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Belfast brother and sister set up charity shop to sell coronavirus essentials

Brother and sister in pop-up shop selling pandemic essentials

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Pictured: Brother and sister duo, psychology graduate Rachel McSporran (23) and RBAI AS Level student, Thomas Johnston (17) are joining the frontline effort to keep food and essentials flowing in South Belfast, with the launch of a new pop-up shop.

Pictured: Brother and sister duo, psychology graduate Rachel McSporran (23) and RBAI AS Level student, Thomas Johnston (17) are joining the frontline effort to keep food and essentials flowing in South Belfast, with the launch of a new pop-up shop.

Pictured: Brother and sister duo, psychology graduate Rachel McSporran (23) and RBAI AS Level student, Thomas Johnston (17) are joining the frontline effort to keep food and essentials flowing in South Belfast, with the launch of a new pop-up shop.

Charity literally begins at home for one woman who returned to her native Belfast to help in the fight against Covid-19.

Rachel McSporran was studying in Scotland when the lockdown came in, prompting her to hop back across the Irish Sea.

With the help of her 17-year-old brother Thomas Johnston, she set up a shop, Simply Sanitise, to help her childhood friends and neighbours in south Belfast get access to what have become hard to find products.

"When we came back we realised there were products that people weren't able to get in the community," Rachel (23) told Sunday Life.

"It was the same sort of things over and over that we were hearing about; hand sanitisers and protective products like face masks and gloves.

"I had been at a cookery school over in Edinburgh and it was called off just before lockdown and myself and my husband were able to come back to Belfast.

"So we wanted to do something to give back to our community on the Lisburn Road."

Rachel and Thomas took on a weekly lease of the former Corrie's butchers shop and stocked it with face masks, gloves and even plants - at a fair price.

Profits will help fund local charity Storehouse which provides food and other essentials to those in need.

"We have managed to source products that vary each day as we are able to find more supplies or people's demands change," explained Rachel.

"There have even been customers we have been able to source specific products for and they have been so grateful.

"We thought this is just something we can do to give something back to our community.

"We had a really great first week and our customers have blown us away."

Economics student Thomas, who is about to start his last year at The Royal Belfast Academical Institution (RBAI), said of his first foray into the world of business: "When Rachel and I began talking about what we could do to help people during this pandemic, we felt this was a way that we could make a meaningful difference in our local community.

"Studying economics, I've found how the dial has shifted during this pandemic very interesting and it's fascinating to get this real-life, first-hand experience in supply and demand."

Rachel said face masks have proved by far the most popular product as people prepare for the possibility of their recommended use when outside the home.

"The face masks have been 100% our biggest seller but the other thing that has surprised us by how well they have been selling are the plants," she said.

"Obviously garden centres have been closed so we have been able to work with nurseries that provide different stuff every couple of days - the people around us have been loving that.

"We don't have a long-term plan at the moment, and we don't know what next week will look like, but just as long as there is a need for our products and people need us we 'll stay there."

Belfast Telegraph