Willow Tree: much more than a community shop

Boosting skills and confidence while making a local high street safer Willow Tree makes funding raised through The Health Lottery go a long way. A place for vulnerable people to meet, cook and learn about life.

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It’s Friday lunchtime at Willow Tree in Gorleston-on-Sea, Great Yarmouth and there’s a buzz about the place. Formerly a pub, it’s now a hub where people with additional needs come together to cook, exercise and learn about life. 

There are scotch eggs in the oven and it’s a full house, but project leader Heather Sayer and 32-year-old Michael, who’s a regular and does shifts in the nearby pottery shop, Willow Tree Stores, are taking time out to talk about the wonderful work they do and how funds raised through The Health Lottery support them.  

“I became a trustee when my daughter Naomi, who has profound special needs, was 19. There was nothing for her to do at that age. Daycare costs £170 a day, but it’s so much better for people to be learning life skills. Naomi’s 33 now and she’s here at Willow Tree today,” says Heather. 

“People who come here have physical disabilities, mental health issues or developmental delay, and so many have such untapped skills.”  

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Michael is one of the talented people who regularly attend. He lives alone, with supportive carers, but has additional needs and struggles with basic maths and literacy as well as anger issues.  

“I sometimes go out on my own, but I do struggle a bit with things like money,” he says. 

“I do cooking class every Friday and I work in the store, putting out the clothes in colour order so people can find what they need. Learning about numbers means I now know which bus I need to get.”  

It’s Michael’s first job and it’s obvious to see the pride he has in it – and it’s easy to see how Willow Tree makes a difference to his quality of life. 

He’s decided he’d like to be a fitness instructor after developing a love for the classes Heather runs and he’s even learned to count down from eight to one in preparation, which is a real achievement.

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But Heather and the team’s work spreads into the local high street too. 

“We’re part of a retail group in the High Street and we want to help other shops become accessible,” explains Heather. “The people who come here know what it’s like to be in a slightly different world, so it’s important that they give back and educate other businesses."

“Gorleston High Street has embraced Willow Tree Stores and the learners and has discovered many ways to increase accessibility and disability friendliness. 

So shops in the High Street are trying their best to be accessible for wheelchairs, supportive for deaf people who use a T loop and if someone’s colour-blind we’ll make sure staff describe the difference between shades because it makes a huge difference to them.” 

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The current society benefitting from funds raised is EWA Health CIC T/A HL Wales

The Health Lottery operates on behalf of 6 Community Interest Companies (CICs), managing 6 society lotteries that operate in 12 geographical regions across Great Britain. These exist to help tackle health inequalities in their respective areas. People’s Health Trust (PHT) is an independent charity that assesses grant applications and award funding across the 12 regions. Read about some of the good causes HERE. For information regarding all funded projects or to submit a grant application visit PHT HERE. 20.34% of every lottery draw ticket and online scratchcard purchased is donated to good causes. 36.02% is spent on prizes. 43.64% is spent expenses (actual expenses exceed this figure). Our average annual proceeds from lotteries are £12.5m. The odds of winning The Big Win jackpot are (1 in 2.1m) and the odds of winning any Big Win prize is (1 in 9.7). The odds of winning the All or Nothing jackpot is (1 in 1.35m) and the odds of winning any All or Nothing prize is (1 in 4.5). The odds of winning a QuickWin jackpot is (1 in 2.1m) and the odds of winning any QuickWin prize is (1 in 6). All winning lottery numbers are selected using an approved random number generator (RNG). Click on the links below for full T&Cs and FAQs for each of our games.

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