Band of Builders has once again enlisted the help of volunteer builders, landscapers and suppliers, this time to complete a project for 12-year old Aiva Barry at her home in Craigavon, Northern Ireland.
Aiva and her family have thanked volunteers from award-winning construction charity Band of Builders for landscaping the outdoor space of her home, allowing her to play safely in her back garden for the first time. The scheme was the finishing touch to a bigger project where the family obtained funding to build Aiva, who has severe learning difficulties, a new ground-floor bedroom and bathroom.
Speaking at the handover of the project, the family – mum Catrina, dad Ciaran (who is a landscaper and worked on the project himself) and Aiva’s sisters Catlin and Orlaith – said: “It looks amazing and we can’t thank everyone involved enough for coming together as a team to create an area where Aiva can play safely. She’s looking forward to having a new bunny rabbit and a hot tub in her new garden.”
Aiva was just 2½ years old when she suddenly stopped breathing. This lasted 3–4 minutes before her parents were able to resuscitate her – and she was rushed to hospital. It was initially thought that she had a heart defect and she underwent a range of paediatric tests, as her heart rate kept climbing and falling. At that stage, epilepsy was ruled out because Aiva wasn’t fitting or foaming at the mouth.
Over the next 18 months, Aiva saw a number of doctors and underwent a battery of tests, where it was discovered that she did have a rare form of epilepsy called electrical status epilepticus during sleep (ESES). This was causing the raised heart rate when she was sleeping, as her brain was having seizures. Aiva required an immediate aggressive treatment of steroids to try and get these under control, along with epileptic medication.
She was subsequently diagnosed as having 15q11.2 microdeletion – which is a rare chromosome abnormality in which a tiny piece of genetic material is missing. The most common features include developmental, motor and language delays; behaviour and emotional problems; attention deficit disorders; and ASD.
Aiva goes to a local school that specialises in supporting children with special educational needs. At times, Aiva can write her own name, but on other days she is unable to due to her not being able to retain information. Aiva is a loving, caring child and always smiling. Her diagnoses are life-long, and she will continue to have these difficulties and need support and care throughout.
Band of Builders stepped in
It was one of the kind-hearted builders who built the extension that signposted the Barry family to Band of Builders – a registered charity that completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry and their families who are battling illness or injury – as the funding for the home renovation didn’t cover the outside area, which needed to be safe and secure for Aiva.
The charity put out a call for help to the 50,000+ members of its community of supporters and well-wishers, and enlisted support from businesses that support the charity.
JP Corry, one of Northern Ireland’s leading builders’ merchants, was the headline sponsor for the project, which was also supported by the charity’s National Landscaping Partner Talasey. It was the 34th project by the charity – the second in Northern Ireland – and the week-long build (which was hampered by the weather…) involved creating a seating area, laying paving and installing outdoor lighting in the 70 sqm. area.
Project Manager Marcus McGee thanked the five volunteers and said: “Band of Builders has done what it does best in helping our own in the construction industry and completing projects that will make a huge difference to the lives of tradespeople and their families.
“Having a safe outdoor space means the world to Aiva – and the smile on her face has made it all worthwhile.”
For more information on how to become a member or how to apply for help from Band of Builders, visit www.bandofbuilders.org.
Band of Builders was born in 2016 when our founder took to social media to ask for help renovating the home of close friend and colleague Keith Ellick – who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. The incredible response from tradespeople across the UK saw the project completed and demonstrated what can be achieved when the industry stands together.
The registered charity (charity number 1182283) also organises the Big Brew, an annual event to raise awareness of the mental health crisis in the construction industry – where the suicide rate is estimated to be as high as two people every day. UK construction workers are also nearly three times as likely to die by suicide than their counterparts in other industries.
In September 2023, Band of Builders won Corporate Partnership of the Year – Small (for its work with Jewson) and CEO Gavin Crane received the Rising Chief Executive Award at the prestigious Third Sector Awards. It also received two highly commended awards for Small Charity of the Year and Small Charity, Big Achiever.
Recent projects have included:
In October 2023, BBC TV’s The One Show screened the emotional scenes as Luke Goold-Hannatt returned to his family home for the first time following the completion of the project.
In July 2023, four BoB volunteers who worked on Luke Mortimer’s project joined the ten-year-old quad amputee on the sofa on ITV’s This Morning to talk about the adaptations they have made to his home to make life easier for the schoolboy and his family.
The first project in Northern Ireland was building a new sunroom for former bricklayer Kevin McGowan, who has been bed-bound for a decade because of a rare neurological disorder, which means he requires round-the-clock care.
Completely reconfiguring the ground floor of the home of plasterer Mark’s partner Cher Little, who was left relying on a wheelchair after having her legs amputated.
Revamping the home of chartered surveyor Rob Lamb in Solihull to make it safe and accessible after he was left paralysed by a fall.