Greetings and salutations, fellow star gazers! May Seah, your Showbiz Sista, happens to know that Michelle Chia has been sneezing a lot lately. What’s happened? Has she caught Fann Wong’s H1N1 flu? Touch wood! Nope, it’s Michelle’s sinuses acting up, because she’s been helping some very deserving underprivileged people with remodelling their living spaces.
Michelle is the host of Renovaid, a new “reality-community” series premiering on Channel 5 this week. Each episode sees Michelle helping a different financially challenged family to sort out their HDB flats as well as their lives, and, according to her, “It’s been kind of taxing in terms of emotions.”
“First we visit the home and see what it looks like in its original state and what kind of help it needs,” Michelle explained. “And then I’ll be there with the designer to see what are the things we need to help them with.”
One family included an elderly lady with polio. “She had to move about in the house in a wheelchair, but some of the doors were too small and there were kerbs around, so she couldn’t use her wheelchair everywhere,” Michelle explained. “She had to transfer herself from an office chair with wheels, to another office chair. While doing so, she fell many times and dislocated her shoulder. So we got rid of the kerbs, making everything a bit lower. She likes to cook, but she has difficulty lifting her arms up. So the designer lowered everything, including the stove, the sink, and especially the switches. Swing doors on cabinets were replaced by sliding doors to make it easier.”
Other families had badly cluttered houses. “We helped them remove all the clutter. I’ve been sneezing,” said poor Michelle. “I’m quite sensitive to dust and my back is not in its best form. Bending and carrying heavy stuff is not great for my back. But the good thing is that I have a lot of help. We have volunteers.
“But it’s more like, sometimes I’m quite amazed that there are so many people living in one little flat, and yet they hoard so many things. When you walk into the house or into a room, you have to walk in just one line and then you have to turn around and walk back the same way. And then they have no place to sleep. They have beds, but they’re packed with stuff, they can’t even sleep on the beds. They have to sleep on the floor. And the floor is just one little area, it’s not even enough for them to stretch. In order to have privacy, they have to take turns sleeping in the room.”
“It was emotional. After visiting (one of the houses) for the first time, I went home feeling very lethargic. It was this very negative feeling. I think it was the vibe of that house. There’s no ventilation; it’s very claustrophobic; everything was just piled from floor to ceiling. It felt very uncomfortable.” So what keeps her going even though she’s so drained? “Thinking that they should have a proper environment to live in. It’s the least I can do to help them. Just little things. I’m not really doing a lot because I don’t have the professional expertise.”
Well, we certainly admire Michelle’s spirit. Catch Renovaid starting this Thursday (Dec 3) at 10pm on MediaCorp TV Channel 5. Showbiz Sista, signing out. Live long and pop corn!