Project lead Capt Retd Ram Pun Cllr Hollingsbee and some of the young people

A community centre for the district’s Nepalese residents has opened its doors for the first time on Thursday 7 October.

It’s hoped the Folkestone Nepalese Community Centre – located beneath Cheriton Library – will help build strong relationships in and across communities, as well as provide support to older and more vulnerable residents.

Gurkhas living in the area have wanted a community centre of this kind – which includes a welfare support office, a meeting room, event and socialising spaces, and an IT room – for many years.

Folkestone Neplease Community Centre ribbon cutting ceremony

That dream has now been realised thanks to a partnership with Kent Coast Volunteering and support from Folkestone & Hythe District Council and Kent County Council.

The centre will be run by the Folkestone Nepalese Community (FNC), a charitable incorporated organisation, alongside the manager who will be employed by Kent Coast Volunteering (KCV).

Project lead Capt (Retd) Ram Pun, who is also a trustee of the FNC, said: “Some of those in my community, especially in the older age groups, find it harder to access services and participate in group activities. Having our own community centre will make a huge difference.”

Some existing KCV projects, as well as F&HDC’s monthly veteran hub, will move to the community centre and form part of a programme which is currently being developed to cater for all users.

Kerry Smith, CEO of Kent Coast Volunteering said: “We were delighted to be invited to partner with FNC on this project.

“Thanks to funding from the Armed Forces Covenant Fund Trust ‘Tackling Loneliness’ and ‘Force for Change’ programmes and funding from The National Lottery, KCV will play a key role, working alongside FNC to develop and establish a thriving community centre, helping to combat loneliness and through our Digital Champions programme, and better connect Nepalese elders to services and activities in their community.”

F&HDC has supported the project through its ward grant scheme and some funding towards core costs. Support and advice was offered throughout, while area officers also helped with redecorating the interior of the centre.

Cllr Jenny Hollingsbee, F&HDC Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Communities, added: “We’re pleased to have played our role in delivering a facility that can be used by our Nepalese community and all of the district’s residents. It is a place that will help facilitate a deeper understanding of Nepalese history and culture, as well as further strengthen integration.”

Kent County Council has been very supportive throughout the process in setting up a lease agreement with the community. They also provided some funding through Cllr Rory Love’s Combined Member Grant towards refurbishing and equipping the kitchen.

Mike Hill, KCC Cabinet Member for Libraries, said: “The Nepalese community members are regular users of Cheriton library, and we are delighted to welcome the community to the library building in this new capacity. We look forward to working in partnership together and continuing to support the community with our services and facilities”.

The centre officially launched on 7 October and will be open weekdays between 9am and 5pm. For more information call 01303 398055 or email communitycentre@fncuk.org

By Ed

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