21 year-old Michael, from East London, suffers from athetoid cerebral palsy, which affects his limbs. He is also autistic and has learning difficulties. Although he can walk a little on his knees, he is dependent on his wheelchair for mobility and his mother, Bunmi, provides round the clock care. Michael also finds speaking difficult however, he understands everything that is said to him and really enjoys reading – he is particularly interested in the US civil rights movement.
Michael had a dream to follow in the footsteps of his hero, Martin Luther King, but never imagined it would be possible. However, in September 2014, we made his unique dream a reality and arranged for Michael to fly to the U.S. for a life-changing experience.
Here is Michael’s story in his own words.
“I started getting fascinated by the life and works of Dr Martin Luther king amongst other activists like Malcolm X, Jesse Jackson, Mahatma Gandhi and Nelson Mandela from a very young age when we read and talked about civil rights activists during the Black History Month and in Secondary School. I chose his speech, 'I Have a Dream' as a title of a small film project we recorded at the BBC, for which I won the Jack Petchy Award and was given £300 to spend with my class group.
My Head Teacher also gave me a portrait of Dr King he made on canvas as gift. I refused to have it framed but instead, took it everywhere with me and even to bed until my mum threw it away! I printed bundles of information I found about him online, but my mother kept tidying them away so that I didn't stack my room with papers - but that didn't stop me from printing more copies!
I educated everyone around me about Martin Luther King and asked unending questions. I believe my repeated questions asking why James O'Ray killed him was why my mum thought it best for me to explore the background history more visually and travel back in time.
When my mum told me that my request had been approved by Dreams Come True, I thought it was a joke, but then my anxiety grew. After we met Wendy from the charity, I was a lot more settled and together we planned the places we wanted to visit.
Dreams Come True did a fantastic job to make my difficult dream come true and I had the best time of my life - even though it was hectic going to all those places.
I thoroughly enjoyed the trips and given my difficult nature, I always asked my mum what's next and when am supposed to be tired. Walking through history, I saw and felt the difficulties these activist encountered in their struggle for equality. I also had the opportunity to meet my Aunty and her family which was a big bonus.
The hotels were great and I enjoyed the food. I thank Dreams Comes True and everyone involved with this big project for an excellent job and for the welcome party they gave us in their office. You made me feel like a King. Thanks to you all."
Author: Hannah Attenburrow
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