Alzheimer's Cafe served with an enterprise award

Free two-hour coffee sessions win praise for making a social impact. Emma Seith reports

A cafe run by primary pupils in Aberdeenshire that provides a lifeline to victims of Alzheimer's, has won an award for the enterprising way in which it is making a social impact.

The Hill of Banchory Primary School's Alzheimer's Cafe was one of 25 projects recognised last month at the Social Enterprise in Education Awards 2013, funded by the Scottish government and run by the Social Enterprise Academy.

Set up four years ago, with the support of the academy, the free two-hour cafe sessions take place every six weeks and are run by P4-P7 classes throughout the school year.

The 20 or so guests - who include carers and charity workers - come from the local branch of the dementia charity Alzheimer Scotland and receive afternoon tea and entertainment from the young people, who chat to them about their lives and tell them what they are learning in class.

P3 students fundraise at the beginning of every school year to cover the annual #163;300 cost of the cafe. An Alzheimer Scotland representative then visits the class to explain the disease, its effects and how people with dementia can be supported in the community.

The children learn that dementia occurs when brain cells become damaged and start to die, affecting what people remember, how they think and what they do. Students are told that sometimes the disease can be treated but that there is no cure.

"The most important thing we can do for someone with dementia is to show that we care and make time for them - sit and chat, listen to music, go for a walk," says Fran Kelly, assistant manager of Alzheimer Scotland's south Aberdeenshire service.

"Getting people to talk about dementia openly is really important. This project brings generations together in an imaginative and helpful way for everyone."

Sandra Ewen, head of the Social Enterprise Academy's schools programme, says: "This is about making young people aware that they have the power to change their lives and the lives of other people. It's also about building children's confidence and their leadership skills. We would love it if they ended up wanting to be social entrepreneurs, but this is about developing skills for learning, life and work."

Millie, a P6 student, says: "Our group of visitors get out from their houses. They enjoy singing songs they know and it shows people care about them. I really like making other people happy."

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