The Garden Community Café is very much at the heart of the local community and has been for the past 12 years. In the often harsh and unwelcoming environment of Custom House, the Café offers a vibrant, friendly and safe place for people to meet and eat.
There are around 12,500 visits to the Café each year. In addition to offering a range of healthy and affordable food options, the Garden Café serves as an important community venue that works in different ways to bring the community together and improve the quality of life for local people. No other such meeting place exists in the area.
The main objective of the Garden Café is to provide a community space in order to promote:
- Health and wellbeing – giving people access to simple but healthy food at affordable prices. The Café aims to help locals to change their eating habits and help them to realise that healthy food can be appetising.
- Togetherness – bringing people together in an atmosphere that helps promote friendship and community spirit.
- Acceptance – a place free from judgment where everyone is welcome and treated with equal respect.
- Safety – a place where young and old feel safe in a welcoming environment.
Creativity – a positive and vibrant space that celebrates creativity and inspires new ideas.
- Empowerment – the Café is a catalyst for positive action, a place where people are encouraged to develop their unique abilities and make positive life choices in order to develop self-esteem and confidence, and to build life skills.
The Café has been instrumental in a number of successful community initiatives including:
Training and volunteering: providing a range of certified and uncertified training and volunteering opportunities for local people, including customer care skills training, food hygiene and first aid training. These opportunities have led to employment for some of the participants, both at the Café and beyond.
Education: helping local young people overcome barriers to learning by working in partnership with the adjacent secondary school in developing homework and after-school clubs. We also help local people develop their literacy, numeracy, communication and personal skills through training and volunteering opportunities.
Music and art: we deliver classes to local people in order to develop skills and encourage creativity.
Community events: hosting and leading on a variety of community events, including community consultations, celebration events and awareness raising.
“Chill out” space: the café provides an informal and safe place for local people to meet and relax, including elders, school students and ‘hard to reach’ vulnerable people.