After suffering an industrial injury in 1999 that left him with a severe back problem, life for Bob looked pretty bleak.
Bob Wood was living in Manchester at the time and had just completed a five-year apprenticeship as an engineer. But the accident caused tendon, nerve and ligament damage, along with three popped discs in his spine, leaving Bob unable to continue in his job and out of work for eight long years.
In 2002, Bob was registered as disabled and later that year, during a respite break in Devon, Bob decided to relocate. In 2003 he and his family moved to Dawlish and, despite chronic pain and medication that caused depression, he was determined to find work.
In 2006 Bob qualified for a Motability car through the Disability Living Allowance and, with a new found sense of freedom and independence, things started to look up. After eight years of unemployment and having applied for 186 jobs in a 3-year period (with only ONE reply!) Bob finally secured himself a job as a Facilities Support Officer at a charity in Exeter helping others back into employment and independent living.
Redundancy in 2015 left Bob wondering what his next opportunity would be. Still disabled and in almost constant pain, he felt his options were limited. However, through Pluss, a social enterprise that supports people with disability into employment, Bob was introduced to Devon Air Ambulance and was offered a placement as a driver and assistant to help the retail team.
Bob explains, “It was a 6-month volunteer placement, working with Frank, moving donated stock between their warehouse and all of the DAA shops around the county. It was an unbelievable experience – such a positive environment and such a great team. The care and support offered to me was amazing and although I always give 100%, I got more than 100% back every day!”
When the 6-month placement was up, Bob was motivated to apply for a job with Stagecoach and, after passing his license with just six hours of training he is now a full time bus driver, learning the routes of Exeter. It’s a job he just couldn’t have imagined this time last year. “My volunteer placement at Devon Air Ambulance was so positive; it really boosted my self-confidence and self-esteem – I realised that I’ve still got a lot to offer. I will always be grateful and can highly recommend volunteering – you never know where it might lead.”
Frank Whitham, Logistics Officer for DAAT was grateful for Bob’s help, “I am so pleased that Bob has secured himself permanent employment; if anyone deserves a chance it's Bob. He came to us on a 6-month job placement from Pluss for 2 days a week. We hit it off straight away, his attitude to work was great and we quickly became a great team.
“With support from myself, Heidi and Nigel from Pluss, Bob gained confidence in every way and progressed really well. Bob also went out of his way to volunteer at fundraising events throughout his time with DAAT and he became a popular face throughout the organisation. I was sorry to see him go but I’m sure he will be a great asset to his new employers. And I’m really chuffed that he will continue to support DAAT as a volunteer when he gets the chance!”