Coffee hero changing the world 'one sip at a time'

Nigel Seaman Picture: CHARLOTTE BOND

Nigel Seaman is this week's community hero - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

A conversation over coffee can make a world of difference to someone suffering with mental health issues - as community hero Nigel Seaman is proving.

He launched his Combat2Coffee charity just over two years, predominately helping ex servicemen and inmates at Suffolk's Hollesley Bay prison.

“It’s that conversation with somebody on that day that might be the only conversation they have. That can change someone’s day," said Mr Seaman.

He continued: “One of the prisoners who has done the project came up with the slogan ‘change the world one sip at a time’ and I think that’s what we do.” 

The idea was born out of the struggles that Mr Seaman, a veteran himself, was facing in his own life at the time.  

“I’d had a breakdown in my mental health through service in the armed forces,” said Mr Seaman.  

“I always said I wanted to do something with coffee because there are no KPIs." 

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Combat2Coffee supplies coffee to the café at Spokeworx bike shop in Ipswich and also has its own coffee shop in the form of The Coffee Cell in Northgate Street in the town.  

In Hollesley, the project has a coffee roastery which is staffed by inmates from the nearby prison.  

But rather than running at a profit, the coffee shops and roastery offer a means of outreach - the conversations he has had over coffee have allowed him to identify those who need a helping hand.

“Make enough money so we can pay the rent and pay the wages - that is basically it,” he said.  “It’s not about upselling.

“If someone wanted to chat, I'd rather the business be a little bit slower to help that person than just ignore them.” 

The charity also offers rehabilitation and training.

“It creates employment opportunities for those who may not be given the opportunities when they are released from custody,” said Mr Seaman. 

“It offers support for anyone in the community if we can find it and get it for them."

Mr Seaman said that the project was having a real impact. 

“One of the guys we are working with in custody, who does lots of our roasting, a year ago he wouldn’t have associated with anybody.

“He now integrates with communities within the prison, it’s given him more of a social tool.  He has become a great ambassador for the project. 

“I also helped someone get registered for the doctor; they had a mental health concern and had run out of medication.  

“I printed off the doctor’s form and told him where to go in town to register.  If I can fill a form in to help someone, why wouldn’t I do it.” 

As well as helping others, the work he does is also helping Mr Seaman and his own recovery.  

“I have bad days and I have triggers which cause my PTSD to elevate. I don’t pay myself from the project, it’s a sense of therapy for me. 

“I feel I have found my calling.” 

This calling would not have been possible without the help of Mr Seaman’s mother.

“My mum gives me inspiration because she and my stepdad lent me the money to get this going,” he said.

“She had seen my journey and even though she was worried she could see what I was trying to achieve. 

“The people I work with also inspire me because you realise how lucky you are.” 

The project is continuing to grow with Mr Seaman having recently signed a deal with a national coffee machine company.  

He has big dreams for the future of the project.  

“We have a high street brand in the making,” said Mr Seaman.  

“If a philanthropist came in and said here’s a £100,000 it would explode.  I’d have a community roaster in Ipswich and a shop in Colchester.” 

If anyone would like to chat with Mr Seaman and needs help, they should email nigel@combat2coffee.co.uk or call 07903944473. 

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