Wheelchair-bound plasterer spends time in garden for first time in years thanks to kind-hearted Band of Builders

A wheelchair-bound plasterer has spent time in his garden for the first time in years thanks to a band of kind-hearted tradesmen and women.

The group from charity Band of Builders spent five days making changes to help John Coburn move in and out of his home freely for the first time since December 2012, when he collapsed with a potentially fatal brain aneurysm.

They were even joined by TV presenter Nick Knowles and his team from DIY SOS, who visited the site in Holland-on-Sea in east Essex and helped out for a day.

John, known as Jonnie, 55, had been a self-employed plasterer for more than 30 years. The aneurysm left him fighting for his life and he spent the next 14 months in hospital and a rehabilitation centre.

Jonnie finally returned home in April 2014 but has been left wheelchair bound. He has had no access to washing facilities as he now has to sleep downstairs and it is difficult for him even to leave his home. Jonnie’s condition means even everyday tasks are difficult for him and wife Jackie and the whole family have been under huge strain, both emotionally and financially.

To make their lives easier, the family received funding for an extension that will include a wet room to allow him easier access to washing facilities that Jonnie has had to do without since his collapse. The funding they received didn’t quite cover all of the extension plus landscaping to the garden to allow Jonnie to be able to go outside, so Band of Builders, a charity set up to help other members of the UK construction industry battling illness or injury, has stepped in to help.

On May 27th, nine volunteers from across the country descended on Jonnie’s home to start a five-day project to completely landscape the garden at Jonnie’s home allowing him a safe way to get in and out of his home and enjoy his garden – something he also hasn’t been able to do since he fell ill.

The group completely landscaped the garden at Jonnie’s home, widening paths and making it possible for him to get around it in his wheelchair. Thanks to donated materials and free labour by the volunteers, the charity managed to do around £20,000 of work at a cost of just £2,000 – and nothing at all to Jonnie and his family.

Speaking after the project, an emotional Jonnie and wife Jackie said: “We just want to say a heartfelt thank you to Band of Builders. What they’ve done is above and beyond what we were expecting.
“The whole project is heartwarming and so generous, it’s left us completely overwhelmed. Thank you.”

The group were supported by local businesses who donated materials and members of the community, who fed and watered them during the project.

Band of Builders’ project lead Tim Height, said: “It’s been an honour and a privilege to make changes that will have a huge positive effect for Jonnie and his family. We’ve had amazing support from the local community and are over-the-moon that Jonnie is pleased with what we’ve done.”


1. For images and video material please contact info@bandofbuilders.org
2. The project used materials donated of discounted by: G&A Safety Supplies; Silverton Aggregates, Clacton-on-Sea; EH Smith Builders Merchants, Witham; Power Lift Plant Ltd, Braintree; Jewson Billericay; Talasey Group; Milwaukee; County Skips Ltd, Clacton-on-Sea; Hilltop Garden Centre, Clacton-on-Sea.

Band of Builders was formed in 2016 after landscaper Addam Smith asked for help to renovate the garden of his friend and employee Keith Ellick, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Keith lost his battle with cancer in 2017 but Band of Builders continued with the aim of helping other members of the UK construction industry battling illness or injury. Band of Builders was declared a registered charity (Charity Number 1182283) on March 1, 2019.
Previous projects have included:
● Installing a specialised bathroom for Pippa Atkinson, an electrician’s daughter suffering from a rare skin condition
● Landscaping a garden for builder Jamie Thompson, who is suffering from Motor
Neurone Disease, so he can safely watch his children play, as well as installing a new kitchen.
● Creating a bedroom for plasterer’s daughter Sadie Jenkins, who had spent the first half of her life in hospital and needed machines to breathe, as well as installing a downstairs bathroom for her carers.
● Installing a summer-house and landscaping the garden for carpenter Dan McIntosh, who was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour, so he could spend precious time with his family.
For more information on how to become a member or how to apply for help from Band of Builders, visit www.bandofbuilders.org