Sky's the limit for Mayor of Calderdale

The sky's the limit for the Mayor of Calderdale, who is jumping out of a plane at 15,000 to raise money for the St Augustine's Centre.

The Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale Coun Ferman Ali and Mrs Shaheen Ali with Vicky Ledwidge at the St Augustines Centre, Halifax.
The Mayor and Mayoress of Calderdale Coun Ferman Ali and Mrs Shaheen Ali with Vicky Ledwidge at the St Augustines Centre, Halifax.

The sky dive takes place on May 3 at an airfield in Brigg near Scunthorpe and will see Coun Ferman Ali free-fall at 120mph for about a minute and then at around 20mph once his parachute is deployed.

The dive will take around six minutes, and Coun Ali, who says he has “thoroughly loved” his year as Mayor, hopes to raise around £10,000.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

He said: “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do, and (previous Mayor) once Howard Blagborough did his abseil from Wainhouse Tower, I thought I should go that bit further.

“I’ve been in training for it. They asked me to get a bit fitter, doing some weight training, looking after my diet.

“I’ve done a tandem dive, and the worst part was the going up, then when the plane door opens, sitting there on the edge, looking down and seeing all the buildings like matchboxes.

“Once you’re out of the plane, adrenaline kicks in, and once you deploy your parachute it’s OK.”

Explaining why he has chosen St Augustine’s as the beneficiary of the sky dive, Coun Ali said: “From my own experience of trying to settle into the country, I know how hard it can be.

“We were work migrants and came here voluntarily, but a lot of people at the centre are from war-torn countries and have gone through hell in their own countries.

“Their life isn’t all that great when they get here. They only get £37.75 a week, which shocked me.

“After using that to get to work or college, what do they have left to live on?

“In a lot of circumstances, they don’t know the language and are coming into a new community.

“But knowing there is a place like St Augustine’s here in the ward I represent that helps them, I thought it was the least I could do to help them financially and give them more exposure.

“I’ve seen at first-hand the work they do. There are people here who don’t speak the same language but when you see them sitting together and enjoying themselves, it’s absolutely fantastic.

“If that could be reflected across the whole borough, that’s what we’re all working for.”

More than 50 different nationalities use the centre, which gives away 800 meals a month.

Vicky Ledwidge, centre leader at St Augustine’s Centre, said: “It’s come at such a good time for us. We were awarded Calderdale Community Foundation’s Charity of the Year in October, last year our founder won the lifetime achievement award and we celebrate 50 years in existence this year.

“We just get on with it, that’s what we do, but the more exposure we have, the more people will come to us who need help and the more volunteers we can attract.

“Everybody knows times are hard at the moment, but if you’re coming into the country as an asylum seeker under United Nations conventions, your life is really hard because you can’t work, you can’t study, you have £37 a week to live on and you’re in shared accommodation that is sub-standard. And these people are fleeing persecution, war or torture.

“We want to give them that breathing space, somewhere to call home. They think of us as family.

“My mission is just to keep the doors open so people have somewhere to come, and this will help to do that.”

To make a donation, visit