Cafe Thursday – YMCA Exeter
In 2018 we began a community wellbeing café on a new housing estate, in partnership with a community association and wellbeing agency. The vision was to encourage our residents living on the estate to have a positive impact on their community by engaging in meaningful occupation and building their mental health resilience.
We also recognised that there were no community activities to unite the other residents living there and people were experiencing high levels of loneliness. The café is run every week, and our YMCA residents run the café twice a month. Volunteers run the café the other two weeks. At the café we serve free refreshments and residents take a lead on running craft, IT support (including typing up CVs for unemployed members of the community) and providing hospitality.
One of our residents, who previously has not wanted to even leave their bedroom, is now teaching knitting at the café and has recently asked to take on responsibility for the IT support provided to members. Another resident, who passionately led the IT support at the café, has since moved on from YMCA accommodation and is now employed by us as an IT technician. The fact that he spent time volunteering as an IT volunteer meant he could build his CV enough to be employed in this sector!
The success of our innovative café approach is spreading through the community so much that weekly attendance is sky-rocketing, including single mums and elderly people.
Volunteers are increasingly stepping forward to support our residents in the running of the café, and we’ve now been approached by a large regional housing association to run a ‘Holiday hunger’ group during August, tackling food poverty on the estate.