Building support for family

Architecture students are building a ramp for a local family.

For 12-year-old Nayla Campbell, exiting and entering her home is always a multiple-person job.

Campbell is diagnosed with cerebral palsy. She is unable to walk and is confined to a wheelchair. The family has many nurses who help Campbell, but lifting her from the sidewalk to the house is challenging because there is no ramp from the sidewalk to the front door, which is elevated.

“Nayla has about four different nurses a week who all have to struggle with creatively maneuvering her wheelchair up two steps and through the front door,” Radiah Campbell, Nayla’s mother, said. “These difficulties pose safety risks and can take a toll on your body.”

Temple architecture students are currently working together through an organization called Freedom by Design to build the family a ramp in order to eliminate the daily struggle.

Radiah Campbell reached out to Freedom by Design after hearing about the projects it has done in the past from one of her coworkers. She works in the billing department at the Health Sciences Campus.

Freedom by Design members said their organization is happy and grateful to be serving someone involved in the Temple community.

The project is run by junior architecture and architecture preservation major Meghan Higgins. Higgins is the project manager, meaning she oversees the process and helps the team create the blueprint sketch of the final product.

“Ms. Campbell reached out to me this past summer,” Higgins said. “Usually we do interviews and search for families, but this one came to us.”

She is also in constant contact with the Campbell family, keeping them updated every step of the way and relaying their needs to her team.

Higgins has been a part of Freedom by Design for two years, but she said this is the first time she is participating in a project with meaning for a family in the community. The organization has been around for five years as a branch of the American Institute of Architects.

Freedom by Design completed two similar projects prior to working with the Campbells, both involving the building of a ramp.

Along with Higgins, junior architecture and architecture preservation major Stephanie Haller has been involved with Freedom by Design for two years.

“Basically I document the project itself and also advertise with flyers and other methods,” Haller said.

Haller said the two projects the organization has done in the past have not been as intricate as the one it’s doing now.

“In the other two projects we just built ramps, but this is more in depth,” Haller said. “We’re actually tearing down an old deck in the backyard of the family’s home and building a whole new deck with a ramp fixture.”

This new ramp will lead right to the door of Nayla’s bedroom.

The organization decided to build the ramp in the back of the house because of the easy access into Nayla’s bedroom and overall consideration of the neighborhood.

The students involved are attempting to incorporate their major into community service, they said.

Higgins said she became involved in Freedom by Design when she was a freshman because it was highly advertised in the architecture department.

“Previously, I had been involved in Habitat for Humanity, and I really wanted to remain a part of something that was largely community-based,” Higgins said.

Haller said she was also interested in community service because of how much she had been involved in high school.

Haller and Higgins agreed that helping the family is one of their favorite parts of the project. Higgins said she enjoys implementing the techniques she is learning in the classroom and being given the chance to actually build and be involved in a hands-on project.

Haller said she appreciates the experience she is getting from the project as well. She’ll receive internship credit, she said, and the experience will be beneficial when applying for professional work.

The organization has received funding for this project from friends, family, architecture firms, local companies and fundraisers that were organized within the past year, such as grilled cheese sales, potlucks and bike races.

The actual project installation won’t take place until Spring 2014, but the documentation and behind-the-scenes work is being done now.

“We’re all currently working to organize and raise funds for the project,” Higgins said.

The Campbell family said they’re appreciative of the project, though Radiah said their family is only one of many in similar situations.

“I must say that I’ve had mixed emotions about this,” Radiah said. “While I’m extremely grateful and excited about this opportunity, I think about all the other families out there whose loved ones need some type of home modification, whether big or small, and are not able to get any assistance because resources are scarce.”

Kristi Fidler can be reached at 

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