RAF veteran helps Ipswich coffee shop in DIY: SOS style project

Armed forces veteran Nigel Seaman is opening a new branch of Combat2Coffee in Northgate Street

Armed forces veteran Nigel Seaman has opened a new branch of Combat2Coffee in Northgate Street - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

A former RAF servicewoman has helped support veteran-run Ipswich cafe Combat2Coffee in a DIY: SOS inspired project.

Veterans from across the region helped former Royal Anglian Nigel Seaman in achieving his dreams of opening the coffee shop in Northgate Street earlier this month.

The social enterprise, which raises money for charity Combat Stress and also helps to reintegrate prisoners into society, was founded in 2019 as a means to help veterans open up about their mental health and retrain as baristas.

Gemma Lacey, an RAF veteran who helped open the Combat2Coffee shop in Ipswich town centre

Gemma Lacey, an RAF veteran who helped open the Combat2Coffee shop in Ipswich town centre - Credit: Flagship

Converting the empty unit was no easy task, with former RAF technician Gemma Lacey among those to offer support after being inspired by Mr Seaman's message.

Ms Lacey, who now works for local heating specialists Blueflame, helped by installing barista machines and fitting lights and sockets.

She said: “Unfortunately, the increase in Covid-19 infections meant that I was unable to work and was furloughed.

"It is such a challenging time for everyone, so I really wanted to use my skills and do something worthwhile. When Combat2Coffee called out for an electrician, I knew I could help and give back to the community that supported me.

"As people started to donate materials, I began installing whatever they needed to make the cafe function, like the coffee and catering equipment, the lights, sockets – everything."

Most Read

Ms Lacey, who knows first-hand the mental health struggles many veterans face, added: "It was such a joy to be involved in this project. Something as simple as a cup of tea and chat can really make a difference to so many people.”

Nigel Seaman, founder of Combat2Coffee

Nigel Seaman, founder of Combat2Coffee - Credit: Sarah Lucy Brown

Mr Seaman, who also runs a smaller Combat2Coffee shop in the Spokeworx store in Princes Street, likened the project to BBC show DIY: SOS said opening their flagship cafe would not have been possible without the support of the trade.

“If Combat2Coffee supports one person personally then it will be a success," he added.

Kevin Bull, managing director of Blueflame said: “We’re all so proud of Gemma.

"Covid-19 has been challenging for everyone and more and more people are suffering with mental health. The fact that Gemma has used her time to help is great – she’s an asset to the community and to Blueflame."

Become a Supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Become a Supporter