‘Seeing beyond disability gave me a chance’
From being unable to read to star employee
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.
James Tombs has got a job in Specsavers in Cheltenham