As Covid-19 started to become a reality for the people of N. Ireland and the questions around lockdown changed from if it happens to when it will start, the team at Crumlin Community Hub sat down and looked at what lockdown would mean for their local community.

They created a service that fulfilled both the practical needs of those who were vulnerable and shielding as well as one that support families and individuals affected by the loss of income and struggled to managing with the rising costs of essentials as lockdown took hold and the panic buying meant that basic essentials were unavailable.

Volunteers were kept busy collection and delivering medication, shopping, collecting urgent supplies, delivering items from the food bank, delivering fresh meals cooked on site and also offered a telephone befriending service.

As the service continued to support more and more individuals in many different ways, one thing became very apparent. As a town that way always thought be affluent with very little issues, lockdown revealed a very different story.

There are people who have always struggled but never mentioned it before. Lockdown itself made it easier to ask for help as a whole community were confined to their homes. Individuals and families who had always found a way through their struggles, suddenly had no other option than to ask for help.

We discovered the most wonderful people struggling for many different reasons – loneliness, isolation, financial difficulties, issues that can affect an individual’s over emotional health and wellbeing.

In engaging with our service, they had the opportunity to talk on the doorsteps with out volunteers. Some of their situations were heart breaking through no fault of their own and our volunteers did their utmost to provide emotional support and be their connection to the outside world. For many our volunteer was the only person they spoke to all day.

As lockdown started to ease, we realised that the emotional and practical support that we had given to each and every service user would end. For some this would be beneficial, they were ready to get back out into the community, for others the end of service meant that they were losing the connections made with volunteers, . For the most vulnerable in our society it could have a very detrimental effect on their mental health. We had supported these individuals since lockdown began and there was no way we were abandoning them now. As a charity whose main provision is mental health it just wasn’t an option.

We looked at various ideas and came up with the Nurture Café, our version of an honesty café. Individuals can come and get a warm meal, cuppa and pay what they can afford. There are suggested donations to help cover the costs; it is up to an individual and their conscience how much they decide to pay. While here they can engage with our volunteers, form new connections, have somewhere they can go to and get them out of the house without it costing a fortune. For many cost is a big factor that prevents them from engaging with others in the community.

Our reasoning behind this type of café is due to what we have learnt about the need within the Crumlin community during lockdown. There are many who are isolated, lonely, who don’t like to go out alone, others who simply cannot afford anything other than basic food and household bills. This is a day to day occurrence for them and was going on long before the lockdown. The community as a whole may not have known about them but thanks to lockdown we became very aware of them.

This is our way of looking after them.

The Nurture Café is based at The Crumlin Hub on Mill Road and is open from 7.30 – 2.30 Monday to Friday and will hopefully be opening weekends soon. Call in for some coffee and company.

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