Michaela Hollywood, Trailblazers Regional Ambassador for Northern Ireland, has been awarded the Point of Light by Prime Minister David Cameron. She tells us what this award means to her and her advice for other young campaigners.
The past four weeks have been a whirlwind, but being recognised by Prime Minister David Cameron has only reinforced the notion that Trailblazers are on the right track and we are making a real difference. My Point of Light doesn’t just recognise my work, but all of us as we pull together to find a way forward to advance the inclusion of people with disabilities in mainstream society.
I’ve been working with Muscular Dystrophy UK for over eight years now, and have had the opportunity to support many fundraising and campaigning initiatives, as well as getting to know our press team very well indeed. It’s thoroughly enjoyable, from the giggles while we fundraise to the big breakthroughs on policy that mean we get the same treatment as anybody else would.
This campaigning and fundraising is daunting to everyone when we first start out. But these are the three things I’ve learned over the years.
1. I wasn’t diagnosed with a disability, I was diagnosed with my condition.
This is a notion that’s only just beginning to catch on. But the more I go through life the more I see I’m not disabled by my SMA, but actually by the barriers that society puts in our way. That could be the attitudes and perceptions people have, or physical access to a building among many other things. But without society removing these barriers – often with our help or prodding – we will continue to be oppressed in some shape or form in every day life.
2. This can all be fun.
Without a doubt I’ve had fantastic fun at every step. Some of my most memorable family days out have been during fundraising and campaigning events. Conferences in England where I get the chance to meet so many people I know from online to meeting your best friend on Twitter because of the fundraising they’ve done. Everything I have done has personally enhanced my life, and has helped us all along the way. Which brings me to the last point.
3. Campaigning and fundraising has a profound, positive impact on our lives.
It’s never lost on me that every pound we raise could be the pound that finds a treatment. The next pound could be the one that finally helps wheelchair users get fair access on public transport. Equally so, every email, daily conversation or contact I have serves as another step towards a society where we are fully included.
I couldn’t be prouder of our network. Trailblazers has come a long way. I know the road we’re on can often be frustrating as we try to push through changes that many don’t always see the importance of. But we are on the right road. The Prime Minister – whatever your personal political beliefs – has recognised not only me, but the importance and relevance of the entire Trailblazers campaign and the work that Muscular Dystrophy UK do every day to improve lives. We should take this as a big encouragement to keep moving forward, and I know I won’t stop until we are finally fully included members of society – as we should be.
By Michaela Hollywood
If you are a young disabled person and you’d like to join Trailblazers, sign up here!