The opening of Café Connect in Broad Street, Fraserburgh, by Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, is the realisation of a vision for an internet café that will provide particular benefit for disabled and disadvantaged people in the Aberdeenshire town.
Fraserburgh Community Web in conjunction with the conversion group at Aberdeenshire Council’s Day Services in Fraserburgh identified the potential an internet café would offer in furthering its aim to create opportunities for adults with disabilities.
As a voluntary group, however, Fraserburgh Community Web also recognised the need for partners to help them achieve their goal.
Aware of its commitment and experience in developing this kind of project, the group approached Tenants First Housing Co-operative to become full partners in the venture.
On behalf of the project, Tenants First purchased disused shop premises in Broad Street, Fraserburgh. Tenants First also identified and secured grant funding for the project from the European Regional Development Fund and the Scottish Government’s Wider Role Fund.
The other main partner in the scheme, Aberdeenshire Council has leased the Café Connect premises from Tenants First and allowed Fraserburgh Community Web to use the space as a community facility.
The council’s Social Work and Employment Development Departments will also work with Fraserburgh Community Web to develop the training and learning opportunities the café will create.
Chairman of Aberdeenshire Council’s Social Work and Housing Committee Councillor Gurudeo Saluja said:
“This project will help service users develop their skills for future employment as well as enhancing their social skills too.
“Working within the heart of the Fraserburgh community I’m sure they will enjoy the experience and learn new things along the way.
“The focus of the work of the project will also provide other opportunities for the community to work together and the café will additionally be a boost for the tourist economy too as the café’s internet facilities will allow visitors to get online.”
Sandy Murray, Chief Executive of Tenants First, explained why the housing co-operative had become involved:
“There is a strong social value attached to this unique project. It will give the people involved a real purpose within their communities. That in turn boosts their self esteem and helps to bridge the gap between those with disabilities and the wider community. That is why we were keen to support the Café Connect project and help it to become a reality.
“There is no doubt that it can contribute in very real terms to the life of the town, providing help, training and opportunities and, at the same time, promoting the town through its work. We were happy to support something with such obvious tangible benefits.”
Commenting on the project, Stephen Brown, Chairman of Fraserburgh Community Web group said:
“Café Connect is our vision to develop the Fraserburgh Community Web project into an inclusive organisation that will offer help, training and opportunity for adults who may otherwise be disadvantaged. Once the café is fully running in the refurbished premises, we are keen to develop new partnerships that will add different dimensions to our work.
“The potential for making a significant social difference is very real. Everyone in Fraserburgh Community Web is very excited about what we will have to offer.”
Café Connect will offer opportunities for adults who are disadvantaged in different ways. Some have disabilities, others are victims of social exclusion and some find it difficult to get work because they are not currently in employment, education or training.
The Café Connect project was shortlisted an award by SURF, Scotland’s independent regeneration network. In their citation, the judges said:
“The judges found Cafe Connect to be a unique example of partnership working with true buy-in from many of the identified partners. In particular the judges were impressed with the ‘can do’ attitude demonstrated by TF and its attitude to risk in purchasing the cafe premises without grant funding having been secured.
“Added to this, the unique thinking in tying in Aberdeenshire Council as the landlord has meant that the cafe has a great chance of being self sustaining in the future. It was this innovation in partnership working that led the judges to agree that this project should be one of the five shortlisted applicants for the 2009 partnership category”.