“WE laugh with the people who laugh and cry with the people who cry. We just hang out,” says Barbara Hayward who runs the Tea4U café at Enniskillen Presbyterian Church.
The former Devenish College teacher runs the café to help people of all ages and all walks of life to connect with others and break the chains of isolation that many find themselves in.
Back in 2014 the Church did a community audit to find out what was going on in Enniskillen and if there was anything they could do as a group of people to help with anything.
When the results came in, they found that loneliness came back as a big factor within the community and Barbara, with the help of a number of volunteers, set up the café the following year which opens its doors every Friday for people to have a cuppa, a bite to eat and to make new friends.
She said: “The interesting thing was that loneliness was spread across the age-ranges. There were young single mums and there was some level of poverty that meant that they couldn’t go out and say, buy a coffee and a muffin for a fiver.
“If they did go out, they would wonder about the town and maybe stop by in the library for a bit of heat. Beyond that, there were not a lot of facilities for them.
“We decided to see what we could do. So back in July 2015, we set up the café which would be run by volunteers. The café would be open to all where we would provide a warm space, a basic lunch of soup and wheaten bread, cup of tea, a scone and some company to have a chat with if those coming in wished to do so.
“We also have a price suggestion – not a price list regarding our menu. We say to people, if you can’t afford to put 5p in, that’s fine. Of course most people don’t abuse it to that degree and we’re really happy to take what we get.
“On days where we get any extra money once we’ve paid for the tea, coffee and other supplies, we give that to the Christians Against Poverty group which usually comes to a couple of thousand on an annual basis.”
Given the audit’s highlighting of loneliness within Enniskillen, Barbara states that the café has served as a solid starting point for isolated people to build a network of new friends.
She added: “A lot of people do want company and then, we they come back, there is someone there they can connect with, do some catching-up with and connect with others as well.
“Say we have a chat with ‘Mary’ – as an example. We find out from ‘Mary’ that she’s really arty and we say well maybe you’d like to meet ‘Theresa’ who’s also arty as well.
“So ‘Mary’ and ‘Theresa’ connect and they meet other people via each other.
“We do little trips as a lot of people who come through our doors don’t drive. One example, which nearly broke me one day, was a 78-year-old man I took out to Castle Archdale one time. He said to me, ‘I really enjoyed that Barbara – I’ve never been here before’. He is Fermanagh born and bred but because he is on a low income, he has never had a car and I suppose the bus route to Castle Archdale isn’t good.
“Because he had never married or didn’t have anyone who could take him out there, he never went until we took him. It was awful to hear but at least through the networking that the café has, we were able to do so.
“We’ve had older people and people out of work have come here as well and have met and made good friends via this place – as have I.
“We more or less jump to the door whenever we see people coming in. We introduce ourselves and ask if they want their own space so you can be on your own or if you want someone to have a chat with, I’m very happy to come and join you.”
To read more.. Subscribe to current edition