Alex has always dreamed of getting a job. However, due to his physical and learning disabilities, he felt that the workplace wasn’t accessible to him. He didn’t know where to turn, or how to achieve his potential, but then he joined Team Domenica…
Here, Alex found people who understood him and his needs. He was able to show off his upbeat and sociable nature, whilst also learning new skills in the classroom and on his work placements. His favourite part of the programme was when he got to work in Café Domenica, speaking to customers and working on the coffee machine.
“I feel really good about Team Domenica. I liked working in the café, going to my internship, making coffee and making friends.” – Alex, Team Domenica candidate
Despite enjoying a variety of roles, Alex found that many positions involved standing or reading for long periods of time – something that he finds difficult. Knowing this, and his love of people, Team Domenica found him work experience weighing and packing stock with the friendly team at Hoogly Tea.
Alex and his colleagues enjoyed working together so much that their partnership transitioned into a supported internship the following year. Then, this September, Alex was offered a paid position within their ranks. He is a fantastic addition to the Hoogly team, attending all their social events, be that playing board games or taking part in their quiz night. When asked about working with Alex, Tina (his manager) said:
“Alex has fitted in so well, we are all very fond of him and enjoy working together. Team Domenica have been so supportive and helpful throughout and we would highly recommend any business to work with them.”
“I’ve always wanted a job so it feels really good to finally be in the workplace. I especially like being a part of the team at Hoogly tea, I now go to lots of socials and it’s really fun!” – Alex, Team Domenica candidate
Charlotte has always loved animals. For years she dreamed of being able to work with different creatures, but the path to this goal felt unclear. That all changed when she joined Team Domenica. She became more confident and saw a future where she could achieve whatever she wanted.
Alongside her class-based learning, Charlotte worked in the training cafés, completed work placements and participated in enrichment activities. She felt proud of being part of Team Domenica, always inviting friends and relatives to pop in for a coffee or some lunch. She would be particularly excited to serve them herself to show off the skills she had learnt. With the help of Grace Eyre, Charlotte also became an independent traveller.
“In the cafés I enjoyed making coffees by myself, doing the baking and serving customers. I sometimes found using the till hard, especially when there was a lot of noise, but the Team Domenica staff were always very supportive and I learnt lots of new skills. I now feel much more confident doing tasks independently.” – Charlotte, Team Domenica Candidate
Team Domenica’s employment team worked tirelessly to find Charlotte a supported internship that matched her love of animals. She was over the moon when they paired her with SEA LIFE Brighton and she started training as a cleaner in their Guest Experience Team.
With her job coach’s guidance, Charlotte quickly settled into her position, overcoming any worries and learning the intricacies of her role. Her colleagues were able to see what Charlotte brought to the aquarium and recognised her hard-working, capable and committed nature.
“Charlotte is a valuable member of our team, and we feel so lucky to be working with her. She gives staff a morale boost through her great personality and takes ownership through the tasks she is responsible for. As a new member to the cleaning team, she brings lots of enthusiasm, which makes us so happy to have her working with us.” – Stephanie, Guest Experience Team Leader
Given her dedication and talent, it comes as no surprise that Charlotte was offered paid work in June 2023 – a dream come true! What’s more, with the ongoing support provided by Team Domenica’s Wrap Around Programme, Charlotte is confidently continuing to explore the world of work as she learns even more about her role.
“Working at SEA LIFE is fantastic. I feel so happy and enjoy my work. It’s nice to have my own money to spend and I have a lot of new friends in my colleagues; they all support me when I am there. Getting a paid job is the best thing that’s ever happened to me.” – Charlotte, Team Domenica candidate
Katie is a kind and bubbly person, but she always felt like the world didn’t understand her. After struggling at college, her confidence was at an all-time low, but that all changed when she enrolled at Team Domenica.
Katie joined the programme fearful of getting things wrong. However, the Team Domenica staff reassured her that she had the ability to achieve her goals, and that it didn’t matter if she made mistakes – together they could overcome any challenge. Through this support, Katie slowly regained her confidence and began to thrive.
“After starting at Team Domenica, we all noticed the difference in Katie’s demeanour. She would come home full of excitement and invited everyone to come and have a coffee at the café. With the help of Team Domenica, joy came back to Katie’s world, she found her old confidence and met new friends. I wish there was a Team Domenica in every area.” – Katie’s Mum, Jan
With this new lease for life, Katie began her work placements with local businesses, learning more about what worked for her. Then, in her second year, she started a supported internship at the Brighton i360 where she took on a variety of roles such as selling tickets, working in the shop and serving drinks in the boarding area. With the help of her job coach and colleagues, Katie soon mastered all of these tasks. In fact, she became so independent that she felt as though she no longer needed a mentor in the workplace. Katie had grown from a timid teenager, to a confident and hardworking young woman who believed in herself and her abilities.
Unsurprisingly, in Spring 2021, Katie was offered paid employment at the Brighton i360 – a job she continues to hold to this day. If she ever feels that she may not have done so well at work, Katie is able to attend ongoing mentor sessions where she talks about any issues worrying her. In the coming months, Katie is set to train in the ‘pod’, meaning that she will be taking customers on flights and serving drinks in the skies!
“It’s hard to describe how proud I am for getting a job at the i360. It’s something I never thought I’d achieve, and now it just feels so amazing. In the future I hope to be able to build up my work schedule so I can save money to move out and live independently. My job will help me do this.” – Team Domenica candidate, Katie
Once he finished college in 2016, Ewan and his family saw little on the horizon, nothing that would give him a feeling of purpose or importance. However, at this crucial point in his life, Team Domenica opened its doors and Ewan found a future full of potential.
Ewan was nervous before joining the programme, often needing reassurance when facing new challenges. With the enthusiastic support of Team Domenica staff he gained experience in the classroom and training cafés, and Ewan soon began to show his hardworking, sociable and witty nature.
“Team Domenica raised our hopes for Ewan. They have given him confidence and skills dealing with people, something that continues to take us by surprise. Ewan will always need some kind of support whatever he does, but the huge positives from engaging with Team Domenica make his life (and ours) constructive, valued and valid.” – Ewan’s father, Dave
Above all, Ewan’s biggest passion is music. He is a regular at gigs and has an extensive knowledge of artists and genres. Therefore, when it came to finding him a Supported Internship, Team Domenica worked tirelessly to find an employer that matched his love for music. Despite this challenge, the perfect pairing was soon found and, following a successful placement, it wasn’t long until Ewan was offered his dream job at The Record Album.
Ewan now has the ideal creative outlet; he is an integral part of the team and loves the work he does – he won’t miss it for anything. When asked about working with Ewan, his manager David said:
“Ewan is confident, his knowledge of music is astounding and he tackles his duties with a positive attitude and a calm, professional approach. Just as he has grown in his four years with us, we have benefitted from gaining a better understanding and appreciation of the challenges he faces. With the truly fantastic support of Team Domenica, Ewan and his fellow candidates are being given the very best opportunities to thrive in the workplace environment.”
When Beth* joined Team Domenica, they struggled with their attendance and timekeeping; taking frequent breaks and opting out of lessons and work. Their anxiety levels were exceptionally heightened during this time and they found these feelings very difficult to manage. After a few months, however, Beth started a work experience placement at an arts and events venue.
This ‘real world’ experience presented the biggest turning point for Beth. Their job coach helped them with planning their day and new strategies for recognising their anxieties, such as their ‘daily mood check-in’. Through these changes, a new Beth began to emerge…
“Doing tasks [at my placement] helped get my level of anxiety from 9/10 to 2/10. It helped me focus on my work and not my anxiety.” – Team Domenica Candidate, Beth
Through this experience and conversations with Beth, Team Domenica were able to identify Beth’s strengths and ambitions. They had always loved theatre and were now able work in a customer facing role. Our Employment Partnership Manager therefore approached local theatres to start Beth on a suitable Supported Internship. And, after a year-long placement supported by a 1-1 job coach, Beth was offered paid employment at a local theatre in Brighton, realising a lifelong dream and opening new doors to a brighter future – not only for themselves, but for their employer too.
“It’s been a dream having a candidate here with us. The passion behind Team Domenica is amazing and is something we couldn’t be prouder to be a part of. The work ethic of our candidate gives us high hopes for their future and the whole experience has been nothing but a joy and pleasure.” – Beth’s Manager.
*Candidate’s name has been changed to protect anonymity.
Byron’s parents never wanted his autism diagnosis to hinder his potential. They wanted others to see him for who he is, rather than what people perceive learning disabilities to mean. At Team Domenica Byron found a community that matched these dreams and supported him in his journey towards employment and independence.
“In the past, Byron has had opportunities denied because people didn’t understand how they could make things work with his needs. But Team Domenica brings the best out of people; it is a place where young people come to feel empowered and in control of their lives. They always have his back.” – Byron’s mum , Petrina
Due to his extremely sociable and friendly demeanour, Byron loved being able to work in the Team Domenica training cafés, especially at PlusX. He came alive when taking responsibility for orders and being able to talk to customers – he was able to make everyone feel right at home.
Then, after achieving his employment qualification in 2022, Byron moved onto a Supported Internship. He soon found his perfect match as a receptionist at the Mercure Seafront Hotel and settled into his role brilliantly, quickly introducing his amazing personality to colleagues and guests alike.
Byron continues to thrive in his internship, finding particular joy in talking to guests and asking where they’ve come from. When asked about Byron, Kelly, his manager, has said:
“When someone comes on holiday they want to feel special, and Byron does that – you can’t help but smile when you walk through the door.”
When he first started at Team Domenica, Michael did not think about his future. He found it hard to speak to others and would often keep to himself. However, through his time at the charity’s training centre and roastery, he began to gain more experience, skills and self-belief.
“Team Domenica has helped me build my confidence and learn new skills, as well as helping me manage myself when things become challenging.” – Michael, Team Domenica Candidate
In October 2021, Michael started his Supported Internship at The Edge Tea & Coffee and quickly began impressing his colleagues. With the support of his Team Domenica job coach, Michael was able to confidently begin working front of house. In fact, he enjoyed his role so much that he began finding extra shifts independently! Michael’s hard work soon led to a job offer and Team Domenica continue to assist him, and his employers, through the Wrap Around Programme. This support has helped Michael look to the future with newfound hope; he now sees his true potential and is beginning to look to new adventures with excitement.
“I have been offered paid work which makes me feel good and independent. Team Domenica has given me hope for the future; it’s a nice feeling to think I don’t always have to rely on other people.”
Charles left college, fearing he would never be accepted for who he is and had no chance at a future. But, after working closely with Team Domenica’s teachers and training mentors, his outlook took a turn for the better as he gained the work skills he needed and developed self-confidence in a supportive environment. Charles soon achieved his employment qualification and moved onto his Supported Internship at The Grand Hotel in Brighton; he fitted into the team seamlessly. He was accepted with open arms, impressed the staff with his ability and has recently been offered paid work as a Hall Porter!
“I’m really proud of myself and what I’ve achieved. The Grand staff have accepted me and they really see me as a hard worker.” – Team Domenica Candidate Charles
Not only has there been an evident progression in his skills, but Charles’ happiness and friendly demeanour is infectious. Once claiming to only find comfort in his hobby of acting, Charles now has the tools and confidence to know that he can be successful. He has a renewed faith in his capabilities and is able to see the numerous prospects he has before him. Of his journey, Charles says…
“I feel a lot happier in myself and feel there is a path in life I can take. I feel part of a great community. I feel like I’m able to be a lot more open about my learning disabilities and feel accepted. I feel like I have a future ahead of me.”
“When I look back two years to when she first joined Team Domenica, I see a very different Alex to the one I see today…
Alex has not had a particularly easy life. Quite apart from her learning disability, she has had to face some major struggles… For a long time, Alex found it difficult to articulate the feelings that she had – like anxiety, embarrassment, worry and anger. As a consequence, she would often become upset and cry, detaching herself from group activities.” – Jonathan, Alex’s father
Since joining Team Domenica, both Alex’s father and our staff have seen a huge turn around in Alex’s outlook on life. Our holistic approach was the key to bringing about this change and helping Alex – rather than insisting on 100% engagement on her training course, Team Domenica focused on helping Alex reach a point where she was happy again. When she isolated herself, we appealed to her generous nature by suggesting that she help another candidate; we developed her communication skills by asking her to explain what she was thinking and feeling. From these conversations, Alex began to understand herself and her own needs.
With the support of staff and the kindness of her fellow candidates, Alex began to find the courage and confidence to become involved in Team Domenica’s activities, and now actively participates and enjoys them.
“Challenges that she would have shrunk from 18 months ago she now embraces! I have witnessed Alex becoming an increasingly self-confident, articulate, independent and happy young woman – so much so that by her second year, Alex’s one-to-one support was not felt to be necessary.” – Jonathan
Alex has experienced such an incredible transformation. With the support of our friends at Grace Eyre, Alex has even become an independent traveller, able to get from home to each of our projects – something that would have been hard to imagine when she first arrived at Team Domenica. She is a ray of light, projecting and lifting everyone’s mood with her infectious attitude – we cannot imagine Team Domenica now without her.
“Team Domenica has made me happy.” – Alex
Before Josh joined Team Domenica, his parents were convinced that his autism, communication difficulties and anxiety would mean that his dream to work in the catering industry would never become a reality. With Team Domenica, he completed educational modules, which helped him to develop his communication skills, along with practical skills such as money-handling. Our enrichment activities allowed him to gain confidence, develop social skills, build strong friendships – and even meet his girlfriend, Frankie! But it was putting his new skills into practise in Café Domenica that his passion for catering really shone through.
Team Domenica was able to match Josh to a supported internship with Jurys Inn (now Leonardo Hotels). Josh’s Job Coach worked with him to manage his anxiety using his love of rules and his role was adjusted to focus on tasks where his autism helped him to excel.
“It’s tough to be alone. Team Domenica and [Leonardo Hotels] are always there for me. They give me the confidence to never give up and keep trying.” – Josh
Team Domenica also provided training for Josh’s fellow workers to help them understand Josh and his needs.
“Josh is a valued work colleague, but it is true that we sometimes don’t understand his behaviour. The training has been really helpful for our team and we now better understand Josh.” Natalie Perez, waitress and colleague.
Less than a year from when he first stepped foot in the hotel, Josh was offered paid employment! Then just a few months later, Josh was nominated for the Most Outstanding Person Award at the Brighton and Hove Hotelier Awards – and he won!
“When I won the award it made me jump up and scream with happiness!” – Josh