Right in the centre of things!

PUBLISHED: 16:02 07 June 2007 | UPDATED: 12:32 04 May 2010

Pictured from left are: Noah, Isabelle, Ella and Jan Frost.
Photo: HELEN DRAKE

Pictured from left are: Noah, Isabelle, Ella and Jan Frost. Photo: HELEN DRAKE

A SIMPLE drop-in centre in Burwell has linked the village s young and old and even offered a helping hand to the children of Africa. But when CentrePeace was launched just two years ago its founders intended it to be nothing more than a place where people

A SIMPLE drop-in centre in Burwell has linked the village's young and old and even offered a helping hand to the children of Africa.

But when CentrePeace was launched just two years ago its founders intended it to be nothing more than a place where people could call in for a cup of coffee.

LESLEY INNES looks at the centre, which from the outside, appears to be an ordinary bookshop but has proved an inspiration for local people.

THERE are not many places where you find teenagers happy to rub shoulders with the over 80s and all for a common cause.

But Burwell's CentrePeace shop has proved that it is no ordinary place since its launch just two years ago.

It started as a simple idea to provide a café in the village and has ended up as a one-stop shop offering advice, support and even raising money to help deprived African youngsters get an education.

"We hoped CentrePeace would take off," said manager, Pat Chalmers, "but we never dreamt it would be as successful as it is."

Now 40 volunteers, ranging from just 13 to 86, take shifts in the shop, selling second-hand books for all ages, greeting cards and Fair Trade items.

Crafts, jewellery and paintings, produced in Africa, help to raise money for children in Uganda, many of whom would not have the chance of an education if it were not for the sale of these items.

The money is sent to the missionaries working with the young people and Burwell villagers receive reports on their progress from resident, Judith Goddard, who works with the African team to ease the children's plight.

In a country where pregnancy forces 6,000 girls out of school every year and there are many AIDS orphans, cash aid is vital to allow the work to continue.

The CentrePeace shop, supported by a nine-strong management committee, has also become a drop-in centre for villagers seeking advice on a number of issues and it stocks a range of leaflets about health, social security and activities available in the village among others.

Burwell's district nurse, Sue Evans, is available at the shop on Tuesday mornings from 10am to 11am and Ely police hold regular surgeries there.

Now there are plans to offer a place to meet and practical help for the disabled using mobility scooters and a new website has been launched.

"We don't make a huge amount of money," said Pat, "but as long as we can cover our costs, that's the main thing.

"We have around 100 customers a week. We are on the route backwards and forwards to school and mums bring their children in because we sell a lot of children's books.

Any cash left over after all the bills have been paid helps to support the village's beautiful church rebuilt in the 15th Century.

The church has an impressive octagonal lantern tower, elaborate stone carvings and vast stained glass windows.

But in the next few years, the building, thought to be the grandest church in Cambridgeshire, will need a new roof and cash is being put aside by trustees to pay for the repairs.

On Saturday, June 16 at St Mary's Church fete CentrePeace volunteers see the culmination of their latest project when they launch their own cookery book full of favourite recipes compiled by friends and supporters.

They will also be manning a stall at the event which runs from 2pm until 4.30pm and includes live music from the St Felix Steel Band.

A variety of stalls, games and raffles will raise money for various charities among them the village's Tigers children's football club which is fund-raising to buy a new pavilion.

INFO: CentrePeace can be contacted at 38a The Causeway, Burwell. Opening times are from 10am to 4pm Monday to Saturday but on some days the shop will close between 1pm and 2pm. Website: www.centerpeace.org.uk Email: Centrepeaceshop@aol.com


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