Once disaster struck Christchurch, it has been heart-wrenching for Mitre 10 Dream Home contestants Jay Blair and Amanda Fail to see their children too terrified to sleep at night.
The family has moved house twice since their lives were shattered by the quakes, and Amanda’s kids – Josh (13), Bailey (10) and Summer (8) – have felt unsettled and too frightened to live in a two-storey house.
As they seek desperately needed stability, building the kids’ sanctuary in last week’s episode was hugely important.
“Of all the rooms in the house, the kids’ ones are very important to us,” says Amanda, who let the young ones design their own rooms.
“They’ve hated moving so many times. There has been so much change in their lives. To uproot them again and again has been really hard,” she adds.
When the Weekly visits the Mitre 10 building site, there is a sense of abject panic for Team Black and Team Orange.
The contestants only have from Friday night until 4pm Sunday to complete the build. And even with All Black Zac Guildford helping out, there is no time to kick about.
Jay and Amanda’s home (Team Black) is abuzz with power tools and frenzied hammering. Meanwhile, Sarah and Martyn’s Team Orange task is also huge, as they sand, paint and decorate five bedrooms for their six kids: Isaac (13), Xavier (9), Bailey (7) and Rhys (6), and little sisters Chevalyn (5) and Janaya (3), who are sharing a room. But the family gets a helping hand from a whopping 22 volunteers, many of whom are friends from the home-school network. With so many people crammed into a small space, there are a few near-miss incidents with a paint roller.
“We might have no friends left at the end of this,” jokes Sarah, who is covered in paint.
With the couples a few weeks into the build, it’s clear the tension is mounting. Even host Simon Barnett’s megaphone time call appears to fall on deaf ears. Instructed to lend a hand, he picks up a vacuum cleaner and dances around the room, hamming it up for the cameras.
“I’m like Mr Bean. I think they picked me for my presenting and comedic value, rather than my DIY skills – I’m a tragedy,” says the radio DJ.
The goofy antics help clear the air on Team Black, after a couple of squabbles between Jay and their builder, Zach Mason. Zach and his buddy, Crusaders winger Zac Guildford, seem relieved as well. “I’m a complete amateur,” jokes Zac. “I thought I’d come and help out, but I’m actually more of an interference.”
But although he jokes he’s just a “show pony”, his efforts are far from superficial. After learning about Amanda and Jay’s family plight on Dream Home, the All Black stepped up. While he isn’t quite as adept with a paint brush as he is on the field, he’s behind Team Black, boots ‘n’ all.
“Zac was keen to come to the site and lend a hand,” says Zach, who became friends with the number 14 after a fishing trip three years ago.
On Saturday night, both teams work through to the morning, and sleep deprivation takes its toll. Team Orange hold a glowstick dance party to try and stay awake – a moment that doesn’t appear on screen.
“I feel sick – you don’t realise how much tiredness affects you,” says Sarah.
The cameras also miss a tiredness-induced slip by Team Black, when a helper misspells “India” while stencilling Bailey’s wall and has to start again.
On Team Black, Amanda is at breaking point, and cries when she realises her team may not finish on time. But Jay talks her off the ledge, telling her how proud she is of all she has done.
When Simon announces it’s time to put the tools down, there’s relief and anguish for Sarah and Martyn who, once again, haven’t hung their wardrobe doors in time.
Emotions run high when Simon reads out the judges’ scores. Sarah and Martyn are the winners, and Jay and Amanda storm off in different directions. But it’s all worth it to see the kids’ faces when their rooms are revealed.
The loudest response comes from Summer, whose scream echoes throughout the Team Black house when she sees her mermaid-themed creation.
“Summer’s room is bold and beautiful, just like her, but her reaction was more than we expected,” says Jay.
The children are just as happy in Team Orange. Sarah’s special message on the wall for her foster daughters, Chevalyn and Janaya, reads: “We waited a long time for you, you are so special, you are loved.”
“I didn’t want to give them a princess room – because they are not princesses. I want that message to be the last thing they see at night, so they can be strong,” Sarah adds.