Churchill Fellowship: Finding out
I was at my desk when the email came in. At first, I saw “Churchill Trust,” then “It gives me great pleasure…” Surely that had to be good! I held my breath and opened the email. I didn’t get past the first line before the tears started.
“It gives me great pleasure to advise that your application for a 2017 Churchill Fellowship has been approved by the Board of Directors at a meeting in Canberra…”
What absolutely fabulous news! Since it’s all about positive thinking, after all, I had been quietly confident. Since learning that I had made it through to an interview some months prior, I was probably more hopeful than anything else. Only when I received the news I’d made it to the national selections did I start to dare to believe it was an accomplishment within reach.
After a few quiet minutes processing the email that without a doubt changed my life, I called my sister crying and breathing in massive heaves. Apparently, I scared the wits out of her! Oops, sorry, Kath! But to receive such news was massive… I struggle to put the feeling into words. It means so much to me – personally and professionally. It proved to myself that others believed in my work as well, not just my family and friends, and they did so enough to provide me with the means to further my work overseas!
You know the feeling you get when you win your first trophy? I felt like I had won a hundred first trophies all at once.
So, you might be wondering what this “Fellowship” I talk about is. Through the Winston Churchill Memorial Trust, Churchill Fellowships provide Australians with the opportunity to travel overseas to study in a chosen field where opportunity is not readily available in Australia. There are no prescribed qualifications required for application for a fellowship. Alternatively, each project and applicant is assessed on individual merit. It is extremely competitive and very prestigious.
The subject of my study is the “specialised building design of homes and workplaces for individuals on the Autism spectrum.” My itinerary will see me travel to the US, France, Netherlands, Denmark and the UK. It is a project very close to my heart as my grandson Jacson, who was born with Down Syndrome, was also diagnosed a few years ago with Autism. As a result, I see the challenges that he and those around him face day-to-day.
My daughter cried as well when I broke the news to her – I think she’s pretty proud of me at the moment.
Since his diagnosis, I have been quietly researching and working on pilot projects designing autism-friendly spaces and places. Information and expertise are very limited here in Australia and there are very few Building Designers and Architects who understand the intricacies of this type of design or who are providing these types of services.
To have the WA regional committee and Churchill Trust Board of Directors excited about my work, and deem it and myself worthy of a Fellowship is indeed humbling. I am extremely honoured and excited to move forward with my travel plans, and what a wild first two weeks it’s been!
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