Who says that one person can’t make a difference? The imagination and hard work of one person was able to bring 10 public access computers, 3 laptops, 2 Xbox 360’s, 1 PS3, 1 Wii, 4 32 inch widescreen TV’s, high definition projector, 1 apple Mac, midi, video camera and recording studio completely free for anybody in the local community to use. Of course after the initial inception of the idea a team from the local community assembled to support the project and make the thing happen.
The brain child belongs to Tom Barker he is now the managing director of Needham Market Internet Cafe Community Interest Company. Tom’s idea was to provide a space for bored teenagers who did nothing but kick around the streets aimlessly on the evenings and weekends. The other aim was to bring IT to the rural community with the hope to modernise. All of this needed to be done in what is called the ‘third sector’. The third sector includes charities – it’s what exists between the state and the private sector. It’s basically the range of non-profit organisations from voluntary groups to charities to community interest companies to co-operatives. Basically the whole scheme requires funding from private and public sources, to be run by volunteers but is completely free for use.
Within a couple of years and after the completion of hundreds of funding bids the project finally got off the ground. It is fantastic to see that one of the local authorities has now donated £10,000 to the project. The following is the article printed in Mid Suffolk Local Strategic Partnership Magazine
The Needham Market Internet Café provides a warm and safe place for young people to go where they can access modern technology, play games, take part in activities and socialise. The facilities are completely free and have proved extremely popular with local young people.
Funding from the LSP has allowed the Needham Internet Café to purchase a Wii and to extend the hours of the Youth Worker. This has led to several improvements at the Café.The extension of the Youth Worker’s hours has enabled the Café to open up more space to young people. This space The Needham Market Internet Café provides a warm and safe place for young people to go where they can access modern technology, play games, take part in activities and socialise. The facilities are completely free and have proved extremely popular with local young people.
Funding from the LSP has allowed the Needham Internet Café to purchase a Wii and to extend the hours of the Youth Worker. This has led to several improvements at the Café.
The extension of the Youth Worker’s hours has enabled the Café to open up more space to young people. This spaceincludes pool tables, table-football and TVs which can have games consoles plugged into them. Tom Barker, Managing Director of the Café, commented: “the kids are really chuffed that they can use the space, and they’re really happy that they can play pool”. The space has increased the amount of room for informal socialising, and has also given older teenagers the opportunity to have some responsibility over the space. Tom added “opening up the main room has made the atmosphere more manageable and relieved the stress on volunteers”. This is important as there are sometimes as many as 40 young people using the café at once.
The Youth Worker, Natalie, has proved to be a hit with the young people, especially the girls who are enjoying having a younger female role model working at the Café. Natalie has done some arts and crafts with the young people, including making clay pots and drawing. It is hoped that in the winter the Café will also be able to run some cookery courses.
The girls in particular really like the Wii, which can be placed in a separate area to give them some space to themselves where they can socialise in a less boisterous environment. The Wii and the employment of a Youth Worker have improved the gender balance at the Café, and the Café has received great feedback from the girls.
Around 60-70 young people now use the Café every day, and it has been extremely popular during the summer. There can be up to 20 young people waiting outside the doors when the Café opens at 2pm, and the building is generally very busy until around 6pm when some younger users go home. It is clear from the attitude of young people using the Café that they really value the facility and respect those who run it for providing them with somewhere to go and things to do. (Issue 2 Autumn 2010)
In my opinion these sorts of schemes represent a bright future for community based investments. All it takes is one person to have a great idea and pull in all interested parties to make the idea come to life. As the project grows and becomes more successful the number of volunteers also grows, contented parents who can see their children happy and occupied eventually sign up and become a part of the Internet cafe community.
Anybody can become part of the company and eventually be voted onto the board of directors. The scheme is completely non-profit but the way in which it profits the community is priceless. Some community needs are just simply not provided for by the normal capitalist enterprises, so in some cases charities, community interest companies or government organisations need to step in and fill these gaps.
The real benefit of this project is it cuts the bureaucracy associated with government schemes down to the very minimum. The youth club run out of the same building provides only a few hours of service a week (some weeks zero hours service) for the youth of Needham Market. The youth club is expensive for tax payers, difficult and slow to administrate. The Internet Cafe is free to use and provides six hours a day of service for the youth.
It would be great to see more schemes spring up like this over the UK and also oversees. The business model is fool proof and proven to work. Community interest projects can plug the holes that normal businesses models cannot.
Hats off to Tom and all the people that made it happen! Market Internet Café http://www.needhaminternetcafe.org/
01449 722 660 (opening hours only)
07747 460 301 (evenings only)
Needham Market Internet Cafe