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Volunteers behind Romford games café set up fundraiser to put on more nights for the community

PUBLISHED: 12:00 27 October 2020

Lauren Gee - pictured on the right - started the Games Cafe in 2017 following a serious health scare. Picture: Lauren Gee

Lauren Gee - pictured on the right - started the Games Cafe in 2017 following a serious health scare. Picture: Lauren Gee

Archant

Volunteers who run a games café in Romford have set up a fundraiser as they aim to put on more nights for the community.

A family playing in one of the games nights run by DicingWithLife, a volunteer-led CIC in Havering which is aiming to expand through an ongoing fundraiser. Picture: Lauren GeeA family playing in one of the games nights run by DicingWithLife, a volunteer-led CIC in Havering which is aiming to expand through an ongoing fundraiser. Picture: Lauren Gee

The crowdfunder — created by Lauren Gee, Kriss Williamson and Michael Warden — is at almost half of its £5,090 target, having been set up just over a week ago.

Lauren explains how the money, if secured, will be used: “The crowdfunder is to buy more games for the games library, but also to put on skill-sharing workshops. We also plan to offer a lending library or board games delivery to people who can’t get to the café.”

Thanks to a fruitful partnership with Hope4Havering, the Hope Café in Market Place has been the group’s home since it expanded from offering one games night to three.

A successful fundraiser would allow the trio — who have also set up the community interest company DicingWithLife — to increase this to five nights per week.

The potential of this is not lost on 39-year-old Lauren, who reflects on a journey she started back in 2017 following a serious health scare.

She said: “In 2016 I was diagnosed with hypothyroidism, which got really serious because of my underlying disability, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome. So I was basically non-functional for a few months. I was off work, I’ve got three kids and I couldn’t really interact with them.

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“It felt like a near-death experience for me, in the sense that I realised I was just existing, I’m not really living. The things I enjoy I’m not doing, and I’m sure it’s the same for other people as well.”

From there she started the games night as a “low energy” hobby which would allow her to get to know new people, including Kriss, who she met in 2017.

Being involved in the group, which now boasts more than 1,500 members on Meetup, has given the pair a social circle they didn’t have previously.

It has had a similar impact on its other members too, says Lauren.

“We’ve had people who previously hadn’t been out, with no friends, who weren’t working. Since coming to the group they’ve made new friends, they’re studying, and they’re starting to have the confidence that they can go out there and do something in life.

“It’s a really good way for people to not recognise the differences between them, and actually just come together.”

Havering Council is backing the venture. Cabinet member for health and adult care services Councillor Jason Frost described it as “an innovative new approach to combatting social isolation by helping to build communities and friendship groups around the very simple premise of playing a game together”.

To donate, visit spacehive.com/dicingwithlife.


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