By Aliya Vaughan
The countdown had begun…it was only a week before the big day. Two Solace ‘Walks with Her’ were to take place in London and Manchester. The anticipation and excitement were mounting but sadly, I would not be participating. Living in Nottingham, I was stuck 2-3 hours between both locations. Each day my heart would fill and then break as I read all the revert stories and preparation messages on social media. By Wednesday, I couldn’t hold back any longer – I knew I had to take part even if it meant I had to walk independently. Revert sisters would be struggling over the next coming months, particularly with the cost-of-living crisis exacerbating the many challenges they already face. That, together with the fact that Solace was expanding its services in the north, meant the need for support would be greater than ever.
I set my intentions firmly to ‘Walk with Her’ that Sunday. The Solace team helped me create my LaunchGood page so I could promote my walk and raise donations.
The morning of the walk, I delved through my wardrobe to find my walking boots and set up my podcast to listen to a motivating talk. I would be walking alone, but I didn’t mind as it was all for a good cause. It was such a beautiful day. As I stepped out of the house, I felt the warmth of the sunshine in the crisp autumn breeze. Allah had blessed me with the weather, and I was glad there was no need to take an umbrella, alhamdulilah.
When I arrived at the park, I received a text from a revert sister who told me to meet her at the children’s playground. She was keen to join me on the walk, but her children were more eager to see-saw and swing. I don’t know what she promised them, but they immediately left the play area and we set off through tree lined walkways littered with colourful autumn leaves. Acorns and horse chestnuts scattered the paths; a pick and mix delight for all the squirrels and food foragers. I sensed Allah had also blessed me with good company that day. The sister’s children were chatty and engaging, sharing their interest in children’s stories, illustration, and caving, which are also passions of mine. I hadn’t seen the sister for quite a while, so it was also a chance to catch up and bond. As reverts sisters, we exchanged life stories and reflected on our own similar experiences. It’s rare to connect on such a deep level; it was a memory that will stay with me, enhanced even more against the backdrop of the park’s stunning natural beauty. The sun’s rays glistened across the rippled lake and shone through the branches of every tree, with leaves of yellow, orange, red and brown, peppered with the odd deep purple. The haunting, rasping roar of stags could be heard in the distance. Deer had invaded the golf course while others lay in the vast open grassland and deep inside the woodland enclosures.
As I was approaching the end I realised my walk in Wollaton Park only covered 3.5 kms, whereas my actual target was meant to be 5 miles. Knowing I had to keep my promise firstly to Allah and then to my donors, I said my salaams to the sister and her children and made my way to another park to complete my target. This time I walked alone and listened to my saved podcast. Getting a little carried away I managed to exceed my target. I walked over 6.5 miles but enjoyed every minute of it. It was a blessed and memorable afternoon, culminated by the most glorious of sunsets, with colours matching the orange on the Solace UK logo.
A walk is sometimes just a walk, but when you ‘Walk with Her’ there is a satisfaction like no other. I may not have walked in the shoes of many of my revert sisters in difficulty, but I was able to walk in solidarity with my other sisters in London and Manchester (albeit hundreds of miles apart). And together by Allah, we were able to raise the much-needed funds for all the revert sister support services. Alhamdulilah! I eagerly look forward to the next one and maybe if you live in Nottingham, you will be able to join me, in sha Allah.
About the author:
Aliya Vaughan has been a Muslim for 27 years and lives in the UK with her family. Her award-winning children’s story ‘A Race to Prayer’ and her second and third book in the series, ‘Turning back to Allah’ and ‘Tides of Change’ are available from Kube Publishing. You can follow @aliya_vaughan on Instagram