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A great man they nearly expelled

Michael Braithwaite with his award from Camden

10 December, 2020 — By John Gulliver

Michael Braithwaite with his award from Camden

MICHAEL Braithwaite is one of those annoying fellows who looks as if he moves slowly but always beats you to the post.

I thought it would be straightforward when I heard he had won a special award in Camden for the help he gives people. But it didn’t work out like that because Michael was hard to contact – he was always at work, it seems. He is 69 next week by the way.

I tracked him down at on Tuesday evening after he had finished his work at 8.30pm – helping disabled, children and adults, or people with “complex” or “moderate” needs – at a Somers Town youth centre where he is a popular fellow.

He has built such a reputation among those who need help that at last he has deservedly been given Camden’s first “integrated” Youth Support trophy.

Modest and hardly aware of his gifts, Michael emits a calmness and a laid-back view of things, that makes life easier for those around him. He puts it down to being an observer and simply wanting to help people but really he has the gift of motivating those who need encouragement, and many of the ones he helps become friends for life as he puts it.

He has lots of talents – he is a good musician, plays the guitar and piano, and has been in film work. But he found his harbour as a teaching assistant at Gospel Oak Primary School until suddenly four years ago he did not have the right documentation to prove he had come from Barbados as a child. Without it, the Home Office clamped down on him and he lost his job.

He became part of the Windrush scandal. But the Somers Town youth centre needed his help – and that is where I met him after he had introduced me to a teenager who didn’t let his cerebral palsy stop him from reading massively and studying for university – he is now a student at Sussex University. All with the help of Michael who this week told me that the student, John, has had more surgery on his leg which now almost enables him to stand up straight. All important milestones in the way Michael sees his guardians.

Such is his quiet fame in the Caribbean community that he was among the many “celebrities” who petitioned home secretary Priti Patel to stop her from deporting dozens of Jamaicans this week.

Naturally, he is also among those Windrush victims who are seeking compensation for their losses but, like so many, hardly a penny has been received from the Home Office though millions were promised several years ago.


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