Jo Self-Shutts has unique insight into how Astriid came about. As founder David’s wife, she was there right from the beginning. Here, she tells us about the charity’s development, her fundraising achievements, and her hopes for the project’s future.
My name is Jo Self-Shutts and I’m 47. I spent twelve years in the Royal Navy and left in 2003 after having my son. I worked for Portsmouth University and BAE systems before my husband Dave and I moved North in 2010. I didn’t work for a couple of years, focussing on the major work done on our house and I now work at the local academy as a catering assistant.
When Dave was first diagnosed in May 2015, he didn’t work for 7 months. Very early on, he felt useless and worthless. He was a very clever man, very intelligent, had always had a busy working life and suddenly there was nothing apart from his illness. Money was obviously an issue as the bills still kept arriving, but the situation goes far beyond this too. It was more about making a difference for himself and his sense of self-worth. He realised that he wouldn’t be the only person in this position and looked to see if there was anything that could help. When he found that there wasn’t, ASTRiiD was born.
Fellow Trustee Simon Short was working at Salesforce at the time and was Dave’s best friend. Dave spoke to him about his concept and Simon simply said that the idea was something they could work with. Salesforce had some incredible people working on the project, lots of ideas banded around and from basic beginnings, the idea just continued to evolve. Those involved with the charity now help keep pushing things forwards too.
I walked the Boston UK marathon with two friends to raise vital funds. I also co-ordinated a fundraising donation from a local group after a charity bingo night and the academy I work at donated half of the proceeds from a non-uniform day at school. It raised £2,500 in total and I hope to encourage as much creative fundraising as possible in the future too.
I would love for Astriid to make people as happy as it made founder Dave when the platform first placed someone in inclusive employment. I hope it continues to give individuals part of their life back, some sense of normality and something besides their illness to concentrate on. Those with chronic illnesses have so much to offer and pairing people up with the right opportunities can make such a difference.