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The Shoreditch cafe helping rehabilitate substance abusers

PUBLISHED: 16:31 08 October 2012

Manager Stephanie Gillespie (L) with trainee Michele Kirsch (R) at the opening of Paper and Cup cafe, a new project from the Spitalfields Crypt Trust  in Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch.

Manager Stephanie Gillespie (L) with trainee Michele Kirsch (R) at the opening of Paper and Cup cafe, a new project from the Spitalfields Crypt Trust in Calvert Avenue, Shoreditch.

Archant

Recovering drug addicts and alcoholics are turning their lives around by serving up coffee and cakes in Shoreditch.

The Paper and Cup café, which opened last month, is employing recovering addicts to help rehabilitate them.

Run by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust, a charity which specialises in recovery from substance abuse, the stylish café in Calvert Avenue is being staffed by people at least six months into their recovery.

The man behind the project, Brent Clark, explained: “This is a project which grew from the heart.

“The most exciting thing is that it’s taking people out of their history of addiction and putting them in a really trendy and beautiful environment.

“They are not addicts anymore, they are barristas when they are in there”, he added.

The only permanent members of staff at the café are the manager and a team leader, with a further seven recovering substance abusers working in shifts.

One of them is Michele Kirsch, from Lower Clapton, who spent 35 years battling addiction to valium, and who is now one year into her rehabilitation.

She said: “One of the things about recovery is that you can get very stuck defining yourself by what you don’t do. You’re always saying what you don’t do and never really what the next thing you are going to do it.

The 51-year-old, who hadn’t had a job in 25 years, added: “I don’t feel like an addict there, I just feel like a normal person in a great and lovely job.”

The café has been a hit with the punters since opening, and the Spitalfields Crypt Trust is now planning to open a second branch in Mile End in December.

The aim is to help more people like Michele by preparing them for the world of work in a safe and supportive environment in the hope that they can go on to apply the skills they develop in future employment.

For people in Michele’s position, the project is invaluable and hugely rewarding.

“I am just over the moon with it,” she said. “It’s my favourite place to go.”

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