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‘Cafe has been a valuable oasis for our son’
10:58am Thursday 15th December 2011 in Beyond the Headlines
Euan is a teenager and attends drama school in Bradford four days a week, catching the train and bus with his friends Jack and Catherine.
He’s my third child, can be a bit moody or stubborn, has a brilliant sense of fun, adores fish and chips and James Bond. In short, a source of constant delight, aggravation, joy and stupefaction.
So, everything normal there then. Except that he was born with that extra ingredient (a chromosome) that means he has Down Syndrome, and is therefore not ‘normal’. He has special needs, or additional needs, or is differently-abled – choose the term that’s most comfortable. I worry what Euan will do when he leaves Mind The Gap, and hope he will find employment.
The Oasis Café, which is threatened with closure, was set up by Churches Together in Ilkley (or CTI) in 2000 to help people like Euan get started. It opens two days a week (Thursday and Friday) and offers brilliant lunches and teas. It’s on the Leeds Road, opposite the pet shop.
Euan was at the grand opening – he was a pupil at All Saints School then – and went on to help at the café when he reached the right age. It gave him confidence, an awareness of the adult world, and the need for personal hygiene. (All teenage boys need an Oasis Café moment.) There are about 40 adults like Euan in Ilkley, some with Down Syndrome, others with different abilities, but all in need of that extra bit of help if they are to achieve their potential. CTI2000 supply that help brilliantly through several projects.
The café has been helped in particular by All Saints Church, who offered them two-day use of the premises for free. Last year, Bradford College cut services in Ilkley and the tutor who had run the café – Margaret Poole – took early retirement. The café closed for several months, while a promised replacement was hunted.
When it looked like the café wasn’t going to re-open, the new vicar at All Saints offered the premises to a group called Sanctuary, who are coming to Ilkley to spread the word of God through prayer. Sanctuary need the premises six days a week – so all other community groups that have shared them with the Oasis Café team will also have to move.
As we now know, the Oasis Café is very much alive, having been taken over by parents and parishioners who couldn’t wait any longer for that promised tutor. It is currently doing a roaring trade and Margaret Poole has come back.
But next September, Sanctuary will move in. Christians in Ilkley are divided at the moment, with many unhappy to see the young adults at Oasis Café forced to find a new home in a town where rents for shop-front premises are high – £40,000 minimum has been suggested.
“I think we are a bit confused about where we are on this,’ said Stuart Jenkins, vicar at Ilkley Baptist Church. “It’s not a great place to be.”
There’s talk of Morrisons buying Glovers garage and maybe offering space there – one part of the site used to be a chapel – but nothing’s certain.
Euan gained a lot from his time at Oasis Café and the church has done him, and people like him, proud.
Let’s hope those outside the church can take over – I’m up for it. You?