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Bristol community champions meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak

A Bristol husband-and-wife team who run an autism- and neurodiverse-friendly shop enjoyed an unforgettable visit to Downing Street this week to share their inspiring community work with the Prime Minister.

Community champions Lucy and Richard Smith, owners of Your Village Shop, located within ExtraCare’s Stoke Gifford Retirement Village, were invited as guests of their local MP Jack Lopresti. Jack invited the Smiths after visiting the retirement village and seeing the benefits of their community engagement. The pair were Distinguished Visitors of the Speaker of the House which meant they had front-row seats to watch Prime Minister’s Questions before joining a community event at 10 Downing Street.

Discussing a range of topics over the day including neurodiversity, skills and education, the story of Your Village Shop, and some of the incredible achievements of residents at the integrated retirement community (IRC), they were joined by 100 other community champions and their MPs. After attending lunch at the House of Commons they met with PM Rishi Sunak at Downing Street.

Sharing their experience and learnings with the Prime Minister was a personal highlight. Lucy comments:

“We explained to the Prime Minister that we opened Your Village Shop two days before lockdown, three years ago. The shop kept a community going throughout lockdown. He was impressed when we said that our intention was always to create an inclusive shop – not just for customers but also for employees and that now our shop is a pivotal part of Inclusive Change At Work CIC, a neurodiversity work experience programme helping adults and young people gain skills and experience to help them towards employment.”

Rishi Sunak was interested to hear about this as this plays a part in his commitment to economic development.

Lucy adds: “It was incredible and inspiring. To be chosen as a community champion from our constituency of Filton and Bradley Stoke (FABS) was humbling. It was empowering to be able to experience and see democracy in action and to talk to our MPs with real and honest conversation. Never in a million years did we expect to be telling the prime minister about Your Village Shop and Inclusive Change it is simply incredible to be honoured for our work.”

Jack Lopresti commented: “It was great to host and welcome Lucy & Richard Smith from Your Village shop Stoke Gifford to Westminster and to introduce them to the Prime Minister at 10 Downing Street to thank and acknowledge their fantastic efforts as community champions, particularly, during the pandemic. Lucy & Rich are an inspiration!”

The Smiths’ inspiring community work shows the power of inclusivity and the difference it can make in people’s lives. This experience is in fact just the latest in a run of community achievements. They have recently secured £18,000 of further funding from South Gloucestershire Council to continue developing and running their work experience programme and to create more opportunities at the shop and beyond.

Inclusive Change will also be supporting one village resident with a £1,000 grant to help him develop a talking therapy group that explores the topic of acquired disability and ageing. The work of the Smiths and other community champions continues to impact and inspire others to embrace a more inclusive future.

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