asphaleia was founded in 1999 and from the start its mission has been to impact as many disadvantaged children and young people as possible. Every service, project, and programme that has been initiated over the past 21 years has been a result of that mission and intention. To kick off our blog post series where we will look back over 21 years of asphaleia, it is fitting to go back to the very beginning. Back to the person who initiated it all.
asphaleia was founded by Dave Cottrell and was birthed out of his passion to see young people reach their potential. He wanted to create a place where they could find acceptance, value, and people who believed in them.
Dave’s shocking and tragic death in April 2015 left a gaping hole in the lives of those closest to him, but also in asphaleia and the many professionals who encountered Dave through asphaleia’s work. As the CEO of asphaleia and also one of its consultants who would advise and support other non-profit organisations, Dave became known for his enthusiasm and inspirational speaking, as well as his good humour and interest in the lives of people around him. asphaleia’s chair of trustee’s says, ‘Dave had a way of capturing your attention with his sense of purpose and enthusiasm. He had a combination of intelligence and a caring personality.’
One of asphaleia’s staff members from the early days, a houseparent at one of our accommodation services, was inspired by Dave and the work of asphaleia. A conversation with him about the challenges faced by the people in her home country of Sierra Leone triggered her return to set up The Kabor Project. Her vision was to run a learning centre that would equip young women who had been left with the devastating impact of a civil war, often with children to provide for single-handedly, with vocational skills so they could earn a living. This project has now been running since 2004 and asphaleia stills funds it today. Many, many women and families have had their lives changed by the local team and their facility.
Dave’s commitment to asphaleia’s work, including its charity projects, led him to take an active role in fundraising. He ran 5k and then 10. He cycled 50k... and then 100! Though some might say the craziest fundraiser he did was having his head shaved! In an email asking for sponsorship for a fundraising event in 2014, Dave showed his good humour and determination, ‘I am going to complete The Nuts Challenge, which is a military assault course. I hear it is very, very long, wet, difficult, extremely muddy, painful and scary.... but I am determined I will cross the finish line!’ Dave completed this with a team of 14 staff in order to raise funds to support The Kabor Project who were experiencing the immense challenge of Ebola.
It is important for us at asphaleia to remember Dave and his legacy. Not only asphaleia’s vision and mission have been shaped by Dave but also our values - most importantly, our belief that all young people have potential and we need to work hard to help them realise it. If we don’t believe in them, how can they believe in themselves?
When a young person arrives at asphaleia all previous labels are removed; whatever has led them to us, we offer them a place where they can reflect on their goals and be supported to overcome any barriers on their way to achieving them. Dave did not want any young person to think they were not worthy of this support and belief. His dream, vision and sheer determination to provide alternative options for disadvantaged children and young people was, and still remains, the driving force behind asphaleia and we have a core team of staff who worked with Dave and uphold all the values he instilled from the beginning.
Celebrating 21 years
Dave was always one to celebrate achievement and we want to acknowledge the significance of 21 years of asphaleia. This blog post will be the first in a series that will look back at the work and impact of asphaleia over the years, and the various people, including service users, staff, trustees, and general supporters who have been part of it along the way.
Of course, there is no more appropriate way to start than to acknowledge Dave and all he was and is to asphaleia. Shriti, asphaleia’s Company Secretary, says, ‘I always said that when Dave spoke you wanted to listen. He was so charismatic, engaging, funny and interesting and he didn't change over the 11 plus years I knew him. He also had the capacity to truly listen to you whether you went to him as an employee or a friend. Dave was someone who had a great impact on my professional and personal life and every time my life changes, I always go back to the moment I met Dave at asphaleia as the turning point. I hope he knew how many people he impacted over the years. He's missed but not forgotten.’