Where there’s a will, there’s a way. And what a way Sam Waddington chose to prove the old English proverb during a life-changing trip to America.
For two weeks this summer, the former Kings’ School, Winchester, pupil joined other disabled UK teenagers for his first taste of solo international travel and an exchange programme focusing on the promotion of disability rights through cultural inclusion.
Sam has the muscle weakening condition Duchenne muscular dystrophy and was one of several wheelchair users among the group of teenagers brought together in Eugene, Oregon by Mobility International USA (MIUSA) in partnership with the US Embassy in London and the UK Council for Disabled Children.
The broad range of disabilities represented by the group included deafness and required swift adaptation to a wide range of communication skills. The result was great team spirit underpinned by mutual support and the mantra ‘If someone doesn’t take part, nobody will’.
And so Sam found himself high rope swinging through a state park. The MIUSA team also made it possible for Sam and other group members to ride adapted bikes, pitch their own tents for the night, build a camp fire to cook their food and join a youth conservation team clearing a woodland area.
“It was really good because it was like a proper camping experience,” said Sam, who also spent time with a host family and attended a variety of lectures and events exploring the key themes of empowerment, leadership and independence in relation to disability.
“Swinging and flying high up through the trees was definitely one of the best moments of my life.
“I was a bit concerned about how the organisers would adapt all these things for me but they always had a trick up their sleeves. How they got me up there I never knew but everyone was going to take part, no matter what!”
Among the treasured keepsakes which Sam brought home from his trip is a wristband produced by disability services organisation Incight. Its message packs a thought-provoking punch: Handicrap – a limiting belief, adopted as reality.
As Sam’s experience proves, where there’s a will there is most certainly a way.