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Michael’s Mission

Anesta Henry

Michael’s Mission

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IN AUGUST 1977 while snorkelling in the waters off Pebbles Beach, Michael Young was run over by a skiing boat. That horrifying accident left Young hospitalised for a month with a cut lung, knocked out spleen, damaged intestine,a broken rib, and left foot.Physically but not emotionally scarred, the brave “sea lover” went back to enjoying and understanding the beauty of marine life. Two years later, he got involved in teaching people “various disciplines in and about water”.Years later, he decided to challenge himself and take his love to another level. With patience in his heart and tolerance in his soul, Young has opened up his classes to individuals who are mentally and physically challenged. He is the director of Camp Aquarius where he is able to meet the emotional and physical needs of “special children” and “normal children” through water sports.“We work with children who would have Down’s syndrome, autism, strokes, impaired vision . . . . The interaction is between “normal” and “abnormal”. It is really about putting everybody together and encouraging them to work with their strengths and abilities.“What I do is I take individuals and allow them to understand how to be responsible, reasonable and rational.“I like to help people find out their strengths and weaknesses. I teach individuals these traits through activities such as swimming and kayaking, and educating them about what’s happening on the shoreline and in the water,” said the owner of Aquarius Water Sports located on Brownes Beach.The 58-year-old admitted that “it was a challenge running this type of camp because it is centred around water”. However, he pointed out that he had observed “once an organisation or even a camp has the right strategies or objectives”, anything was achievable.“It is important for me to understand that I have to know my limitation and use my discretion. We spend a lot of time dealing with the children, especially those with special needs. “My team and I have come |to realise that you must have patience and a high tolerance level. High enough that you understand what is going on with the individual and also with yourself. “It is not always that you will speak and they will understand. At times, you will have to keep showing and helping them to perform that particular task until they understand,” said young.The Barbados Marine Trust board member said that at the end of the camp he expected his campers to see their families, friends and acquaintances in a positive light.    “I have a passion for children, and I have a passion for everybody. The children are linked to parents. In here the children will hear that whatever is being done here they have to take back to their house; then to their school; and then the street,” Young said.“Yes, I pay special attention to the children because they are the ones who will look after us in years to come. It is important for us to start to guide them or help them to guide themselves properly from an early age. “I am contented and happy with what I am seeing. What I have noticed is that the children leave here, especially those who are challenged, and they are better communicators. “They are able to indicate what it is they want, what it is they are seeing, what it is they are hearing to another individual who understands. All of our campers develop confident and assertive attitudes by the time they are ready to leave,” Young said.