The Great Big Walk came to Larne this week as part of an community spirit celebration from the Eden Project made possible with funding from the National Lottery.
The Big Walk finished on Big Lunch Day (June 18).
The Northern Ireland team of walkers that set off from Batley, West Yorkshire chose Larne and Acceptable Enterprises as one of the stops ahead of all the other towns across the province in an effort to draw attention to the outstanding work David Hunter and team to improve the community and bring people of all abilities together.
Olivia Cosgrove from Enniskillen and Noel Johnston, from Belfast, are the Northern Ireland walkers and journeyed 684 miles stopping at communities across England and Northern Ireland to share the stories of people taking action to improve the communities in which they live.
Speaking about the visit, David, the Chief Executive of Acceptable Enterprises. said: “It’s given Acceptable Enterprises Limited (AEL) a real boost to have the walkers from the Great Big Walk drop in to find out about our project here in Larne. It is particularly important, after recent events 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.
“Acceptable Enterprises recognised the need to help adults with learning disability and learning disadvantage and create jobs for them. So our mixed ability workforce has grown from 14 to 40 over the last four years.”
Acceptable Enterprises also has at least 100 training placements each week where trainees can learn new skills and increase their confidence and self-esteem.
“The National Lottery funded Transitions Project helps school leavers as they become young adults and seek opportunities for work. We want these young people to know they are valued members of our community.”
Olivia Cosgrove commented: “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 and he is an entrepreneurial champion. He see possibilities instead of problems and pulls people toward the opportunities we can achieve when we work together.
“During our visit, we could see that Acceptable Enterprises have much to be proud of. They are providing training for people of all abilities, transferable skills and learning that can be put to good use in a range of businesses. During our visit, we saw healthy vegetables growing in the allotments and then enjoyed them as a delicious meal served by first class staff in the café. We visited the Clearer Water bottling and distribution operation which is bringing in business and changing lives locally and in disadvantaged places across the globe.
“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 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.”
Part of an epic 21-day trek across the UK, the initiative launched by Comedian Jo Brand and supported by many more has seen teams travelling home to the five corners of the UK.
Peter Stewart, Eden Project Executive Director, said: “The Great Big Walk shines a light on the positive impact that people coming together can have. We ask everyone up and down the country to stand together in their communities, support our walkers and cheer them on their way and join in on Sunday 18 June to be part of the biggest community celebration the UK has ever seen.”
The walkers are travelling back to Scotland, Northern Ireland, Wales, Cornwall and London respectively. Every day, the walkers and their supporters visited different community projects and initiatives spent time with the extraordinary people like David and his team who go the extra mile to bring communities together.
Joe Ferns, Big Lottery Fund’s UK Knowledge and Portfolio Director said: “Thanks to money generated by National Lottery players, The Great Big Walk is connecting people and communities across the UK. We are excited to be inviting the walkers to visit some amazing projects, created by local people, and share their experiences with others.”
People can apply for and receive a Big Lunch planning pack and hold their Big Lunch on any date that suits their neighbourhood. Sign up for a pack at http://www.thebiglunch.com