New partnership with two local charities

Common Grounds' new charity partners

We’re excited to announce that two local charities have agreed to partner with us and will benefit from our annual profits giveaway – amounting to £2,600 in 2015.

The new partnership marks a shift away from supporting global development charities since we began twelve years ago.

This year, South Belfast Foodbank – working with people struggling to put food on the table, and the Belfast Friendship Club – helping to integrate newcomers to Belfast, received £1,300 each from Common Grounds.

One of the things that we hope makes us unique as a cafe is that, after we’ve paid our staff and covered our running costs, we give all our profits away to charity. It’s been in our DNA right from when we started way back in 2004.

Since then, we’ve donated more than £60,000 to charities helping vulnerable people is some of the poorest places of the world – from Myanmar to Mexico and Mozambique.

As one of the first ethical sourcing, fair trading, social enterprise cafes to be set up in Northern Ireland more than a decade ago, our motto has always been: Think Global, Act Local – affirming our desire to “create a demonstration of welcome and community at a local level that also reaches out to the wider world with compassion and generosity.”

Today, south Belfast is an integrated, vibrant community made up a rich mix of cultures from all over the world. That’s why this year – and for the next few years – we’re committing to hand over our profits to two great home-based charities who are impacting local and global communities right here on our doorstep.

Providing a sense of belonging and mutual support

Stephanie Mitchell, who runs the Belfast Friendship Club, described the partnership as “a joy”. The weekly club has been meeting in Common Grounds for the past seven years and attracts between 30-60 people, sometimes from as many as 25 nationalities.

“Common Grounds is ‘home’ for us and accommodates our huge and unruly family with a big heart and a ‘people first’ philosophy that fits perfectly with our ethos. They support us in every way imaginable and often at very short notice,” she said.

“Common Grounds is ‘home’ for us and accommodates our huge and unruly family with a big heart and a ‘people first’ philosophy.”

The Friendship Club welcomes and connects people who are new to the city with those already more established and many local people. Its members include visiting students, professionals, volunteers and interns who have moved here to work, as well as people who have fled their home because of conflict, persecution or disaster and arrive seeking asylum, hoping to be granted refugee status.

Stephanie said that this year’s donation from Common Grounds will be used to increase the scope of their work with asylum seekers – by supporting their Global Kitchen catering training project which “promotes wellbeing and offsets the hardships of the asylum system.”

Global Kitchen students have the opportunity to refine their cooking techniques, and showcase their national dishes, as well as learn basic food hygiene and preparation skills.

“The money is being used to provide more opportunities for our members, particularly asylum seekers and refugees, to join in with a range of activities that increase the sense of belonging and mutual support,” said Stephanie.

The food goes directly to people caught up in poverty

The other half of our profits from 2015 have gone to support South Belfast Foodbank which is helping to tackle food poverty in the area. Since opening at the end of 2014, the local food bank based in the Mornington Community Centre in Lower Ormeau has received about 44 tonnes of food and distributed it to more than 4,000 people – ranging from locals who struggle on low incomes, to asylum seekers who often have limited means to access food.

Bruce Gardiner-Crehan, one of the organisers, said the local food bank has already benefitted from having a donation-point shopping trolley parked in the cafe. He said it puts a huge smile on his face to see it filling up. So far, almost half a tonne of food and essentials have been donated by customers.

“Common Grounds’ customers are very switched on to local and global justice issues, and care deeply for their city.”

“The partnership is so important because, firstly, we benefit from people’s generosity – the food goes directly to people caught up in poverty. Secondly, Common Grounds’ customers are very switched on to local and global justice issues, and care deeply for their city and surrounding area. Some then get involved in volunteering.”

The money will be used to help South Belfast Foodbank run an Eat Well, Spend Less cookery course by providing training and equipment. The six-week course teaches people to prepare two simple dishes a week along with some basic budgeting tools.

“The dishes are easy to prepare, and the recipes break down costs so that anyone can afford to cook from scratch and give it a go.

“It’ll give people who think they can’t cook more confidence. It might also benefit those who enjoy cooking but don’t spend wisely. There’ll be lots of hints and tips to make shopping more affordable. I really hope that people eat more healthily too, by choosing to cook from fresh rather than buying expensive, ready-made meals.

“We also look at how we can help, not just with food, but in other ways, with vital advice, sign posting and prayer,” said Bruce.