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'Welcome and forgiveness'

'Welcome and forgiveness'

Tuesday 25 June 2019

'Welcome and forgiveness'

After a few months of closure, the Caritas Café has opened its doors once again and is preparing to take further steps towards helping local people through difficult times.

The community café is run by the Caritas Community Charitable Trust and aims to offer a warm drink, some food and a listening ear to anyone who needs it.

"The name Caritas means welcome and forgiveness" explained Café Manager Angela Hedley, "so the premise behind it is anybody, regardless of circumstances, problems or background is welcome to come to the café.

"Even those who may be in a situation whereby they can't afford to pay for their meal are welcome. We will feed them, give them drink, give them any support that they require in terms of if they need access to services or housing, we will give them details of people that will be able to help them."

After seven years of running the café, the charity is hoping to expand and is working on plans for a residential community.

"The idea is that all profits from the café will go towards the development of the residential community, where people who may be on the margins of society through learning difficulties or lack of family support can join us for a period of six months to two years," added Ms Hedley.


Pictured: The Caritas Café in Mill Street.

"[They will] learn how to look after themselves, develop skills that will make them more employable and then they will be able to go out and have a positive role in society. It is very difficult for people over here to access funding, grants, support and this is a way that we feel we can genuinely give a helping hand up to people that otherwise might be marginalised."

Although the charity plans to begin looking for suitable properties for the community at the beginning of next year, there is till some work to do following the café's recent reopening.

It was closed between December last year and May this year while the trustees and previous management were "moving in different directions".

"At the moment, because the cafe has been closed and there have been changes in management and changes in the charity's structure we are taking a year to get everything in place with regard to our safeguarding policies, our staff training policies, improving the experience of our volunteers and then the project for the residential community will become the focus.

"It has always been at the centre of the charity's plan that we would have this community. The café is the face of the charity in many ways, but the residential community is at the heart of what we do."

The community will not be the only change for the charity though, which is  planning to raise awareness of its work by offering some extra services.

"At the moment we are looking at providing cakes to local shops with the café's name and details on. It is significantly cheaper than you would buy from a local business because we are a charity and every penny helps.

"We have been looking at doing corporate lunches, again significantly cheaper than a business would be able to charge, and everything goes towards the people of Guernsey who need our help."

The charitable trust was founded by the Reverend Richard Bellinger, who is still actively involved with its work.

"He had the vision of creating this community," Ms Hedley said. "Because of the work that he does with all areas of society - including going into the prison and working with prisoners - he became aware of how difficult it was for them to move on after they completed their sentences and noticed there was a definite need for this.

"There are three branches to the charity. We have the Farmers' Market which meets every Saturday up in St Martin's, we have the café and then there is the Market Garden which provides us with all of our vegetables and as much fruit as possible, which we use in the meals that we provide.

“We are extremely lucky that we have links with Grow Limited and Guernsey Farm Foods who also support us by providing vegetables and meats free of charge. That means we can provide meals for free to people who can’t afford it.”

Currently, the café is open every day between 08:30 and 14:30. However, with only about ten volunteers running it throughout the week, Ms Hedley is calling for more people to get involved with the charity.

“There are lots of sessions where it is just myself and one volunteer in the kitchen. We have had occasions where unfortunately it has just been me here which does get a bit manic. But it is more important for us to be open and be there for people who need us.”

 Caritas cafe customer Sally Davis

Pictured: Caritas customer Sally Davis enjoying cake at the café.

The volunteer role can be a difficult one though, particularly for those who choose to work front-of-house.

“Nobody is turned away,” Ms Hedley explained, “so if somebody arrives here drunk or high, we deal with it. We feed them and give them the opportunity to sit down and talk. We have to be open-minded in the way that we deal with everybody. Things can get a little heated sometimes when we get people who have strong opinions. In the same way, some of our clients have learning difficulties and can be occasionally inappropriate and it’s our job to encourage them to understand that may not be the right thing to say in public.”

The charity offers volunteers some training, as well as the chance to choose which area they would like to help in with a variety of roles on offer.

“We always speak with our volunteers to find out what level of contact with the public they want to have,” Ms Hedley added. “Some people will say ‘I’m really not comfortable being front-of-house’ so we have a kitchen and preparation area upstairs and they will do backroom activities. We always follow the guidance of what the volunteer wants as much as possible.

“Everybody is DBS-checked, everybody does the safeguarding courses requested by the church and nobody is ever left by themselves in the café for personal safety.”

Those interested in volunteering can contact the café  by calling 712138 and ask for an application form or by visiting the charity in Mill Street. It is looking particularly for people who can work in the afternoon and, because of the nature of the work, all volunteers must be over the age of 18.

Meanwhile, anyone is welcome to pop into the café for food, drink and unbiased support if needed.

“Just have a coffee with us,” said Ms Hedley. “The hardest part for anybody is walking through the door, which is why, whenever possible the door is open.”

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