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A NEW café for adults with learning difficulties and their support workers has launched in Melksham.
Shine Friendship Café is held every Friday at Queensway Chapel Family Centre, 10am to 12pm.
For adults with learning difficulties, it provides a space to meet up with friends and make new ones.
And for support workers it provides them with a rare opportunity to catch up with their peers, share experiences and debrief.
And for all of them, there is a whole host of activities to take part in, with the café playing host to karaoke and bingo, alongside snacks such as bacon butties, sweet treats, and hot and cold drinks.
Up to 30 people, including volunteers, have been attending the new café – with people from Westbury and Trowbridge also dropping in. And there are hopes that the café will grow to become a place for people across Wiltshire to come along to.
Behind the new café is Carolyn Fernandes, who is also a support worker for adults with learning difficulties. She was inspired to set up Shine Friendship Café – which launched in September – after she noticed that the pandemic had caused some meeting places for adults with leaning difficulties to close down.
“During Covid, as we were coming to the second lockdown last year, it became apparent that a lot of groups for adults with leaning difficulties were closing down,” explained Carolyn, “not just in Melksham, but across the Wiltshire area. So, I felt inclined to set up one here, so they had somewhere to go.
“Adults with learning difficulties usually have a very structured routine, with different clubs to go to – which is good for them, as it helps them to get out and socialise. But because of the pandemic, a lot of them were worried that their club wasn’t opening again. And it’s hard being an adult with a learning difficulty, you can easily become lonely or isolated just as the next person, so it was important that they have something and somewhere to go.
“So Shine Friendship Café gives them the opportunity to come together in one place and see familiar faces, which is important to them. It also helps them to build up their own social confidence.
“It’s also a place for support workers, as while we are out and about, we don’t get the opportunity to sit and talk, catch up, share experiences and debrief.
“During Covid it has been a very isolating time, for both adults with learning difficulties and support workers. We’ve created a café type environment, where people can pop in for as long as they want, have a drink and a snack, and take part in the activities if they wish. We have karaoke for the first hour, which is run by our volunteer Garreth, who is an adult with autism – it’s great to have him on board!
“And the other volunteers come from Queensway Chapel and GoodNews Church – they help run the café, so if someone comes along and they don’t know anyone, there is always someone to talk to.
“It’s been a really great experience, and exhilarating to get Shine Friendship Café off the ground – the atmosphere when it gets going is brilliant. And I think the volunteers enjoy it as much as the people that come here!”
For more information visit the Shine Friendship Café Facebook page, which is updated weekly. www.facebook.com/Shine-Friendship-Cafe-100782255551564