This post was written by Rufaro, aged 16, second place winner in our Young Persons’ Writing Competition 2019.

Throughout my life, I have always had a yearning to travel abroad and see the world: To see the northern lights turn the sky into a canvas filled with swirls of oil paint forming a mystical abstract interpretation of a rainbow; to feel the soft fur of Koala’s arms and the cold hard scales of Amazonian reptiles; to smell the mixture of medicinal flowers and plants at the brink of extinction inhabiting the world’s rainforest; to hear the high pitched shrills of dolphins as I submerged underwater to unravel the marine biodiversity; and to taste Italian baked pizza drizzled with an array of cheeses from mozzarella to feta to cheddar to every cheese imaginable… except blue cheese – I’m sorry but any cheese with area’s of blue and green should not be edible. Anyway, I’ve always wanted to travel abroad… not within England therefore it may come as quite a shock when I say that, one of my most memorable trips was to Liverpool.

Yes, I know, what you are thinking: why Liverpool? Before you judge me and vow to never read any of my blog posts ever again, hear me out. When I first encountered Liverpool, all I saw was a city, nothing special. Concrete floors, museums and art galleries loitered in the city but it was nothing remarkable, nothing noteworthy, nothing I hadn’t seen before.

Then, I saw Squash. It was a square building decorated with parallel wooden planks situated in the middle of a residential street, opposite a fire station. Outside the shop front, there was a sign which read “Cafe shop garden”, how could it be all three? The door was transparent yet decorated with a painted picture of an animated fruit tree beckoning me to enter. I was intrigued.

Upon entering, I quickly felt it’s welcoming, family feel and felt relaxed. I could see shopping items at one end, with a till and menu at the other whilst through the door, I could see various crops growing outside. As I found out more about this amazing shop, I became even more fascinated. Squash was a social enterprise, meaning that it was a business which was sustainable and benefited the local community. It was built of mainly wood, which unfortunately despite being located opposite a fire station, had led to the original building burning down. If it hadn’t been for the owners’ resilience and willingness to restart the project and rebuild Squash, this cafe/shop/garden would never have existed.

As I sat down in Squash, I noticed a lady, who as soon as she entered began speaking to the employee as if they were old friends catching up. Then I realized, they were old friends catching up because instead of the employee-customer dynamics mainstream shops tend to have, which involves being cordial but not building friendships, Squash had somehow changed its dynamics and created a community where people could come and immediately feel accepted whilst shopping or have a vegetarian green soup – if that’s what you desired-  or just enjoy the amazing atmosphere inside this little box shaped wooden café / shop/ garden.

As I walked through the streets of Liverpool, I began seeing more and more social enterprises, which like Squash had managed to embody a community into a business. I visited a non-alcoholic bar which also served as a poetry café. This multi-purpose social enterprise was a social hub whilst also a profitable business for the owner. Somehow the words “social enterprise”, two words I had never known before visiting Liverpool, were hiding around every corner from the award winning small pie shop (called home baked) to the café embedded within houses. Even when I returned home, I began to notice social enterprises around me, something I probably would never have done if I hadn’t seen the wooden shop opposite the fire station in Liverpool.

Sometimes when we think about travelling, we always plan to go out of the country we live in even though we have yet to explore the cities around us. Therefore, I challenge you to visit a city in the UK that you’ve never been to before because I believe through travel, no matter how local, people can begin to gain a new perspective on life and learn new things that will enrich their lives. When you go:  look around, ask questions and fully immerse yourself into discovering the city and maybe, just maybe, you too will discover your own little box shaped wooden café/shop/garden.

About the Author

Rufaro Tom, 16 years old.
Second Place Winner- The Tourist Trail Young Persons’ Writing Competition 2019