Hackney GIving

Spotlight on Coffee Afrik

by David Kingsley, Communications & Information Officer

Coffee Afrik CIC is a community-based organisation that supports local residents with a range of projects around mental health, addiction, the social isolation of older people and homelessness. They also operate as a wellness hub, a drop off point, and a place where everyone is welcome.

Their focus is the UK, but they also work with women in Africa creating microbusinesses and planting coffee beans for the community. During the pandemic, they have placed an emphasis on supporting individuals from the Somali community in Hackney, providing wellbeing sessions and promoting female empowerment in the Somali Community.

Coffee Afrik were the recipients of three separate grants from Hackney Giving during the coronavirus pandemic. The team at Hackney Giving wanted to get an insight into the successes of the projects and programmes facilitated by Coffee Afrik, and to ask a few questions about their success.

The three grants in question were for culturally sensitive therapy sessions (Coronavirus Response Fund), the employment of a Somali Community Navigator (Crisis and Recovery Grants), and a contact point support for Somalis in the community (COVID-19 Information Grants). We spoke to Abdi Hassan, Founder and Operations Manager at Coffee Afrik, to find out more.

DK: How have the Somali women that you work with adapted to the projects that you have been facilitating over the last year?

AH: We adapted our services as part of our Community Navigation project and provided tablets for our clients so that we could continue to provide support via our referral pathway service, which focuses on culturally competent pathways and care plans for the most vulnerable women in our society.

DK: How do you feel that community-based services can be more engaging to Somali women who feel they do not need them, or avoid / reject them as they may not understand how they work?

AH: Community services need deep reform and funding from the Local Authority and the Clinical Commissioning Group to ensure that they are culturally competent. Employees must look like the communities they serve, that safe spaces are mobilised and that we really begin to grasp how structures should reform locally.

Our women feel uncomfortable because services have let them down time and time again. It is key that funding reflects fairness so that we can better work with our service partners in a sustainable way. Despite Hackney's large black community, services are predominantly managed by white colleagues who may not always grasp cultural nuances. We should be employing our young POC (people of colour) so that we can heal bridges and transform our communities.

DK: As I myself am a Black and Minority Ethnic individual from an African Background, and somewhat understanding of the stigma surrounding mental health in some of our communities, what obstacles have you faced with engagement from the women that you work with, and what advice would you give to other individuals or organisations working alongside similar groups?

AH: One word, trust. Engagement is a real art and often protracted. It is key that we humble ourselves. Originally, we were too fast and too quick, we are now totally person centred and much more compassionate. As someone with Personality Disorder, and an expert by experience, I have seen in my work with NHS England as a Board member, that making someone feel comfortable is key.

A big thank you to Abdi Hassan

More about Coffee Afrik (extracted from their website)

“The vision and aims behind the project have been led by a passion to co-ordinate a peer-to-peer support program for older Somali women in the borough who are currently facing a mental health epidemic. As the only Somali focused organisation in Hackney, we found ourselves in a very unique position to offer such a service. The approval of this grant has allowed us to reset, pause and focus on our client's healing.

In addition to facilitating the breakdown of mental barriers, by empowering our clients to lead their own peer to peer support whilst co-producing our referral pathway model. Our core belief is to impact lives, working across East London, running workshops that consist of five ways to well-being, tree of life, anti-bullying, creative arts & change, employment & empowerment, female entrepreneurs co working hubs, coding, new business start-up advice & support, mature arts session with afternoon tea, open mic nights, celebration of Africa plus many more.”

Visit the Coffee Afrik website

“I feel more optimistic about my future. I am coping better than before. I have been more motivated to take charge of my life from the knowledge that was provided on this program.” - Participant at Coffee Afrik.