Christine works as part of the healthcare team, focussing on primary care, mental health and specialist facilities for disabled people.
She also has special expertise in stakeholder engagement and accessible design, born out of her personal experience of disability.
What’s your favourite project you’ve worked on to date?
As part of my architecture training, I specialised in Development Practices; using development – in particular Stakeholder Participation – as a tool to empower communities and bring about social change.
After qualifying, I volunteered for 6 months with an NGO on a multi-disciplinary project in Rwanda, working with children orphaned in the 1994 genocide. We carried out engagement to help them identify their hierarchy of needs, relating to human rights, housing, education, etc. We then supported the children to build capacity and advocacy skills, culminating in securing funding for the construction of a new community of homes for child-headed households.
Local labour and materials were used, with local people given the opportunity to learn a trade during the construction, through on-site apprenticeships. The development of the project was all led by the children in consultation with the village community, with ourselves there to guide, facilitate and offer specialist skills.
What is the current big trend in your sector?
In primary care, there is a big shift happening in the model of care, due to the NHS Five Year Forward View. The new Health and Wellbeing Centres aim to bring many services out of hospitals and into GP Surgeries, creating a ‘one stop shop.’ Often a number of GP Practices will be co-located, along with Third Sector providers, to bring a holistic approach to wellbeing, with a clear emphasis on preventative healthcare.
What advice would you give your 20 year old self?
Have faith in your own convictions and don’t listen to anyone who says that you can’t do anything.
When looking for my first job in architecture, I lost track of the number of employers who turned me down because of my disability. They said, “You couldn’t be an architect if you couldn’t climb a ladder on a building site.” Eventually, I found an architect who was willing to give me a chance – coincidentally, he had vertigo, so couldn’t climb ladders either!
Since then, I’ve never looked back and, actually, find that my disability has become a positive. It gives me an in-depth understanding of inclusive access, and initially led me to specialise in healthcare design.
Interesting fact that nobody knows about you?
I’m a keen amateur baker and cake decorator, and – when not chasing around after a toddler – I am usually found making celebration cakes for friends and family. I have certainly found transferrable skills from my day job, when dealing with the structural aspects of constructing 4+ tier wedding cakes – although I have had a few heart-stopping moments along the way!
What is your proudest moment?
I always feel a sense of achievement when stakeholders take ownership of a completed development, and say that ‘they’ve’ built it – it means that we’ve truly listened and interpreted their vision. The biggest endorsement is then to visit at the end of defects period and find a building that has made a positive impact on the community, is well cared for and enjoyed by the people that use it.
- Member of Access Birmingham (formerly Access Committee for Birmingham)