Down’s Syndrome Awareness Month: Meet Our Team Members

In the past few weeks, we have celebrated the return to work from furlough for some of our special JoJo team members.

For nearly 15 years we have welcomed individuals with Down’s Syndrome into the business, both for work experience and in permanent roles. Our HR team have been busy writing a specialised training module to highlight the necessity of social distancing to ensure everyone can return safely to their work environment. We have missed them during this long absence and wanted to find out what they have been up to during lockdown. So, we caught up with Steffi, Thomas and Sammy-Jo to hear all about their furlough experiences and what they’re looking forward to on their return to work. Plus, a special comment from Sarah Roberts - mum to Oscar, who modelled for us a few years ago.

Steffi in the Cheltenham store

Steffi Barletta (Customer Advisor, Cheltenham & Worcester stores), written with help from mum


Are you looking forward to coming back to work at JoJo?

Steffi was really excited and keen about returning to work, she really has missed the team and routine.

What did you miss about not being in store?

Steffi missed the team, and missed talking to people.

How did you keep busy while you were at home?

While we have been shielding, Steffi and I have been exercising using the activities on Amazon Prime, she has been helping prepare the cooking ingredients for the evening meals, she has been cleaning the house, but above all she has been working on her English, maths, Italian and signing with the help of BBC Bitesize and BSL site. She has also been keeping in touch with her friends on Zoom and WhatsApp.

Would you recommend that other people with Down’s Syndrome looked for work placements?

Steffi has said yes - she thinks work placements for individuals with Down's Syndrome are a good thing, as it has helped her gain confidence in herself, meeting people and team building.

What do you do on a normal day at work?

Steffi helps out at the till by scanning the items and processing payments (she is given help if the customer pays with cash), then she places items in the bag. While she is at the till she does converse with the customers. She also restocks shelves and tidies labels and clothing on the shop floor.

What do you like most about your job?

There is nothing that Steffi does not enjoy about the job – she enjoys learning everything.

What do you like least?

She is less comfortable when customers ask her to find something, and she does not always understand what they need.

If you weren’t a Customer Advisor, what would you be doing instead?

I am not really sure what Steffi would be doing if she was not given this opportunity, as no other stores replied to her letters. So, she would be studying at college and then maybe doing some volunteering at a charity store.

So, thank you JoJo for your support.


Additional comment from Steffi’s dad (Tony)

I just want to endorse what my wife has written with Steffi. In addition, I think that JoJo is wonderful in that it is a quality retail operation that also has the heart to give opportunities to people such as my daughter. She loves coming to work and her confidence has blossomed as she has been encouraged to stretch herself. I think that staff and customers have also gained something from having Steffi on board. The teams at Cheltenham and Worcester have been great with her. I still recall being told of a customer overlooking Steffi at the till and expecting another colleague to serve her, but the colleague respectfully replying that Steffi would take the order. Thank you JoJo.

Sammy-Jo and Tommy in the Warehouse

Sammy-Jo Hacker (Customer Advisor, Newport)


How long were you away from work?

I was away from work for approximately 15 weeks.

What did you most miss about your job while you were on furlough?

I mostly missed my friends from work whilst I was on full furlough. But I also missed the routine of coming to work too.

What do you think has changed while you have been away?

The canteen area is different for me, but I don’t mind that. There are bunny stickers along the shop floor walkways, I like these, they are cute. I have to wear a visor and a face mask to keep me, my workmates and the customers safe.

What do you do on a normal day at work?

On a normal day at work I am in the shop labelling and pricing items to go on sale and I clean and tidy up the shop. Sometimes I serve customers on the till.

What do you like most about your job?

My favourite part of my job is getting paid and meeting new people, especially the babies and toddlers.

What do you like least?

I like everything in my job.

If you weren’t a Customer Advisor what would you be doing instead?

I would probably be at home with my Mum most of the time and be bored. I want to keep my job, I love it.


Thomas Waite (Warehouse Operative, Newport)


What have you been doing at home on furlough?

I went walking along the canal with my family down Fourteen Locks, I liked that, counting the steps on my phone. And bike riding and fitness on TV as well, with my brothers. I helped with doing jobs in the house like hoovering the floors, the upstairs bedrooms and the living room, doing the recycling and the rubbish, putting the clothes away. I liked watching films. And I talked to my friends on the phone.

Did you enjoy not having to get up early for work?

I liked the lie-ins, but I’m glad to be back in work.

Did you miss any of your friends from JoJo while you were at home?

I missed Sammy the most! I still haven't seen her, but I talk to her on WhatsApp every day.

What is the first thing you will do when the coronavirus pandemic is over?

See Sammy. I want to go to the pub with her, The Otter, for a meal. I miss bowling on Tuesdays and swimming on Wednesdays too.

What do you do on a normal day at work?

I like doing catalogues, labelling and cutting the cardboard up.

What do you like most about your job?

I like doing catalogues the best. I know lots of people there too and like talking to them.

What do you like the least?

I like everything in my job!

If you weren't a warehouse person, what would you do instead?

I would like to work in Tesco in Risca, because they have a warehouse and I could collect the boxes and stuff!

Oscar - JoJo Model

Sarah Roberts (Oscar’s mum)


“Oscar’s first ever modelling job was with JoJo when he was just 3 years old. I remember when he was approached about working with them, feeling so elated that they were being so forward thinking as far as being inclusive was concerned. I loved that they shared my view, that it’s so important that kids like Oscar are used in campaigns like theirs, to show that “difference” is something to be celebrated.

I remember hearing back then, that Laura was so passionate about ensuring there was a place for everybody in society. So much so that she began offering full contract employment and work placements to a number of people who happened to have Down’s Syndrome, something that has just been so fantastic for our community.

Like any parent, the worry you have about your child’s future and what it might look like is always with you. There is perhaps more worry and trepidation about a child who has additional needs because the future is that little bit more uncertain. What I do know is that whatever Oscar puts his mind to, he will achieve eventually. He is physically so strong, he loves the outdoors and loves animals and although he hasn’t got the speech to tell me yet, I can picture him working as a gardener or in agriculture. My hopes for him are much the same as my other two children though. That they’re all happy in whatever they do, feel valued and have a sense of worth. JoJo is doing just that for so many adults who happen to have DS and I couldn’t feel more proud looking on at everything they are all achieving.”



To learn more, explore The Heart of JoJo page, where we explain our JoJo values and initiatives in more detail.