The Great Big Walk came to Larne last week as part of an initiative from the Eden Project made possible with funding from the National Lottery.
Five teams of walkers set off from Batley, West Yorkshire, on 29th May and are travelling back to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and London respectively. Every day, the walkers and their supporters have been visiting different community projects and initiatives spending time with the extraordinary people who go the extra mile to bring communities together.
The Northern Ireland team of walkers, Olivia Cosgrove from Enniskillen and Noel Johnston from Omagh, chose Acceptable Enterprises in Larne as one of their stops. They recently received a National Lottery grant of £600,000 from Big Lottery Fund to support young people with a learning disability to move into adult services and, where possible, the world of work.
Olivia Cosgrove said “It was my very great privilege to meet David and the staff and trainees at Acceptable Enterprises, the atmosphere was one of a community working together with pride and respect for each other.
“David is a man with a mission to put Larne on the map as a place of social enterprise excellence, he is an entrepreneurial champion. He sees possibilities instead of problems and pulls people toward the opportunities we can achieve when we work together.
“I’d say from our visit that Acceptable Enterprises have much to be proud of, looking at all they have been doing they are not just providing training for people of all abilities, they are offering transferable skills and learning that can be put to good use in a range of businesses in the retail and manufacturing sector.
“During our visit we toured the sites seeing the healthy vegetables growing in the allotments and enjoyed them as a delicious meal served with a smile by first class staff in the café, right through to the Clearer Water bottling and distribution which is bringing in business from across the water and changing lives locally and in disadvantaged places across the globe.”
Olivia is a founding member of Row the Erne, a Fermanagh based group who brought the community together to build a Curragh. She currently volunteers with the RNLI and travelled to the Greek island of Lesbos during the refugee crisis to support lifesaving training.
She said: “We need more Davids in the world, he is one of those people who you meet who are a fountain of ideas and inspiration. Clearer Water’s back story really struck a chord with me, perhaps because of my love of water, or perhaps because bottled water can often seem extravagant but this water is not only pure and healthy, it makes a difference just like everything Acceptable Enterprises does.”
David Hunter, Chief Executive of Acceptable Enterprises said: “It’s given Acceptable Enterprises Limited a real boost to have the walkers from the Great Big Walk drop in to find out about our project here in Larne. Particularly important, after recent events and as recognised by the decision to start the walk in Jo Cox’s constituency of Bately West Yorkshire, is the need to tell everybody that there is an amazing amount of good work going on every day in every corner of these islands.
“Larne has had its fair share of difficulties in the past but sometimes it’s good to focus on the real needs of a community and pull together to deliver positive change.”
The Great Big Walk will finish on Sunday 18 June, allowing all the walkers to take part in their Big Lunch: the highlight of The Great Get Together, set to be the biggest community celebration the UK has ever seen.