Help! North Walsham’s dementia cafe is so successful it needs extra volunteers to expand

Users and volunteers at the Dementia cafe at the Salvation Army Resource Centre in North Walsham. Pi

Users and volunteers at the Dementia cafe at the Salvation Army Resource Centre in North Walsham. Pictured is Carol Brawn and Jean Miller. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A new social event for people with dementia has proved so popular that organisers want to launch a second weekly session.

But they will need more volunteers before they can expand the Cameo Cafe, held at North Walsham's Salvation Army Furze Hill Resource Centre.

The Tuesday get-togethers, which were only launched last November, regularly attract up to 16 people with dementia, plus their carers, for coffee, activities, lunch and a chat and organisers have already extended the time by an hour, from 10am-3pm, to cater for demand.

Susan Brand, treasurer of North Walsham Dementia Support Group which runs the cafe, said it was answering a huge need.

The cafe is believed to be the only weekly social event in the area for people with dementia and Mrs Brand said, with the huge growth in the number of people diagnosed with the condition, such facilities were vital.

Although organisers had the expertise to 'signpost' cafe users to other services if they had particular problems, the main emphasis was on enjoyment.

'It's not about coming here to talk about dementia,' said Mrs Brand. 'It about coming to have some fun and to share.'

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Activities have included singing, painting, quizzes, raised bed gardening, keep fit and knitting.

Several of the regular 13 volunteers have introduced their own hobbies to cafe-goers and organisers hope new recruits will also want to share any special interest or skill.

Group secretary Carol Dunnell said none of the volunteers had dropped out which was an indication of how rewarding they found the sessions.

'There's a wonderful atmosphere here,' she said. Several visitors have said that, as soon as they walk in, you can feel how friendly it is.'

Organisers hope that extra volunteers will mean they can open the cafe on Thursdays as well. Volunteers would be asked to help at one session per month, unless they wanted to do more.

The group is also appealing for donations. The Salvation Army has let the cafe use its centre for free during the first six months but cash will then have to be found to pay for its hire.

Money is also needed for activities and to help run a Salvation Army minibus which the group could use if needed.

For more information ring vice chairman Alan Rose on 01692 407904 or Mrs Dunnell on 01692 405239.

North Walsham Dementia Support Group is one of the three charities for March which shoppers can support at the town's Waitrose store.

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