All entries Black-led community self-build

Tomorrow is Built Today: Charmaine McNally

Image: Courtesy of Tim Oshodi


I was overcrowded with three kids in one room. I’d never picked up a hammer before but after the first meeting I knew it was for me. The biggest thing I got from it was confidence, belief in myself and my abilities to solve issues. I had to go to loads of meetings and talk with lots of professional people I had never met before: builders, architects, housing managers, suppliers. I was DESPERATE for my house and I needed to deal with these situations to make my DREAM a REALITY. I NEVER LOOKED BACK.

The physical work was a challenge but I was at my fittest I’d ever been once I adjusted. I am EXTREMELY HAPPY. EVERYDAY I walk in and I am SO PROUD AND GRATEFUL for the transformation it has had on me and my kids. They grew up seeing that if you hold on to your vision and keep working through the setbacks you WILL get it done.

It’s ALL POSITIVE for me. I’ve created a beautiful environment for my kids. Our stress levels have come right down as they each have their own large room and the tower block flat with pigeon crap on the balcony has been replaced by this lovely garden which runs down to the river. From being caged in during winter to a lush environment.

Another benefit was I was taken out of my comfort zone working with strangers. We had to learn to compromise to create a community. It was fulfilling for us to work as one whole unit to be able to live in these wonderful homes. The biggest challenge was the individualism of some people. Interestingly those more self focused are no longer living here and those who worked as a team are still close and living here 20 years after completion.

The legacy of my self-build is that my family have grown up in a safe environment where we know are neighbours. I was inspired by the build to set up my own womenled building company which had up to 11 employees; a great experience for me. My eldest son has built his own house and is onto his second now. My children are very confident, even though things may appear out of reach, they push and go for it. They say its because they’ve seen me struggle and achieve my dream.

I’m very proud to live in an eco house and although we couldn’t get the solar paneling we wanted during the build, I was involved in securing the deal which means we have free electricity. It was it was 100% worth it to me. And when I’m in my rocking chair, this will be one of the moments I will reflect back on. I just know it because I had a terrific time. Actually, living in this environment is absolutely wonderful. And I do thank my lucky stars that I was given that opportunity to take part.



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