A community-run café in Brackenwood, a small estate in Leeds. The project brings together local residents who can volunteer at the café or use it as a social space, bringing together different generations and people from different backgrounds.

Brackenwood Community Association Highwood Community Café

Residents of Brackenwood estate previously had few places to meet one another, and many felt isolated. BCA Highwood Community Café provides a space where residents can socialise, eat, or learn skills and gain work experience through volunteering.

As a community-run organisation, the café is reliant on volunteers and opens five days a week, offering breakfast, lunch, snacks and hot drinks. It is one of the few places in the local area where reasonably priced hot food is available, and many people who use the café are on low incomes or receive benefits.

The café provides an opportunity to meet new people and develop social connections and skills. All volunteers are funded and supported through food and hygiene training courses and learn professional food preparation and service skills as part of their role. Volunteering helps them form friendships and build confidence, and volunteers have helped run groups that were in danger of closing.

Volunteers and the wider community are encouraged to contribute ideas for the improvement of the café. Regular steering groups and feedback sessions are arranged so that the café and wider community hub can be adapted to offer new activities to suit the needs of those it serves.

The Highwood Community Café operates as part of the Highwood Building, a community space offering other activities such as yoga, bingo nights, and karate classes, as well as a parents and tots groups. The café is an important part of the hub, offering a space to learn new skills, socialise and access low-cost food.

“Although our community is small, people barely knew their neighbours even before lockdown hit and there was a real sense of isolation. Through volunteering and running the cafe, people have made real friendships and it’s given residents the chance to meet one another.”

Alyx Dawid

Volunteer Development Co-Ordinator at Brackenwood Community Association

Funded by People’s Health Trust using money raised by Health Lottery Yorkshire and Humber