A joy to be involved and feel the buzz

Places of Welcome are safe spaces for everyone to belong, connect and contribute. They can be a lifeline for carers, people who are bereaved, or people struggling with loneliness.

Fifty new Places of Welcome have opened over the summer. Places of Welcome are weekly spaces where everyone is free to connect, belong and contribute. Some meet in churches and some in secular venues.

Chat Cafe Warminster Small

At the Chat Café in Warminster, a Place of Welcome that meets in a theatre, Graham describes the difference that attending makes.

“I come here to get away from my problems. My wife died a year or so ago and she was caring for my son, who has disabilities. The Chat Café is a place where we don’t need to discuss the hospital or illness; we can just have a break.”

A keen gardener, he has been able to offer advice about tomato-growing. “I’ve met people here with allotments, and I used to have a big garden myself, so we chat about gardening. I brought some tomatoes in because they want some seed from the tomatoes I grow which are … Moneymaker crossed with Alicante.” He shared some tomato seeds for people to plant. “When I brought the seed last year, they were all wanting to see who got the reddest tomato or the biggest one.”

He added: “This café is just as it should be, and you can meet new people here. It gets me washed dressed and out the house and, you know, [it] gives you something to talk about, coming here.”

Tanya, a Prevention and Wellbeing Officer with Wiltshire Council, works with the café and encourages new referrals to try it.

Michael, the lead volunteer, said the idea for the café came out of wanting to address isolation after the lockdowns during the pandemic. He and another five people joined with Warminster Action Group and a local church to find volunteers for the café.

“The commitment to volunteering every Thursday was something I considered could be draining, but it has honestly been a joy to be involved,” he said. “To come up here and feel the buzz, and the fact that so many people come in and appreciate it has been very affirming.”

They have been given some funding from the Town Council to run a pilot evening café for people who are unable to attend during the daytime.