Charity appeal to adapt home of former bricklayer from Co. Derry

A building charity is appealing for Derry tradespeople to help on its first project in Northern Ireland this July.

By The Newsroom
Friday, 13th May 2022, 10:00 am

The project is set to adapt the home of a former bricklayer who has been left bed-bound because of a rare neurological disorder.

Band of Builders, a registered charity that completes practical projects to help members of the UK construction industry who are battling illness or injury, is set to help Kevin McGowan, from Toomebridge, and already has a list of volunteers.

However, the charity is still keen to hear from bricklayers, groundworkers, labourers, roofers, carpenters, joiners, plasterers, plumbers, tilers and decorators from across Northern Ireland who would be willing to get involved for as little as one day of the two-week project which starts on July 7.

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Kevin McGowan before his diagnosis.

Work will be carried out to extend onto the rear of Kevin’s property, enabling a sun lounge with a wrap-around access ramp to be created.

Kevin, a 65-year-old father of six, was a fit and healthy bricklayer and contractor before being diagnosed with progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) - an extremely rare condition that has almost never occurred in a previously healthy individual. It causes irreversible brain damage and has no successful treatment to date, usually resulting in death within a year of diagnosis.

Kevin, who is well known in Derry, was diagnosed more than a decade ago and needs round-the-clock care, which is provided by his devoted wife Margaret and community support. Although he has limited speech and movement and has to be fed via a tube, Kevin is grateful that he has been able to see his children grow up.

Marcus McGee, a Band of Builders Trustee and Project Lead, says this is the first project that the charity is undertaking in Northern Ireland. Marcus says that, although there is great word-of-mouth awareness about Kevin’s plight, he hopes more local tradespeople will answer the call for help.

A recent photograph of Kevin.

“Kevin’s is such a heart-breaking story and one where Band of Builders wants to step in and help one of our own by carrying out work that will make his and his family’s lives just a little bit easier,” said Marcus.

“We would be grateful for all the help we can get on this and, even if tradespeople already have commitments between July 7-22 that mean they can’t join in on this project, we would encourage them to learn more about the work that we do and become part of our community, which is getting closer to the 50,000 mark across the UK.”

Kevin’s project has been boosted by news that local suppliers and merchants - including one of its Patron Partners JP Corry - will be gifting materials.

Already this year, the charity has completed three projects: one to build an extension for a surveyor from Lancashire so he could return home after nearly two years in a rehabilitation centre in Leeds, after he was left with severe brain damage. Another was to landscape an outside space to enable a South Shields wife of a plasterer to recuperate from chemotherapy after her dog alerted her to ovarian cancer.

The most recent was to help a builder from Hereford who worked on another Band of Builders project to finish his own home improvements after being diagnosed with an incurable form of brain cancer.

Kevin’s will be the 27th project carried out by volunteers from Band of Builders and, as well as having the support of tradespeople across the UK, it is backed by major names within the construction industry.

○ Anyone who is interested is encouraged to find out more about the charity on its Facebook page: www.facebook.com/bandofbuilders/