In this blog post our Founder and National Coordinator, Beth, tells us a bit about the story so far…

When I founded Take 5 and chat – parenting additional needs, in 2015, I had a clear idea of what I hoped it would be – and also of what it would not be.

Having previously worked for a charity where contact with parents was by phone and email, I was really keen to meet parents face to face. I longed to create a physical space where parents and families could meet and support each other, as well as having access to some resources and friendly faces!  I wanted to open a Café Drop-in for parents and families who have children with additional needs. I didn’t want it to grow too quickly or to be pressured into becoming something else, or offering too many other activities!

With the backing of a few crucial people, a skill set and life experience designed for such a venture, and a whole heap of enthusiasm, I sorted some copyright for the name and logo and  launched the Facebook Page in March 2015.  From that moment there was no going back!

Our first Café Drop-in opened in Whitley Bay in May 2015 and was well attended. We kept checking with our café guests that we were offering what was actually needed and not just continuing with a nice idea, and they all kept coming, bringing their families and their friends. We soon set up a Facebook group so that parents could support each other in a safe space between café sessions, and they were full of ideas and concern for each other.

After a few months we offered some parenting courses, choosing parenting courses from Care for the Family as I was already trained to facilitate these courses, and we soon enabled another person to train too…

The courses were well received and many, many parents have participated in the various topics we have offered.

As time passed, we met throughout the year, including the children in the holidays and meeting at a park, or the beach, for a change of scene. Regular guests at the cafe joined the team and helped to support other families each session.

In March 2020 we had, unknowingly, met for the last time when our country, and our church venue, went into lockdown.

During the first lockdown we ‘shared out’ our regular café guests amongst the team and offered support online, via Messenger. Like all organisations we jumped into Zoom and met each other’s home-schooling children and an assortment of pets! Parents embraced the idea and brought Take 5 and chat mugs to the screen with hot coffee and happy memories of meeting face to face.

By May 2021 we were able to cautiously open again, guided by the church venue and the Take 5 and chat Trustees, I quickly became skilled at writing COVID Risk Assessments! For periods of time we needed a new Assessment for each session. When we met it felt strange but we soon got used to the new ways of doing things and really wanted to keep each other safe!

It’s good to be back, and we have started our parenting courses again too.

Our mission statement is short and straightforward:-

Take 5 and chat – parenting additional needs exists to help set up and/or to run Café Drop-in sessions in accessible community buildings for the sole purpose of providing support and encouragement to those parenting/caring for children with additional needs.

So, I spend quite a bit of each week responding to emails from people wanting to set up a similar venture, then arranging to chat on the phone, emailing various helpful documents and supporting them as they get started.

Why not have a think about your community? Could you set up similar support in a school, a village hall, a church, temple or mosque building?  Could you help to meet the needs of your community? Support is just an email away!

Looking forward to hearing from you!