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Divine Days CIC

Divine Days work with young adults with additional needs helping them into full time work through their mentorship program.


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My name is Josh. I was born in Skelmersdale and I currently work as an IT manager for the  community based charity company called Divine Days. Basically anything to do with the technological side of the upkeep of Divine Days. I assist our workers in the technological problems, updating the website and also the creation of the newsletter that goes out once a month to let the community know what sort of activities our different sectors are up to. I was brought on by a supported internship called The Legacy Project, ironically run by Divine Days.

And so two years ago I wanted to get a job. But as someone of autistic spectrum disorder, I had a hard time doing so. So they put me into this program. First I started off with Delphside Primary School, and then one day Katie Whitehead noticed that she had a IT manager leaving, and so she wanted to give me a chance. So I came in, worked as an intern for about seven months, and then got a job early July 2022.

Two years on, I'm still working here. It is nice to be able to help other people. I will sometimes be allowed to share my experiences with autism and give speeches to schools. I've done one with my job coach and work partner, Nicola. So we've delivered some disability work for students in that school. It is sort of rewarding to be able to give back to the community and know that people can, you know, get work if they put their hard work in and nothing's really there to stop them.

We break down barriers. It's always something I wanted to do. Skelmersdale is just like any other town to me. Yeah, I've grown up in it. It's, you know, a decent place to live, but it's not like, you know, I'm very literal. So this is a town to me, it's not... We do have a deep sense of community, but it's not something that, you know, I'd base my personality off. So it's got its upsides. It's got a downsides as everywhere else, basically. Great sense of community. Everyone knows a little bit about everyone. There's no one that, you know, feels left behind or, you know, someone that could be outcast unless they have a reason to be outcasted.

Everyone's there to help everyone else if something does go on. We also have a lot of facilities to help people. We have a swimming baths, library, a youth centre, the Concourse Shopping centre, and we've got expanded on that area, you know, the shopping district. So we now have got an Asda, got different shops down there and it's just a little bit of everything rather than, you know, focusing on one specific thing that we can do while we spread ourselves a little thin on everything. One of the big ones, for me, it's always that this sense of like crime, like, you know, recently someone that I went to school with has just been convicted.

There's a lot of drug problems, you know, a lot of sort of like battery sort of thing. And it's not like our community is not doing something about it. It's just something like, you know, you read the news and you notice that sometimes there are problems going on when it comes to that. It is easy to slip into that, especially, you know, with media glorifying it to some degree. You know, you've got your shows that like glorify like Breaking Bad and all that sort of thing. So I do see how someone kind of get tempted. I was mostly inclusive when I grew up. I was like in closed doors. I would never really go out, partially because my mum would fear that something would happen to me because I'm easily susceptible to that sort of thing. Overall, I take things very literally. It's very hard for me to say no, etcetera, etcetera. So I always just stayed in doors in that way. I didn't really get caught up in anything. But you do read a lot about what's gone on. You know, how different people have gone to do different things, how there's an increased problem. There's always a little bit around you, but it's not something that I've had to, you know, actively say no to because I don't really get myself involved in that anyhow.

I know that there wasn't something like that around when I was growing up. Oh, sure, you've got your schools talking about the English Baccalaureate, you got schools talking about different opportunities, but there wasn't any for someone who had the need, special needs, it was always that generic sort of you can do whatever you want as long as you put your mind to it. And you know, this is all the sort of things you can grow up to do and this is what you can do. This is an apprenticeship. This is college. But they rarely ever talked about, you know, a supported internship, especially if, you know, you went on the more extreme side of being because half the time, most of the point gimmicks and stuff like that is that I don't look autistic or you know, don't really give off the stereotypes of someone with autism, especially when it comes to now, thanks to the Divine Days and like as a project, being able to, you know, push me to do more things.

So you have to actively open that door for yourself and I just want to make more children know that that is something that you can do there for you. Especially if you don't "look" autistic, let it be known that I put quotations around because I just realised you can't actually see me!

It's mostly just about for the hidden guys because now there's been strides to make hidden  disabilities more known, especially nowadays. When I was younger, I was identified based off the fact that I wouldn't look at people while I was eating and my Nan thought I was deaf. So now making people more aware that, hey, just because they don't look disabled, they can still be disabled. Just getting that message out is something that I really hope and am privileged to be able to help out with.


Katie Whitehead

Katie Whitehead

I'm Katie Whitehead. I am the managing director and founder of Divine Days. We're an organisation that tackles inequalities in health in West Lancashire. I was asked to deliver a one hour session for adults with additional needs in the Ecumenical centre, and I don't think I'd been to Skem before. I was born in Sheffield. Met my husband abroad, moved over in 2003 to Ormskirk and got married in 2005.

And so I worked in Liverpool for that time until my daughter was born. So it was about 2011 and I hadn't been to Skem and I came to the Ecumenical centre and there was all these incredible dancers, adults with additional needs. And we worked together and I think it was like an eight week project. But unbeknownst to me, all the sort of office staff that were above, they used to come on the break and like, look down and watch all the amazing dancers. And it was at that point that we started to talk about with CVS Community Voluntary Services, and it was then that they started to talk about potentially me setting up something called a social enterprise, a community interest company. And so that was the very, very beginning of Divine Days, very, very early doors. But I was blown away. I was blown away by the warmth of the people there.

And that the people that I was working with and supporting, and then as I grew the business and grew the organisation, I was very, very conscious that I wanted to be based in Skem. I wanted to stay there, I wanted to support the people of Skelmersdale because of the… I remember when I was a kid and my nan used to talk to me about what it was like and my mum did as well a lot. And you know, about people looking out for each other and that sort of like close knit community and back to back streets. And obviously we're talking Sheffield and I'd never experienced anything like that and I kind of got that sense, especially when we set up Community Connections, which is for people, adults managing long term health conditions, and that's kind of very user led. So the people turn up, they might have been bereaved or they might have got just diagnosed. And you know, you've got people, young people in there and older people in there. And, you know, the older people might bring some crochet and then teach somebody how to do that, and it's lifting them emotionally out themselves.

We don't really do anything. We've got like healthcare professionals in there, but they're just full of like Skem people born and bred that just look out for each other, that support each other. So that was, I think that kind of kicked in a couple of years into me setting Divine Days. And it was at that point really that I really got that sense of, you know, they look out for each other. They look after each other, that there's that real traditional element. I know that might not necessarily be everywhere, like every place, but for me, that's what I really, really got that real sense of. And yeah, it seems like Skem is unique in the sense that it has a lot of like brilliant social enterprises. There's a lot of people active in trying to make a difference.

I think because real life experience, you know, when you go through there's different types of people in this world and social entrepreneurs are a specific type of person. And, you know, when you speak to people that have set up organisations, it will be because they either had an experience and struggled with that and there was lots of things that they didn't feel was right and they wanted to change it for other people so that they wanted to use their experience for the greater good and for the wider community.

Or it's about people that have seen those inequalities, whatever they might be and that they want to make a difference or that kind of like roll your sleeves up kind of mentality. It's ingrained within all social entrepreneurs in that they'll see something that's not right or that they'll see something that needs to be done and they'll go and do it and they'll find a village hall or a community centre. You know, there's so many times where we get these really large organisations going.. We're going to do this. And then when they start doing a bit of research, you know, Mary down the road, she set something up. She's got like a mug club in her house and you know, so-and-so has got a sports club for kids with special needs or, you know, people around here do it. They just get on with it and they roll their sleeves up and they do. So I think very much there's different reasons for doing it, but I think it comes from that. It comes from that caring perspective.

But it's also people around here and not passive. If they don't like things done for them they don't like, they don't want people to come in and fix it. They want to fix it themselves. And people like me, sometimes when that's hard to do. So we entrepreneurs, maybe not Mary you know, Mary might not see yourself as an entrepreneur. She might just need a bit of guidance and a bit to navigate. And people like myself are able to do that because, you know, we're able to support people.

So there's lots and lots, there's hundreds of amazing, amazing projects in Skelmersdale. It's phenomenal. You don't see that anywhere. You don't see it anywhere. You walk in and it's a different world for lots of different reasons, some better than others. But in terms of the people, definitely, definitely.


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