AN appeal aimed at raising money to refurbish vacant homes in Mitchelstown’s historic Georgian Quarter to house Ukrainian refugees has caught the attention of the team behind one of the country’s most popular TV shows.
ext month Baz Ashmawy and the team from ‘DIY SOS – The Big Build Ireland’ will descend on the town to help renovate and retrofit six homes in the Kingston College area of the town– and have issued a call for volunteers to come on board with the “mammoth” project.
In late March the Church of Ireland Bishop of Cork and Ross, Dr Paul Colton and diocesan secretary Billy Skuse issued an appeal seeking funds to renovate the houses. They are owned by the Kingston College Trust, which has been providence hones to people in need since 1761.
Bishop Colton said he was inspired to issue the appeal after seeing graphic images and videos of the devastation caused by the conflict in Ukraine.
“I said to Billy it was unconscionable to have these houses in Kingston College lying idle, so we immediately drew up a plan to upgrade them. I sent out an email as I wanted to see if there would be interest in helping us to raise money to restore these houses for Ukrainians arriving in Ireland,” said Bishop Colton.
“I was just testing the water, but instead what happened was amazing,” he added.
Although the email did not ask for money, within the space of just one week more than €200,000 had been pledged to the initiative and the donations kept pouring in. To add to this The One Foundations donated a further €200,000 to the project.
Of equal and arguably more importance has been the input of solicitor Charlie Daly, who has extensive contacts in eastern Europe from his time with Voluntary Service International Europe and earlier this years helped organise a container of aid bound for Ukraine.
“Charlie and group of colleagues and friends, who had been alerted to my email by Cobh parishioner Andrew Bird, came forward and said that they would offer their services voluntarily to restore some of the houses and to raise even more funds,” said Bishop Colton.
After word of the project spread following features in local and national media, it came to the attention of the ‘DIY SOS – Build for Ireland production team.
“Before we knew it we were all meeting in Kingston College again, this time on the Wednesday of Holy Week. That set the ball in motion towards where we are now,” said Bishop Colton.
He said the success of the project will, in turn, open up many other possibilities for the Trust to advance its work for Ukrainian refugees.
“Needless to say, all of us who are involved in Kingston College are absolutely delighted and we warmly thank the ‘DIY SOS; Build for Ireland’ producers and team. We are all looking forward to working with them,” said Bishop Colton.
A spokesperson for the DIY SOS team said they are also looking forward to taking part in the project.
“This is an incredibly special build and we are extremely excited to be able to announce this mammoth endeavour. From the July 5-13, Baz and some very familiar faces will once again be rallying the troops, but this time it is to renovate and retrofit six beautiful houses,” said the spokesperson.
While they said the immediate aim was to convert the run down houses into temporary accommodation for refugees, the long term plan is to revert them to their original use “to provide housing for those in the local community who are in need.”
Issuing a rallying cry for tradespeople, designers, local suppliers to provide external & internal materials, landscapers and site support such as security and transport, the spokesperson also called on local caterers to help feed the more than 100 volunteers on site.
“We live in strange times, but us Irish are known for our charitable nature, so come on Ireland…. once again, let’s do this together!” they said.
Individuals of businesses interested in getting involved in the project can email [email protected] or phone 083 013 9827 with their name, number, contact details and details of their trade or what they can supply.