Springhill Tesco customers help create a lifeline for people with sight loss during lockdown
Ken Carson and Pauline Canning from Bangor are on a fundraising mission to sponsor two new RNIB Talking Books for the 56,400 blind and partially sighted people in Northern Ireland, and many more across the UK, for years to come.
Over the past year – when restrictions allowed – Tesco Springhill staff kindly hosted a Charity Second-hand Book Stall on behalf of the fundraising duo, where customers could take a book and donate towards sponsoring a new Talking Book for RNIB’s library, raising an amazing £2,500 in total.
It costs between £1,500 to £2,500 for RNIB to produce a Talking Book, and demand for books is rising, with a whopping 47.5 per cent increase in listeners within the last three years.
Many blind and partially sighted people describe RNIB’s Talking Books as ‘a lifeline’. With over 32,000 books to choose from and over 200 popular magazines and journals, it’s the biggest library of its kind, with books available in a choice of formats (CD, USB and download).
Fundraising duo Pauline and Ken, also known as the ‘PK Blinders’, worked together previously and are now firm friends. Ken, who retired when his sight deteriorated significantly due to a condition called optic neuritis, said: “Pauline came up with the idea to fundraise when she was assisting me at an RNIB NI event and realised how difficult it can be losing your sight and not having the same access to books and things that you can often take for granted. For someone who likes to read, it was devastating for me at the time of my diagnosis. I only learned about audiobooks three years ago and I was dubious, but they’re amazing.”
Pauline said: “Until you see it firsthand, you don’t appreciate some of the barriers. I am an avid reader and the thought of not just being able to pick up any book and read it really struck me. I thought we should fundraise for more Talking Books to be added to the RNIB Library.
“We’d like to say a great big thank you to all the wonderful people who supported the book stand, especially Andrea at Tesco and her team who brought the books in and out, ensured they were cleaned and sorted out the donations.
“We’ve been amazed at the support from the community in Bangor so far, with previous events including a bag pack and pub quiz. We’ve now raised over £4,500, nearly enough to sponsor a second Talking Book!”
Ken continued: “Whenever it is safe to, we have a night of fun and music planned in the Goat’s Toe, Bangor and everyone will be welcome!”
Tesco Springhill’s Community Champion, Andrea McFarland, said: “We have been running the charity book stall for four years now and it’s a great way for charities to raise funds. We’re so pleased such an amount was raised during the past year, especially as we had to remove the stall for a few months due to safety measures.”
Ken also set up an Audio Book Group in the Bangor area two years ago. Tim Crawford is one of the members who enjoys reading and talking about favourite books. Tim said: “RNIB’s Talking Books are a godsend in a lot of ways. I’ve been blind my whole life so have used braille and audio books since I was a kid going through school.
“I like a wee bit of everything: from history to biographies, anything music or sport related. Stephen King and Ken Follet would be some of the favourite authors.
“Before the pandemic, I would’ve been pretty active – involved in local walking and men’s groups with the Trust, and would’ve met with friends for a drink on Saturday nights. I’ve really missed that social side of things. Thankfully RNIB has lots of online groups that I’ve joined and reading helps fill in the rest of the time, as well as keeping up with my four children!
“Getting access to books opens up a whole world of information. That’s why I think it’s so important more are available for all ages in accessible formats and wish Ken and Pauline all the best with the fundraising.”
If you’d like to get involved with fundraising for RNIB’s Talking Books service, please let us know!