As the Post continues its Gallowheels campaign to raise funds for a minibus for Galloway’s, NATALIE WALKER looks at the work the charity has done with the Morecambe Visitor’s former office.
Three years ago, when The Post’s sister paper,The Visitor,sold its site in Victoria Street, Morecambe, it paved the way for a new opportunity for the blind and visually impaired community.
Galloway’s Society for the Blind trustees snapped the building up, after having previously discussed relocating to the town centre for better access for its service users.
The new building, which was of great historic interest, provided Galloway’s with the opportunity to consider new ways of supporting those living with sight loss.
After setting up a focus group of visually impaired people and volunteers, the charity set up Brew Me Sunshine, which was a functioning coffee shop for the general public, as well as its service users. It also provided training and work experience within the catering industry.
Along with this, The Ideas Store was born, which is a space for those living with sight loss to try equipment with support.
Stuart Clayton, Galloway’s chief executive, says: “We were aware we were reaching less than 25 per cent of the visually impaired population and wanted to consult with those living with sight loss about their needs and how we could help to address them.
“It was also becoming increasingly apparent that traditional forms of communication were losing their effectiveness, and that we needed to raise the profile of sight loss within our communities.
“The new facility needed to enable us to provide some of the more traditional social activity based services, but also, to reach out and be attractive to a younger generation of people living with sight loss.
“We developed a focus group made-up of local visually impaired people and volunteers, we referenced the ‘Seeing it my way’ outcomes, we developed our own understanding of the sight loss journey locally, and we took the decision to be brave – we explored the art of the possible and challenged the status quo.
“The reference group was actively involved at every stage from planning to design with the architects and interior design team, the project team and contractor, and very much with the detail of each area.”
“Brew Me Sunshine is aimed at providing somewhere for those living with sight loss feel at ease, and somewhere they would confident to go to alone.
“It acts as a social enterprise, providing training and valuable work experience for those living with sight loss who wish to get on or get back on the employment ladder and transferring any profits it make back to its parent charity, Galloway’s.
“The Ideas Store is designed to provide a light, open space, for those living with sight loss to try equipment in a familiar environment and a realistic setting. A kitchen and living room set-up would enable the testing of lamps, magnifiers, gadgets and gizmos in a real-to-life setting rather than in a standard shop setting.”
In addition to Brew Me Sunshine and the Ideas Store, the building also provides a large activity room, which is available for use by other voluntary and community groups.
On the first floor of the Victoria Street building, there is Community Low Vision Assessment Room, the Talking Newspaper Studio, and an additional meeting room.
Stuart adds: “The Brew Me Sunshine site opened its doors to the public in September 2016. At only just over a year old, we still have much to achieve.
“We have not yet started the training and work experience for those living with sight loss. We want to further develop the link between coffee shop visitors and charitable support opportunities, we want to further raise the profile of the preventable sight loss agenda and we want to influence others in the health and social care sectors and the Clinical Commissioning Groups to use our hub.”
The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000 for a new minibus, which would be used to transport visually impaired service users to Galloway’s appointments; other appointments; guided activities; leisure activities; holidays and day trips; and training. The charity now needs to buy two new minibuses to keep up with demand and to support its service users. The Post has launched a campaign - Gallowheels - in conjunction with Galloway’s to raise £50,000 for a new minibus.
So far, kind hearted readers have donated £5,000. Can you spare any more? To make a donation visit http://www.galloways.org.uk/gallowheels; Call: 01772 744148 Text: GALL25 £amount, £1, £2, £3, £4, £5 or £10, to 70070 or send a cheque payable to Galloway’s to: Galloway’s Society for the Blind, Howick House, Howick Park Avenue, Penwortham, PR1 0LS.