Volunteering at the Hope Cafe

Written by: Lesley Roome, Development Officer, the ALLIANCE

Published: 10/10/2014

Lesley Roome, the ALLIANCE, blogs on volunteering at the Hope Cafe for World Mental Health Day.

Today is World Mental Health Day and I have been reflecting on the day I spent at the The Hope Café in Lanark, a peer led project supporting mental health.

I met Donna- founder of The Hope Café- through work between ALISS and Positive Prisons, she told me all about the activities that happen at the café and the real difference it is making to people’s lives. So when it was announced that we could, as staff, go and volunteer for the day during Self Management Week, I knew I wanted to go along to the Hope Café, and see for myself.

When I arrived I was welcomed by a group of cheery volunteers, Grant and Elizabeth and one previous volunteer but now staff member of the Hope Café, Laura. Before we started Donna popped in to check everyone was ok, then Laura explained the idea behind the Hope Café and the depressed cakes concept. The Hope Café provide opportunities for people within Lanarkshire to engage in activities that are proven to support positive mental health and wellbeing and offer valuable peer support to each other. The depressed cakes help raise funds for the Hope Café and activities and are a brilliant way to get people talking about mental health. Laura explained that the cakes are grey on the outside to reflect the grey depressed mood someone with a mental health condition feels but are colourful on the inside to reflect the colourful person they are inside.

Time to try making some…

During the cake decorating the group chatted away about things going on that day and in their lives generally.  The volunteers also shared their stories with me and with each other again, I listened on and could see immediately the benefit of doing this activity together. The group offer each other peer support, they all spoke about how crucial it was for them to have this kind of support- to be able to openly talk about their mental health, without the stigma that is often attached.

One volunteer in particular spoke about all the activities he takes part in during the week which helps him to self manage his mental health. These activities include walking groups, gardening, painting, volunteering and baking.  All of the volunteers added that they felt the activities and support in the community they engage with is what helps them manage their mental health and wellbeing.

We all took a break for lunch, Donna had booked lunch for us at Café Kudos in Lanark. This is a fantastic local café who provide work opportunities for people who have autism.

After Lunch Laura, Grant and I went to Lanark Health Centre to host a mental health information stand in the practice reception along with Bipolar Scotland and the Scottish Recovery Network. We spoke with a number of health professionals and staff in the practice, most of which were already aware of the Hope Café and the opportunities it provides to people in the local community- we and the other organisations shared information about the mental health and wellbeing resources available- we also sold a few of our delicious- if I don’t say so myself- cakes! 😉

I think the Hope Café is a fantastic resource and it is clear to see the difference it is making to improving the mental health and wellbeing of people in Lanarkshire! I am delighted that Donnas work has been recognised and she won the Self Management Champion of the Year 2014. Congratulations Donna and all the volunteers at the Hope Café!

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