Recovery Enterprises introduced Foundations Café in September 2019, starting with a 6-week volunteer induction programme including input from a range of partners. They have engaged and supported the development of 20 café volunteers, who are mainly people in recovery. In entering into a partnership with FareShare, an organisation redistributing food in tackling food waste, the café is able to provide a three-course home cooked meal for £2 each Friday between 5 and 8pm at the Howard Centre, Kilmarnock. Since commencing on 1st November, the café has welcomed over 400 customers.
The café provides a supportive and informal community hub, providing opportunities for people to freely give of themselves and contribute to the well-being of the community, which volunteers are gaining an appreciation of their own self-worth with new found hope and purpose; developing skills and confidence, relationships developing, feeling part of the community; enhancing self-management.
The café model is educating and raising awareness within a broad range of the community, demonstrating people can change and achieve a better way of life when afforded support and opportunities, along with the contribution and value to the community. The cafe offers an alternative to the more traditional ‘treatment’ options.
The recovery café is a unique approach in East Ayrshire; driven by people with lived experience where their views, passion and life experience are central; giving insight into the needs of the local population. This model is fully inclusive that breaks down barriers to engagement and enhances social involvement, particularly as the café is open of an evening. This also creating social support networks.
The following volunteer impact statements highlight new found hope and purpose. It is testament to their commitment in recovery becoming more visible. Positive developments have been evident where stakeholders welcome access to a recovery asset and a strong desire building on initial achievements where activities increase, and the nature of addiction and recovery being normalised.
Volunteer 1: ‘The cafe has been an absolute life saver in a way that I could never possibly imagined. I went in there with an unsure attitude. Everyone couldn’t be kinder despite their difficulties. It’s an absolute honour and privilege being part of the team. It now gives me a reason to get out my bed on a Friday. I’ve been given this amazing opportunity and have loved every single second of it. I was completely lost and honestly has meant so much, not just to me, but my support team of GP and Community Psychiatric Nurse, and my family, who have noticed my hunger for life again. I’ve met the most wonderful people like myself. Our boss’s passion has been passed on to each and every one of us who work amazing together. I have a purpose and a light at the end of the tunnel. I never believed 8 weeks ago I would be where I am now. I have made friendships for life. I’ve made a difference to the most vulnerable people, something which I never thought possible’.
Volunteer 2: ‘I had to go to another area to further my recovery. I volunteered in their recovery café, and now in full-time employment. When hearing there was to be a recovery cafe in East Ayrshire, I was so excited as my family and friends needed support for their recovery. We all have hope for our futures, giving back to our community. Older folk, parents, professionals, kids, homeless guys, church folk are so supportive. All coming and enjoying the positive experience of good food and company’.
Volunteer 3: ‘I would have two choices on a Friday- sit at home dwelling on taking the shit to escape that’s taken 4 close friends’ life’s in the time I’ve been involved in the café or chasing recovery in North and South Ayrshire. Thankfully my Friday’s are now spent positively in East Ayrshire recovery café. I feel part of my community. I’ve also made friends, which I struggle achieving outside the café. The training has helped me feel very able and boosted my self-esteem tenfold. I’ve learned I am likable with a caring personality; the customers like these qualities, I’ve never liked me so why would they?! The café offers me great hope and to be a part of its foundations make me feel like an asset to my community instead of a burden, which I have always felt! The café offers me recovery that services don’t. I’ve felt alone finding stuff for my recovery. The Foundations Café offers me the chance to be part of others recovery and supporting them by using my experience’.
Volunteer 4: ‘The cafe creates an informal setting that allows people to relax and speak candidly with less fear of judgement as they can speak to people with similar experiences to themselves. I feel this has reduced isolation and helped to occupy my time. I feel this is an often-overlooked issue. Finding something meaningful to fill the time/vacuum can really make the difference’.
Volunteer 5: ‘I feel the cafe provides something tangible and purposeful that council and NHS services cannot. Helping people to get clean is great, but then what?! Without something constructive and meaningful to participate in, you can slide back down the hill rather quickly. Empty time and idle hands are, for me at least, the enemy. Associating with other people actively pushing to improve their lot is something that is inspiring and can give those following behind hope that they can do the same. Learning new skills is a huge positive and being seen to be adding something valuable to the community gives a feeling of hope, pride and self-respect that has not been there for a long time’.