The Hope Café project, based at Hope Hamilton Church in Leicester, was funded in September last year. The project organises a weekly session for local women to get together, make friends, and improve their English. The project brings together people from diverse faith and ethnic backgrounds. Ros Henwood, Near Neighbours Project Support Officer in the East Midlands, tells us the heart-warming story behind the Hope Café project.

Liz Rawlings, Vicar of Hope Hamilton Church, listened and responded to the needs of the community for a place for women to meet and support one another. A Near Neighbours grant helped with publicity and catering supplies. Let me tell you the story behind the project.

On the bus one day, Liz started talking to a quiet woman in a headscarf.  The woman opened up and explained she was from Afghanistan, and wanted to meet women locally, to practise her English. In response, with a team from Hope Hamilton Church, Liz set up Hope Café. Hope Hamilton School offered the use of the community room.

Hope Café serves tea/coffee and cakes (sometimes home-made) from 9-10.30am on Tuesdays in term time. Women from Asian, African, Polish and other backgrounds meet and chat. They say Hope Café is ‘a place to be myself, enjoy sharing experiences’, about ‘making new friends, sharing ideas’, ‘chilling and chatting’, ‘relaxing’, ‘friends,  fun, food’, somewhere ‘connecting, safe, informal’, ‘a great place for us mums to get together’. Young children play together with toys, also provided by the Near Neighbours grant. 

A MacMillan fundraising event in October drew the biggest crowd ever. Felt star making for a children’s advent trail revealed the creativity in some women. Also as more asylum seekers move into our locality, Hope Café has been able to link a new Afghani family with the neighbour who had originally inspired Hope Café – and who, thankfully, spoke the same language.