The ‘My Journey, My Inspiration’ film series celebrates the moving story of Lebanese paraplegic Michael Haddad who defied all odds to become a professional athlete, including completing record-breaking walking and climbing challenges to raise awareness for those with disabilities.
Michael’s story begins with a tragic tale of how he was involved in a jet skiing accident at the age of six, which left him paralysed from the chest down. The diagnosis was that he would never walk again.
As Michael grew older, he was determined to resist these negative thoughts. Instead he asked himself, “What is the most difficult thing I could do in my life?” He dreamt of being able to walk. And so began his remarkable journey.
For Michael walking again meant carrying his body one step at a time while being strapped into a 15kg steel frame which was originally designed to help him stand upright for short periods of time: “That first step was so hard, but that one step I took changed my life.”
In October 2013, Michael achieved his first world record by walking 19kms (60,000 steps) in the mountains of Lebanon with a cedar tree rebelling against the unbearable frost. His achievement prompted the Municipality of Bsharri in Lebanon to plant 60,000 cedar trees as a tribute to Michael’s 60,000 steps.
When talking about what drove him to take on this seemingly impossible challenge, Michael says: “Though in my condition this seemed completely unachievable, I broke the barriers and made the impossible possible.”
Michael reveals that his homeland of Lebanon is what inspired him to take this journey: “My land and my cedar tree, which I believe are two sides of the same coin, are my source of inspiration. I may not have use of 75% of my body, but my willpower and human spirit have made up for what my body lacks. I want to tell people, that believing in your dreams is the key. Dreams can come true as long as you believe in them and uphold them through your own determination and perseverance.”
It is clear that Michael has been inspired by his land, as he concludes his film by explaining what MYLAND means to him: “My land is not just a place, my land is the people I love standing beside me. My land is my universe, and I’m proud to say that wherever I am in the world I try to evolve and change, because every step forward is better than ten steps looking back.”