‘See­ing be­yond dis­abil­ity gave me a chance’

From be­ing un­able to read to star em­ployee

Gloucestershire Echo - - FRONT PAGE - By PHILLIP THOMP­SON

UN­TIL six months ago James Tombs, who has a learn­ing dis­abil­ity, was un­able to to read or write.

Keen to work, the 36-year-old de­liv­ered tele­phone di­rec­to­ries and vol­un­teered for a num­ber of or­gan­i­sa­tions.

But his dream was to find a pay­ing job and be part of a team.

“No­body wanted me”, James said. “I handed out lots of CVS and went for loads of in­ter­views.”

Thanks to help from Go­ing the Ex­tra Mile char­ity, James is now a ‘val­ued mem­ber of the team’ at Specsavers in Chel­tenham, and is look­ing to make our com­mu­nity a safer place.

GEM is an ini­tia­tive run by the Glouces­ter­shire Gate­way Trust, which “helps peo­ple deal­ing with cir­cum­stances that are po­ten­tially caus­ing bar­ri­ers to them find­ing em­ploy­ment”.

In Oc­to­ber 2017, James met GEM nav­i­ga­tor and de­vel­oper Joe San­ders through Na­tional Star Col­lege.

James said: “Joe was re­ally help­ful. He said I can al­ways talk to him about any con­cerns, and call him if I want on other jobs in the fu­ture.

“He took me to in­ter­view prac­tice, which re­ally helped when I came into Specsavers.”

James is putting to­gether a ham­per for St Valen­tine’s Day, to raise money for a de­fib­ril­la­tor that can be ac­cessed on Chel­tenham High Street, even af­ter the shops have closed.

He said: “I’d like to put it out­side the shop be­cause if the shops are closed you can’t get hold of one.”

The chances of sur­vival fol­low­ing a car­diac ar­rest ‘de­crease by 23 per cent per minute,’ so it is vi­tal that med­i­cal treat­ment is given as soon as pos­si­ble.

The team at Specsavers think their fundrais­ing ef­forts for a de­fib­ril­la­tor could be the dif­fer­ence be­tween life and death and hope to reach a tar­get of £1,800 in the com­ing months.

James de­cided to launch the ‘ham­pers for hearts’ cam­paign in a bid to raise at least £100 to­wards the cause.

The ro­man­tic ham­per will be filled with ro­man­tic good­ies and treats, and will be raf­fled off on Fe­bru­ary 14.

Store di­rec­tor at Specsavers Chel­tenham, Me­lanie Brack­stone, said: “James is an as­set to the team here at Specsavers and what he’s de­cided to do is ab­so­lutely bril­liant.

“Con­sid­er­ing less than a year ago he couldn’t read or write, we are ex­tremely proud of him for launch­ing this cam­paign.

“It just goes to show how great the GEM project is and the dif­fer­ence it can make to peo­ple.”

Me­lanie added: “We’d also like to thank the lo­cal busi­nesses and cus­tom- ers who have kindly do­nated some ex­cel­lent prizes for the Valen­tine’s Day ham­per so far and helped to get our fundrais­ing off to a great start.

“De­fib­ril­la­tors save lives and it’s so im­por­tant that peo­ple in our com­mu­nity can ac­cess them when needed.”

Tidal Train­ing, based in Chel­tenham, of­fers com­pre­hen­sive train­ing on how to use a de­fib­ril­la­tor and fol­low­ing his ef­forts the team there have in­vited James in for a ses­sion.

James said: ‘I’m so grate­ful for the sup­port so far with the “ham­pers for hearts” cam­paign.

“Thanks to Su­perdry for the two red hood­ies and to ev­ery­one who has been so keen to help.

“The next ham­per we’ll be work­ing on will be for Mother’s Day, with more com­ing through­out the year.”

Specsavers are ap­peal­ing to lo­cal busi­ness if they can help with the ham­per too; as gift cards, cof­fee and tea vouch­ers, cho­co­lates and res­tau­rant vouch­ers would make great gifts.

The firm were de­lighted to of­fer and cre­ate a role for James, who now works in the lab clean­ing glasses, putting them in the cor­rect cases and get­ting them ready for cus­tomers to col­lect.

James said: “The GEM project has re­ally helped me. I’m so happy to fi­nally get the chance.

“It’s nice that some­one can see be­yond the dis­abil­ity, and that’s all peo­ple like us need.”

You can visit the store in Chel­tenham on High Street to pur­chase raf­fle tick­ets, for the draw on Fe­bru­ary 14.

Pic­ture: Kevin Fern Photg­ra­phy

James Tombs has got a job in Specsavers in Chel­tenham

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