FROM COMBAT TO COFFEE… WE SUPPORT VETERANS’ NEW WELLBEING CAFÉ IN BURY
Thanks to a grant from our community investment fund, a group of army veterans has opened a new well-being and mental health cafe in Bury St Edmunds.
Combat2Coffee is the brainchild of former Royal Anglian soldier Nigel Seaman. Having spent 12 years in the army before becoming a prison
officer, he was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and sought professional help for his mental health. The support he received from veterans’ charities Combat Stress and Help for Heroes gave him a fresh lease of life, and he felt compelled to give something back to other former servicemen and women in his position.
Major Ian Robinson, Nigel’s former regiment colleague and Combat2Coffee volunteer, explained: “He had the idea that if you sit and have a chat over a cup of coffee, you can work through some of your issues. It’s not rocket science, but simple ideas tend to work.”
More from Combat2Coffee
Since setting up Combat2Coffee as a community interest company in 2018, Nigel and his team of volunteers have launched a coffee shop inside Hollesley Bay Prison near Woodbridge, and another at the RSPB site at neighbouring Hollesley Marsh.
Ian said: “Our coffee comes from a roastery at the prison; the inmates work there as part of their rehabilitation. They also work at the coffee shops, receiving barista training and soft skills like teamwork. The idea is that, when they come out of prison, they’ll have skills they can use in their future life.” He added: “Some of the prisoners who work at the coffee shops are veterans themselves.”
Coffee2Combat in Bury st Edmunds
With two branches also now open in Ipswich, the idea was borne to launch another hub in Bury St Edmunds. And that’s when Ian got involved. He said: “I’d said for a long time that I wanted to help Nigel and the team. Then a former colleague of ours took his own life so that acted as a catalyst.” Along with fellow Royal Anglian veterans Major David Granfield and Captain Tony Buff, Ian took on a mammoth fundraising challenge to bring the dream of the Bury branch to life.
“We did the Welsh 3,000 challenge, where you climb the 15 highest mountains in Wales in 24 hours,” explained Ian. “It was harder than we thought it would be – we were expecting to be as fit as we were when we were younger!”
The challenge raised £10,000, and publicity from the adventure meant the team was given unexpected “financial, practical and moral support” to launch the branch at the Constitutional Club in Bury’s Guildhall Street.
This help included a £2,742.66 grant from Havebury’s community investment fund, which paid for the refurbishment of the club’s kitchen. Meanwhile, our contractors Aaron Services provided a state-of-the-art new cooker and installed it free of charge. And happily, the new coffee shop is now open from 9am to 4pm, Monday to Saturday. Ian said: “We’d like to thank the whole team at Havebury for their support and the fantastic donation which enabled us to furnish the kitchen. Without this, we wouldn’t have been able to open.”
Coffee2Combat and mental health
Ian and his fellow volunteers hope that, like its counterparts, the Bury café will offer a ‘prevention rather than cure’ mental health service for veterans and civilians alike. “The café is a safe space for people to come and build their resilience,” he said. “We hope we can stop people getting to the point where they need professional help. But if they do, we’ve got links to organisations that can help.”
He added: “This has been a really positive experience for all of us and I’ve enjoyed giving something back.”
Visit www.combat2coffee.co.uk for more info, or pop into the café – all are welcome.