Craigie, who is Scotland’s Active Nation Commissioner and chaired the judges, said: “Magdalena, and the wider Sole Sisters project, champion the impact that walking can have on health, social connection and wellbeing in all that they do.
"We were incredibly impressed by Magdalena’s focus on ensuring the benefits of walking reach a truly diverse audience, and keeping it going during the pandemic.”
As well as Overall Champion, ten other outstanding individuals, companies and projects were named as category winners for their efforts to support people to walk more:
More champions named in Scottish Walking Awards
The Scottish Walking Awards are organised by Paths for All, Ramblers Scotland and Living Streets, in conjunction with the National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum. The winners are announced as part of National Walking Month. Other champions include:
Public Sector Walking Champion: #DGMilesforSmiles in Dumfries & Galloway. The walking project has received excellent community buy-in and built links with schools.
Business Walking Champion: Milngavie Business Improvement District in East Dunbartonshire. The project brought together business, council and community representatives to develop and promote walking throughout the town.
Walking Research / Innovation: Out There Award across Scotland. Ramblers Scotland’s free award helps 18 to 26-year-olds kick-start their journey into the outdoors, while learning skills, meeting friends and getting active.
Most Improved Walking Place: Auchmountain Glen Project in Inverclyde. The volunteer-led project delivered significant improvements for walkers, such as installing walkways while tackling antisocial behaviour to transform a former "no go area" into a community asset.
Land Manager Walking Champion: Alcan Aluminium (UK) Ltd in Fife. The company has given significant support to communities to develop accessible routes near its lochs and land that encourage walking and wheeling.
Walking Champion in Education: Cara McBrearty, Active Schools co-ordinator in North Lanarkshire. She has helped teenage girls to walk more with her initial project at one school now rolled out to another 10 schools.
Healthcare Professional Walking Champion: Dr Katie Walter in the Highlands. She campaigns and advocates for improved walking across the Highlands and beyond.
Social Housing Association Walking Champion: Cassiltoun Housing Association in Glasgow. The association has worked hard with the community to enhance the physical environment and encourage people to walk and use the green space.
Media / Online Walking Champion: Ross Cunningham in Fife. He has had great success using his Mountains Mend Minds social media platform to help people to improve their mental health through hillwalking, in particular supporting men who can be reluctant to discuss such issues.
Craig McLaren, chair of the National Walking Strategy Delivery Forum, said: "The range of projects nominated for the first Scottish Walking Awards shows the fantastic work happening all over Scotland, with community projects at the heart of a movement to get people walking.
"Projects like these are vital for keeping our communities active and connected and we were so pleased to see so many worthwhile nominations and winners.”
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Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.