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Langdon books members into life-changing work experience

Langdon's innovative project is making a major impact on participants

    Robert Bluestone would love to get a job. But the 20-year-old has Asperger syndrome and struggles with the stress and pressure.

    Now he is gaining work experience as one of 18 volunteers with learning disabilities involved in New Chapters, a social enterprise retailing second-hand books online through the Langdon charity.

    I find him alone in the packing room of the warehouse on a Harrow industrial estate, to which the well-established enterprise has recently moved.

    On the floor below him are rows of desks and computers populated by his peers, who are registering books donated by All Aboard charity shops.

    “The guys down there scan the books in as we get them and put them online on Amazon,” he explains.

    “Then they file them away and wait for them to get sold. When an order comes in, it comes to me.

    “I find the book, package it up and send it off to the people who bought it.”

    New Chapters was founded in 2011 by Arnold Levin, “a retired teacher with no experience of working with people with learning difficulties.

    “I didn’t think people would want to buy old books online,” he recalls. “But here we are six years later and we have moved from a poky office to a big warehouse giving work experience to 18 volunteers.”

    The project makes £1,000 weekly from the sales, which although not enough to cover costs, provides another four Langdon members with paid employment.

    “People learn skills here that are transferable,” Mr Levin adds. “We try to get them work in the community. But if it is not possible, this is a place they come where they are valued and feel useful.”

    Avi Raymain volunteers in the warehouse three times a week.

    The 22-year-old is on the autistic spectrum and has ADHD. He has a support worker for 80 hours a week.

    For him, New Chapters “has been a great way to make friends. But most importantly, I’ve picked up tech skills. It is a good way for me to get experience.”

    It also helps that he comes to work with his Langdon flatmate Benjamin Robertson, 23.

    They both enjoy processing games and books they have an interest in.

    Holding up a copy of a football game signed by Real Madrid star Cristiano Ronaldo, Mr Raymain says: “I’ve played this one loads. I’d love a job in gaming but I’m happy here.”

    Mr Robertson enjoys the challenge of registering “the difficult books — the ones without a barcode.

    “I found a book on Judaism worth a lot of money. We sold it for £400.”
     

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