An autism-friendly cafe will open in Armagh city thanks to a huge National Lottery windfall.
The development is one of two social enterprises – run by the Appleby Careers Project Ltd – which will benefit.
The new cafe will double up as an evening social venue and will be made possible thanks to a grant of close to £500,000 announced today (Tuesday).
The plans are the brainchild of the Appleby Careers Project Limited, which has ‘won the National Lottery’ – financial backing for its three-year ‘Gathering Rooms’ project.
Funding to the tune of £498,240 will support young people in the Southern Health Trust area with Autistic Spectrum Disorder.
They are taking part in activities and training at the project’s two social enterprises to improve their practical and social skills in a supportive environment.
The Print Room will train the young people through design and graphic design to create hand-crafted greeting cards.
The Eating Room will be an autism-friendly café, and a community space where families can get information on autism services. Young people sit on a committee to help manage their project.
Elaine Leonard, Company Manager of The Appleby Trust and Appleby Careers Project, is delighted with the funding.
She said: “Our project will impact on so many lives, not just on the lives of the young people taking part but on families with younger children with autism, and other young adults with autism who will use the café as a place to socialise and to get advice and guidance about services.
“There has been so much hard work from our staff, our partners in the Southern Health and Social Care Trust and the young people who have formulated the project idea.
“It’s so rewarding to be successful in the funding.
“Not only will the young people’s vision become a reality but to know that someone outside your organisation believes in your idea and is willing to invest in you is a wonderful feeling.
“We would like to thank National Lottery players for making this possible.”
Thomas O’Hanlon, Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Appleby Trust has welcomed the commitment of funding saying: “This is fantastic news for everyone involved in the Appleby Trust and Appleby Careers Project and I want to thank the Big Lottery for the confidence in our ability to deliver this project.”
He added: “Our organisation has just celebrated our twentieth birthday and what a way to do so.
“This project will run alongside our hugely successfully Print It Businesses in Armagh, Banbridge and Lurgan as well as our supported employment service and schools mentioning service.
“Autism isn’t new, but thankfully there is a growing understanding of the needs of those with autism and indeed their families.
“This facility will not just be Autism Friendly, but it will be a training facility for those with autism as they prepare for the world of work. It will give them and their families hope for the future.
“Our services support those a learning disability to those on the autism spectrum., this is a fantastic new addition to the work we do.
“Our work places the training of young people at the centre of everything we do and builds them as citizens who can play a full and active role in society.”
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