Band of Builders has come to the aid of a plasterer with a debilitating neurological condition. Professional Builder’s Lee Jones visits the site to find out more.
“What the Band of Builders team has done for me is overwhelming and deeply humbling,” declares Chris Joy, “and I really can’t thank them enough.” The Norwich-based tradesmen is the latest beneficiary of a unique charity that comes to the aid of construction workers in crisis, with a group of volunteers undertaking a major home improvement project that will help Chris in his battle against a devastating illness.
When the former plasterer first noticed his health deteriorating it was the beginning of a long and stressful road to diagnosis. Eventually, the 41 year old spreader would collapse on site, and three MRI scans, four lumber punches and a battery of other tests later, he was told that he had contracted Cerebellar Ataxia, a rare disease where a region of the brain begins to shrink, and which has left Chris spending up to 50 per cent of his time in a wheelchair.
Desperate to maintain his independence for the sake of his family, Chris turned to the charity which is itself founded and run by tradespeople, with a mission to help builders in need. The week-long renovations that the Band of Builders crew has taken on will lay a new driveway, and create a level access entrance from the side of the house. Chris will then be able to move from his property to his vehicle more easily,
“At the start of the job we had around 22 volunteers on site, and there’s been an average of around 14 or 15 every day since ,” explains project manager, Tony Everett. “When we put out a call for the trades to help we get people from all over the country, all whom are not only taking the time off their own jobs, and not earning as a result, but also paying for their own fuel and lodgings.”
Bricklayer, Tony is regular on Band of Builders projects and he has now participated in four of their assignments, project managing two of them. In addition, to the week-long building work itself that’s a role that also requires a full site assessment and considerable planning prior to the event, all of which takes time out from running his own successful business, but the project is its own reward. “There’s a real sense of camaraderie with Band of Builders, with everyone pulling together because they know they’re doing something worthwhile. My first experience was two days on a job and I just got hooked.”
That’s an attitude that is reflected in the suppliers who have bequeathed materials and equipment free of charge. Chris was well known to the local branch of a major builders’ merchant, and they have supplied all of the plant, as well as the Type 1 for the driveway’s sub-base. Weber has donated all the through coloured render the job will require, whilst Talasey Group contributed the artificial grass, driveway resin and natural stone setts.
Shane McCormick is a Talasey Group Sales Director and trustee of Band of Builders, an organisation which has held registered charity status since 2019. “We were originally scheduled to begin the work here in March,” he recalls, “but the pandemic intervened. When we asked for volunteers through our social media channels for this job we actually got more responses than we could ever use, and it can be complicated by the fact that we will need specific skills on site on certain days. Who volunteers often dictates the kind of improvements we’ll do in the course of the week. We had some plasterers turn up, for instance, so we were able to re-render the garden wall as well.”
Shane recently completed the virtual London marathon to raise funds for the charity, and like many such organisations the pandemic has disrupted its income stream, but it is the time and skill that ordinary tradespeople devote to the cause that allows Band of Builders to help those, like Chris, who are in real need. “We often find that our presence galvanises the local community,” he enthuses. “A local homeless charity has supplied both lunch and dinner to everyone who’s working on site, for example. Businesses in the surrounding area come down with cakes for the team, and we have flags with our logo on next to the busy main road here, and there’s drivers sounding their horns in acknowledgement of what we’re doing all day long.”
Band of Builders was originally founded by Adam Smith to help his friend Keith Ellick when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. It is that selfless spirit of togetherness which has seen the movement grow beyond all expectations in just a few years. Chris Joy’s is the 14th such event they have embarked on, with many more members of the construction industry who have fallen on tough times in need of their services.
“I think it’s taken a few days for it to sink in exactly what the guys have been doing here for me,” concludes an emotional Chris Joy. “When you’re a proud man, and you’ve worked and supported your family your whole life, getting this kind of help can leave you with conflicting feelings, but it’s important that I stay as independent as I can be, not just for me but for my wife and four children. The work the volunteers have done here will help me to do just that, and at the same time it really does restore your faith in people.”
For further information on Band of Builders visit bandofbuilders.org/