RTÉ presenter Baz Ashmawy said he bitterly regrets that the pandemic caused him to pull the plug early on his new show and he and the team could only help three families-in-need to transform their homes.
The Emmy-winning star has returned to our small screens on Sunday nights with a new series of DIY SOS The Big Build, but said that the demand from applicants this year was huge.
Based on the UK format of the show, Baz is given just nine days to oversee the transformation of each home, relying solely on the generosity of volunteers.
“The sad thing is, they should be doing ten of them a year, really,” he said.
“We only got three done this year because of the bloody pandemic but we should have been doing loads of them because there’s so many people out there who need help. We got a huge number of applicants and volunteers.”
Among those who will feature on the RTÉ Sunday night programme are the Guihan family from Leixlip and their two sons Finn and Shea, both eight, who suffer from Pfeiffer Syndrome.
A rare genetic disorder, their condition causes the bones to fuse as well as respiratory issues.
While he said that people are “so worn-out” right now with the restrictions, there are loads of families around Ireland dealing with huge challenges in their lives.
“Sometimes you need to see the story of two parents with two little kids who have Pfeiffer Syndrome as you sit at home and complain.
“You have these two little kids who weren’t supposed to live longer than six weeks and that was eight years ago.
“Their diagnosis hasn’t really changed.
“There’s two parents who haven’t really slept in eight years.
“These kids are peg-fed, they’ve got fused elbows where they can’t feed themselves or scratch themselves.
“They’re gorgeous little boys but they need 24-hour care, you can’t take your eyes off them and they can only breathe through their throat.
“Then all of a sudden you’re like, ‘What was I giving out about?’ These volunteers didn’t know them, some of them came from Donegal and travelled for hours just to help.”
The first show in the series broadcast last night featured Amy Mulcahy (14).
The teenager was left temporarily paralysed and with a life-altering brain injury after she was trapped under water for around 15 minutes when a row boat she was travelling in capsized in 2019.
Last night’s show saw the team modifying her family home to make it wheelchair-accessible, with some amazing results.
Baz said that the show is good at “using TV to its best advantage.
“It’s using everything that makes TV, and using it to your advantage because it’s doing something brilliant.
“We did a build in Tipperary and afterwards, the community in Dundrum decided to make their own ‘DIY:SOS’ group to go around and do little jobs for people in their community ‘cos it felt so bloody good.
“It feels empowering to do something for other people and you’re not doing it for any other reason than just to do something good. That’s what’s so special about it.
“Right now, people need to see a bit of it, they need to feel a bit of that community and sense of ‘We can help other people.’”
Baz, who has also received plaudits there for his new podcast, said that part of the show’s format is also about parents of children with additional needs feeling like they’re less isolated.
“If you’re in a situation like that as a parent, it must be the fact that you feel nobody’s listening to you or gives a sh*t about your situation.
“Then you look out one day and you look at this new house these people have built and you have this sea of faces looking at you. It must feel amazing to think that all these people cared enough to do this for you.”