4th birthday of Gofal’s food cooperative which successfully provides work experience and a community hub for people with mental health problems
A food cooperative, run by mental health and wellbeing charity Gofal in Caerphilly County and provides people who have experienced poor mental health with practical work experience and a community atmosphere is celebrating its 4th birthday.
The co-op is run as part of Gofal’s Pathways to Employment service, which provides a specialist service to people with mental health needs, assisting them to access or retain employment, access education and vocational opportunities, or re-discover skills and abilities that they may have lost.
The wider impact of the scheme has resulted in a real community of people who have come through or are currently accessing Gofal’s services meeting weekly at the food co-op. The weekly session means that people get a chance to catch up with friends and build up their confidence in a safe and welcoming environment.
The food cooperative is ran by volunteers in Gofal’s office for the charity’s Gwent services in Oakdale, and its 4th anniversary saw staff and participants hold a celebration event.
Julie Rees, Senior Case Worker for the Pathways to Employment service said: “As we celebrate four years of the food co-op it’s amazing to think how this has developed from a tiny idea. It’s not about the fruit and veg, it’s about friendship and a sense of belonging, giving people a purpose and reducing isolation, reducing the stigma around their mental health, giving individuals hope and building on aspirations.
Paul, a volunteer at the food co-op, said: “The food co-op isn’t just about food, it’s about coming together, talking, sharing, laughing, helping and love, meeting new people, trying new things and expanding your horizons.”
Andrew, another volunteer, described his experiences: “When I first arrived at the food co-op I was a shadow of myself. I was anxious, had no confidence and did not want to go out. Through the co-op I have met people and made friends and we meet outside the session for a coffee, it’s a great atmosphere. I am now a volunteer and feel like my life is back on track.”
Louise Evans, Director of Services for Gofal, added: "The food co-op has changed so many people's lives in the past 4 years. It is not just a place where people get fresh fruit and vegetables, but a place where friendships are formed, new skills are learnt, and most of all a place that gives people a sense of belonging and purpose. All these components are key to a person's wellbeing and recovery. A big thank you to all the volunteers and staff, who make this brilliant project work and without them it wouldn’t be possible.”