Robert, 47, from St Jude’s, is a highly skilled self-employed craftsman with a passion for old buildings.
He’s told his inspiring story to show others that nothing can get in the way of doing with you love.
“I left school at 16 and became a carpenter, but a few years ago I realised there was something not quite right with my health and I got signed off sick by doctors in 2006.
“I had soon had enough of that though and I wanted to be able to work off my own back, so I started the process of getting a university degree in Architectural Technology and the Environment.
“I’ve always been a carpenter. Therefore, I wanted to set up my own workshop, so I can continue doing what I love. I may not be able to drive but I can still work.
“My workshop is up at Crownhill Fort, it’s a place I’ve been volunteering for a couple of years. One of my passions is old, historical buildings.
“If you look at older buildings there’s a lot more care that goes into them. I consider myself a craftsman and so prefer to do a good job rather than a quick fix and you can see the craftsmanship in older buildings.
“There are days when I can’t do much and some obstacles are too much to cope with, which is part of my health condition. There are good days and bad days, and so running my own business allows me to work on my good days.
“I have a condition called Spastic Paraplegia, I don’t like calling it that though because a lot of people don’t understand the term, I prefer SPG7. I feel like my disability is not as bad as others, it could be an awful lot worse than it is, so I don’t really see the point in not being positive!
“I could be disheartened by it but that’s not going to make it better, so I’ve just got to get on with life.
“The Work and Health programme and my change coaches Jamie and Kathryn have helped me to help myself, they’ve been an ear to listen to and provided me with the support to put my skills to good use.
“I came onto the programme about 12 months ago now. They helped me believe in myself and see that I could continue with what I’ve always loved doing.
“From there I felt I was able to do the rest myself.
“I do all sorts of work now around the fort, in my workshop I’ve built things such as doors and windows. I replace bits of woodwork around the fort, repairing and restoring historical structures I suppose!
“I’ve been making shelf dividers for 12” records for one company – every day is different, but it will always involve wood in some way of course.
“You get a great sense of achievement when you’re making things for people, you can step back at the end of the day and say, ‘I made that!’.
“Pluss have helped me make a huge difference to my life, especially when this business takes off. It will give me a great sense of purpose and positivity, it’ll give me some self-esteem.
“Now it’s all just a matter of going for it!”
The Work and Health programme is co-financed by the European Social Fund.