Callum was born in London in August of 1991 from two British parents: his father a principal, and his mother an accountant. He is the first of four boys. Or perhaps five, if you include the youngest addition: a 9 month-old puppy named Freddie, a Hungarian Vizsla.
For a short time, Callum grew up in Tulse Hill but his family soon moved outside London, to a town called Woking, because this would ensure Callum’s attendance at a mainstream school. At the age of 16, he moved to a catholic school-Saint John the Baptist to complete his A-levels.
It didn’t take very long for Callum to recognize a particular interest (and may I add, a particular talent!) for languages. This led him to college in Birmingham where he majored in foreign languages: French, Italian and Spanish.
He claims to have settled there reasonably well for 2 years before leaving for a year abroad split between Nancy, France; Vuelva, Spain; and Lake Garda, Italy. It was a practical approach to his degree that allowed for several months in each of the countries associated with the language he was learning.
“My year abroad was a highlight” he shares. “It was really something that shaped me as an individual. There were plenty of highs but particularly in France, there were many lows. And I think you learn more about yourself from your lows, than you do from your highs.” He confessed much of this had to do with the way a culture welcomes you and the way that people decide to help, or not. “Sometimes,” he confesses, “you just cannot force people to help you, and that’s something you cannot change but must simply learn to accept.”
“My blindness is not a barrier” he admits. I found that perhaps that’s something we all notice when we first meet Callum. He triumphs gracefully through this particular aspect of his life. “My family and I knew there would be a challenge.” There was an understanding among them that he had to believe in his ability, but also plan really well. “We made sure the right provisions were in place so that I could succeed in an environment were in- dependent learning skills were going to be really important. Certainly, plenty of good self-advocacy is necessary.”
Callum is currently working on an external project that aims to encourage young people with dis- abilities to volunteer and travel overseas. This is done in association with a voluntary organization called Gap Year Fair. Along with his coworkers, they have created a website – http://www.disabledgapy- ears.org – which displays case studies of individu- als who have traveled or volunteered. The website also provides advice on how to plan a trip as well as an enquiry service that people can contact if they are interested in traveling or volunteering overseas. The initiative has attracted the attention of the European Parliament, and to that he adds, “There are certain opportunities in life that you cannot turn down, and this is one of them.”
I asked Callum to define himself using three words: “ambitious, confident, and direct”, he decided on. I found that these perfectly embody Callum. Not just these words, though. He’s also a young man that has travelled in a multitude of places ranging from Brazil, Argentina, and Peru (a trip that inspired his project) as well as Russia, Hungary, the US and many more. Callum also plays the drums and speaks and writes four lan- guages fluently. Callum is a young man, a peer and a friend that reminds me time and time again, that the only limitations we face are the ones we place in front of us. That if you believe, and you persist and pursue, you are capable of anything you set your mind to.