North Ayrshire Council

11/29/2022 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/29/2022 13:35

Café Solace volunteers are in the spotlight this Adult Learners' Week

Posted on 29 Nov 2022

An adult learning opportunity that is on the frontline of fighting food poverty is the work of the Café Solace network and we are spotlighting them this Adult Learners' Week.

Café Solace is a series of Community Cafés in Irvine and the Garnock Valley, delivered by people in recovery and those who support recovery from addiction, by volunteering and giving back to the local community.

With affordable, nutritious food and access to information, the goal of Café Solace is to help volunteers reduce feelings of isolation in a warm, safe and supportive space. Here, they can gain valuable skills through learning and training while experiencing the far-reaching benefits of advocating community empowerment.

Café Solace Irvine is open on Tuesdays at Fullarton Connexions from 5pm-7pm - 3 course meal is £2.50, £1 for single course & we run a pay it forward scheme for anyone in need who can obtain a voucher covering the cost of a meal (discretely of course!)

Café Solace Kilbirnie is open on Fridays at Bridgend Community Centre from 5pm-7pm - £2.50 for 3 courses & kids under 12 eat free with an accompanying adult.

In November 2021, Café Solace Kilbirnie was awarded £49,723 from the Garnock Valley Locality Partnership's Community Investment Fund. This funding, together with an award from The National Lottery Communities Fund, will contribute to Café Solace establishing a new post of a full-time Food Development Worker for a period of three years.

The new Food Development Worker will provide learning and development opportunities in a range of contexts to help to address food poverty and engage with a wide range of community members, volunteers, partners and customers.

Café Solace has recently launched the Solace Hub, which is a drop-in facility at Bridgegate in Irvine town centre. The drop-in is for anyone who needs support and information in relation to addiction. It is manned by peer volunteers who will give a listening ear and signpost to relevant services.

At the drop-in there is also a variety of services dropping in to give advice on specific topics, such as money advice, housing and health matters. The hub is open on Fridays from 10am - 3pm. Everyone is welcome & refreshments will be provided.

Café Solace also hosts an activity drop-in group at the Argyle Community Centre in Saltcoats on Thursdays from 12pm-3pm, activities include music, arts, crafts and guest speakers.

Each of the Café Solace locations is also providing local access to low-cost food, while helping people recovering from addiction to get back into work by gaining transferable skills through volunteering.

The skills learned then allow the volunteers the chance to feel part of their community again and also give them the know-how to prepare affordable, nutritious meals on a budget - a skill more important than ever in the current Cost-Of-Living crisis.

Café Solace work alongside a host of other groups that promote the wellbeing of the wider North Ayrshire communities and is supported by North Ayrshire Council's ADP (Alcohol & Drug Partnership) Link Worker. The holistic support provided at each community café also successfully signposts volunteers and visitors to other useful services including health, wellbeing, education, and employability resources.

Recently, we met with volunteers at Irvine's new Solace Drop-In, located at Bridgegate, to learn more about how the café has helped them.

Derek commented: "I'm currently volunteering at Café Solace and the community gardens at Irvine allotments. Being involved in Café Solace has been brilliant. It has helped me to come out my comfort zone, meet new people and it's been helping my mental health."

Continuing upon her recovery journey, another volunteer called Nichola added: "I've been involved in volunteering at both the Vineburgh Community Centre and the new Café Solace drop-in over the last three years. Over the pandemic we helped with the emergency food drive and now I have been volunteering in the kitchen and listening to and helping others like me, visiting the drop-in.

"Services like the drop-in have been great to build up my confidence again. Often those with addiction problems can also have mental health issues to overcome, so to feel supported by the team at Café Solace and the chance to meet other likeminded people going through the same has been really great for me.

"It's also given me a chance to give back to my community and learn new skills not only in kitchen but also to work towards employability qualifications such my Mental Health First Aid training and REHIS (food safety and hygiene) which is great for my future and I am now employed part time at Fullarton Hub supporting a Mental Health support group.''

Councillor Alan Hill, Cabinet Member for Islands and Communities commented: "Café Solace is a really positive project that helps those in need to access food with dignity and provide a bit of company. At the same time it helps local people affected by addiction to connect with each other and gain much needed support and encouragement.

"We are proud to continue to support the teams across the Garnock Valley, Three Towns and Irvine to help their volunteers and build upon the skills in the hope that we can help them to get into employment and lead happier, healthier and more fulfilling lives. The project is also helping those is our communities experiencing food poverty to find their own solutions to reach positive outcomes and become more independent.

"So whether you would like to volunteer while gaining support from your peers or wish to access a low cost, good quality meal, why not get in touch with Café Solace?"

To get involved visit your local Café Solace Facebook page:

Join the North Ayrshire Virtual Community Centre Facebook Group to learn more about Adult Learning in North Ayrshire: