Ireland
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DIY SOS team needs tradespeople for special Cork housing project 

The team behind Ireland’s DIY SOS has issued an urgent appeal for an army of tradespeople to roll up their sleeves and get stuck into a very special building project in Cork to house Ukrainians who have fled the war.

Big Build Ireland, presented by Baz Ashmawy, has set its sights on transforming six historic houses on the grounds of Kingston College in Mitchelstown in north Cork but they will need a lot of help for what they've called a “mammoth endeavour”.

“You name the trade, we need you there," they said.

Kingston College is a community of 31 small terraced houses which were built in 1761 by James, fourth lord baron Kingston, to cater for former tenants on his estate. They have been providing housing to people in need ever since.

The beautiful houses are grouped around a large square with a chapel as its central focus and have been in trust since the mid-18th century to three Church of Ireland Bishops, who have been maintaining them through a charitable fund.

The Church of Ireland is doing up eight houses it owns in Kingston College to house Ukrainian refugees. Bishop Paul Colton is shown the properties by co-ordinator Charlie Daly, builders, and volunteers Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision
The Church of Ireland is doing up eight houses it owns in Kingston College to house Ukrainian refugees. Bishop Paul Colton is shown the properties by co-ordinator Charlie Daly, builders, and volunteers Picture: Michael Mac Sweeney/Provision

Some 23 of the homes are occupied but when the war in Ukraine broke out, one of the bishops, the Bishop of Cork, Cloyne and Ross, Dr Paul Colton, and diocesan secretary Billy Skuse, appealed for funds to renovate the remaining eight vacant houses for use by up to eight Ukrainian families as a temporary home.

Bishop Colton said people responded magnificently, donating over €200,000 in just a week but that it later emerged that the work required to renovate the houses turned out to be much greater than they ever anticipated.

“This (DIY SOS’s involvement) is going to make a massive difference to our project for our Ukrainian newcomers,” he said.

Two-week project

Baz and his team have now agreed to rally the troops to renovate and retrofit six of the properties over two weeks in July. The trust will do the work on the remaining two houses.

The work will be done from July 5-14 and will feature in two special one-hour programmes but the team will be on site at 16 Kingston College on June 16 for a trades day, and have invited volunteers to come meet them and view the plans.

They need groundworkers, ticketed machine drivers, carpenters, general labourers, plumbers, electricians, roofers, slabbers, block layers, painters, plasterers, joiners, pavers, landscapers, tilers, catering, cleaning and registration volunteers.

Feeding the troops

The volunteers need to be fed and the programme-makers have appealed to catering companies or local restaurants to provide breakfast rolls, lunches, dinners and snacks to fuel at least 100 “hardworking troops” who will be on site every day.

They need a number of joinery companies, stoves, extensive homewares, wallpaper, paint supplies, indoor and outdoor furniture, plants, trees, lights and accessories, site security, van drivers, transport companies, portaloos, marquees, accommodation and printing facilities.

The project got a big boost this week with confirmation of a €200,000 donation from The One Foundation, the private philanthropic group set up by Declan Ryan, son of Ryanair founder Tony Ryan.

Bishop Colton said: “This donation is one of those lifeblood moments that has given our project practical hope."

If you’d like to get involved in the project, you should email diysoscork@gmail.com or phone 083-013 9827 with your name, number, email address, details of your trade or what you can supply.