The first NCBI shop has opened in Donegal town, bringing with it great stock, great stories and great support for people with sight loss. We meet the people behind it.

Donegal’s first shop for the National Council for the Blind of Ireland (NCBI) has just opened, bringing volunteers and employment to Donegal Town.

The NCBI helps people who are living with sight loss through advice from support workers assistance, counselling and training. They have large print books, talking clocks, magnifiers and so many other practical things to help people with impaired vision.


NCBI have a Santa letter service

Some of the lovely festive things that NCBI are doing this year is the North Pole News. Children who are blind or vision impaired write to Santa and the NCBI elves reply in Braille, audio or large print.

The NCBI also sell Christmas cards in Braille and scented candles to make dark days brighter for the 224,000 people who are experiencing sight loss in Ireland.

The Donegal NCBI shop sells new and used clothing and bric-a-brac, with profits going towards funding the NCBI’s services in the county.

There are 2,006 people in Donegal who are blind or visually impaired.

Donegal Woman talked to Willamena Lynch, the store manager to find out about the often overlooked aspects of a charity shop. We also hear from a local woman who has lost her sight in one eye, while both of her sons have sight loss.


NCBI store Donegal Town, located in Donegal Town, Diamond Carpark beside Lillie’s flower shop in the Aldi complex


Willamena Lynch and her three sons


Willamena Lynch has been managing Donegal’s first NCBI store since it opened four weeks ago. The Scotland native has been greatly impressed by the generosity of people if Donegal.

“The best part of my work is meeting new people. You also have regular customers and you get to know them well. There’s a lady who is gradually losing her sight who comes in just to have a chat.”

“The people of Donegal are fantastic, they bring in all sorts of donations. One lady came in recently and just gave money, she wasn’t buying anything and just wanted to support the NCBI.”

The NCBI says that there are 2,006 people in Donegal who are blind or visually impaired. Donations to the shop are shared out among the local community and go towards providing NCBI services.

Willamena manages a team of volunteers, and is passionate about promoting the wide range of stock they have.

Not all items are previously-owned either. Willamena explained that new shoes and jewellery are bought in at reduced rates, allowing the shop to sell them on at very low prices.

Seasonal style

“A lot of people are coming in looking for dresses and outfits for Christmas staff nights out. We have some lovely chains and necklaces to go with them. We also have a men’s rail with shirts, suits, trousers and we have loads of kids clothing.”

“Recently we had a lady bring in an expensive wedding outfit that was only worn once. You never know from one day to the next what’s coming in.”

The stock is always changing in the shop, as Willamena sends it to the NCBI Head Office every two weeks for items to be shared around the country. In this way, there is always variety.

Willamena has been very pleased with the amount of customers buying from the shop this month, and hopes people will continue to support it in the New Year.

“You’re getting something for yourself but you’re also giving something back.”

How it helps

Christmas stock in the NCBI shop

Christmas stock in the NCBI shop

Margaret Kelly from Inishowen is one of the people who benefit from the NCBI shops. Margaret lost the sight in her right eye at the age of 14 due to a retina detachment; she was then diagnosed with Retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2001. Margaret has two sons who have sight loss and use the services which NCBI provides.

Margaret says “I am at the stage where I am aware of lights; my eye condition then affects my mobility and things such as TV and craft activities”

Margaret first came into contact with NCBI with her son, when he lost his sight due to a retina detachment. She then came herself in 2001.

Margaret began using a variety of the services which NCBI provide, “I began with mobility training where I learned how to use the long cane, I learned how to use different types of technology such as a screen reader and the jaws applications for my computer which allows me to read and email because I can no longer write letters”

“I use the NCBI online shop for things such as talking clocks and kitchen aids. I also use the NCBI Library for downloading books quite a lot. My younger son uses the library too for large print books”.

Advice and Reassurance

“The NCBI Community Resource Worker is a great help with giving us advice, they are a huge support and a big reassurance for anyone with difficulties, they have such a positive attitude which helps you to maintain a positive attitude and build on that”

“Through these services I was able to learn new skills, NCBI showed me new ways to adapt to maintain my interests which makes my life a lot fuller, these new skills replace what you have lost”.

Margaret says “ I would recommend contacting NCBI to everyone, even in the early stages, I would say get support before your sight loss affects you emotionally”.

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