Chief encounters: Chris Townsend on 22 years at Redwoods


Art class at the Redwoods Caring Foundation

Chris Townsend believes his shy, 16-year-old self would be very impressed with his role as chief executive of the Redwoods Caring Foundation

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6th June 2017 by TFN Staff 0 Comments

Chris Townsend

Chris Townsend

What makes a good day at work?

Personal or phone contact with the people we support or staff, bringing encouragement to them and celebrating their successes. Having less than 25 emails to respond to and clearing my paperwork.

Do you socialise with colleagues outside the Christmas party?

Not as much as I’d like to. Redwoods is family, but we all have busy lives at home and with our churches.

What’s the best thing that’s happened this month?

Can I have two? One of the ladies we support is partially sighted and was told that she would go blind. As a Christian organisation we believe that god answers our prayers for healing, and many prayers have been said for this lady. When she visited the optician recently there had been an improvement in her sight! 

Also the celebration event of our 30th anniversary at the Scottish Parliament, hosted by Colin Beattie MSP, to coincide with learning disability week.

What’s your favourite animal?

My two-year old miniature Schnauzer, Elsie

Do charities do too much in the health sector?

Without charities like Redwoods many people would not get the quality of care and support they need. The question is not really about whether charities do too much, but rather whether what they do is sufficiently valued and recognised by central and local government, and society as a whole, so that adequate funding is made available for them to continue the excellent work they are doing.

Would your 16-year-old self be proud of where you are?

Very much so. I was not a confident 16 year old and had no thoughts of leadership, instead studying to be a biologist tucked away in a laboratory. When I became a Christian at university, and together with a subsequent illness, my idea of what was important in life changed drastically. This led me to come to Edinburgh to volunteer with the Bethany Christian Trust for a year, during which time I discovered I had people skills. Having retrained as a social worker I then began working for Redwoods 22 years ago.

The people we support would greatly benefit from having more mutual relationships that are not just centred around their home lives

Is Facebook your friend or your enemy?

It’s my friend – it enables me to keep in touch with friends and family all over the world (Canada, Norway, Hungary, Spain, Russia, Poland, India).

What’s the best  book ever written?

Excluding the Bible, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. I am not a great reader, being more of a visual person. But this story was part of my O-level English course and really touched me. It drew me in so that I couldn’t put it down. I recently read the sequel, Go set a Watchman. It’s very different in style to the original but worth a read nonetheless.

What does your perfect weekend look like?

Date Night on a Friday, garden time on a Saturday, and family time after church on a Sunday. If there’s an F1 Grand Prix on then so much the better!

If you were your boss would you like you?

Yes. And I think others do too!

Is the third sector a calling or an accident?

I certainly don’t see it as an accident. I believe Redwoods’ staff are called.

What one thing would improve life for people with learning disabilities in Scotland?

If the Keys to Life has 52 recommendations I really don’t know how to answer this! However, recommendation 34 is about supporting people with learning disabilities to have more friends. Certainly the people we support would greatly benefit from having more mutual relationships that are not just centred around their home lives.

What advice would you give your successor?

Don’t try to fill my shoes, be your own person. Don’t give up fighting for what you see to be right.

What’s your favourite cause apart from your own?

Compassion UK. A group of us sponsor a small child overseas.

Which Brian Cox?

Professor. Looking at the stars on a clear night reminds me of the beauty of creation and the vastness of our god.

Chris Townsend is chief executive of The Redwoods Caring Foundation