Warm welcome for all at new centre

Beata Bagnowska, Rajab Malik and Lea Lind Binda chat over a cup of Tea.
Beata Bagnowska, Rajab Malik and Lea Lind Binda chat over a cup of Tea.

A MULTI-CULTURAL community centre has seen its services and popularity grow after moving into a new building.

The Salaam Community Centre has upped sticks from a small shop unit to bigger new premises just a few doors away as part of a £400,000 project.

Centre workers say they can now provide a wider range of services and activities to the whole community after moving into the former St Paul’s Church Hall, in Murray Street, Hartlepool.

New additions include a canteen serving up healthy snacks and refreshments, a gym filled with new fitness equipment and a large hall.

A range of courses in subjects such as food hygiene and first aid are also on offer to users.

And more development workers who are fluent in different languages are being employed by the centre.

They provide users from minority backgrounds with a Citizens Advice-style service with one-to one help and guidance.

Rajab Malik, chairman of the centre, said: “We are really pleased with how the project has progressed. We opened as a pilot project in 2002 but we have been that busy that we decided we needed a bigger community centre.

“It is not just for the Asian community, it is for everybody. Whoever comes through the door, they are most welcome.

“It is also going to help as many of the minorities from the wider community as well.”

Mr Malik, who runs a pet shop close to the new centre on Murray Street, said 26 different nationalities have used their services between December and May.

And it has received more than 600 enquiries within the last month.

The move was made possible with grants and funding from sources including Hartlepool New Deal for Communities, the Tudor Trust, Big Lottery Fund and Hartlepool Borough Council.

The Salaam Centre, which has been supported by Hartlepool New Deal for Communities since 2001, is open Monday to Friday with children’s activities at weekends.

The plans were originally rejected by the council in 2008 following complaints from residents and businesses over parking but passed last year.