An autism-friendly cafe and evening social venue could open in Armagh.
The development would support 15 young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to gain qualifications in finance and enterprise – as well as providing practical work experience in an existing social enterprise.
But in order to deliver the project, the public’s support is required to help ‘win’ the funding required.
The Appleby Careers Project – an Armagh City-based charity which helps people with disabilities train for the world of work – has been shortlisted as a finalist in the Ulster Bank Skills and Opportunities Fund.
It is now in the running to secure over £18,000 for the project – but needs the public to vote to make this concept a reality.
Appleby Trust general manager Elaine Leonard is asking locals to show their support.
She told Armagh I : “The Ulster Bank Skills and Opportunities Fund would allow us to grow and develop our concept of an autism friendly café which could also double up as an evening social venue for those on our projects.
“If we can secure these funds it would help kick start our project.
“This first stage of the project will support 15 young people with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD) to gain qualifications in finance and enterprise as well as practical work experience in an existing social enterprise.
“They will then put their newly gained skills into practice, helping to make the gathering rooms a reality.
“This has the potential to be a very exciting project for those who need and use our services.”
The Appleby Careers Project, based in Armagh City Shopping Centre, has been operating since 1998 and provides a range of different support services to people with disabilities.
The project helps participants train for the world of work through supported employment schemes including the hugely popular ‘Print It’.
The work which the group does seeks to help people with disabilities through personalised innovative programmes to experience work, be part of their community and grow in confidence and self-belief whist helping break down barriers, prejudice and stereotypes.
Chairman Thomas O’Hanlon said: “The company continues to grow from strength to strength and we operate across Armagh, Banbridge and in the coming weeks this will extend to Lurgan with the opening of a new Print IT business in the town.
“Our operational model is first and foremost a training organisation for those with a disability and about letting them build their self-confidence and skills.
“We have an ambition to grow the organisation and offer new opportunities in new areas of work.
“We have plans to open another work based facility based around coffee shops/cafés. This will be another training option for those young people with a disability who want to gain access to the world of work.
“We need the people’s support to secure this funding.
“Seven similar organisations across Northern Ireland have been shortlisted but only two will get funding.
“I would appeal for everyone to go online and vote for the Appleby Careers Project.
“Your support would be greatly appreciated and it’s about more than securing funding – it’s about providing essential services in our community.”
To vote, click on the link http://skillsandopportunitiesfund.ulsterbank.com/vote/
Voting closes at noon on Friday, April 20, with the winners announced on Friday, May 25.
Please show your support!
*Main image for illustration purposes only