Volunteers are here to support clients at every step of their journey. Nooria works with three volunteers. An Afghan refugee, she arrived in the United States in 1991 with glaucoma, which she had developed as a child. Although controlled with medication, she knew that one day she might have to live as a person with low vision.
Nooria was able to come to Lighthouse Guild for help. Volunteer readers assisted her with her English as a Second Language class assignment so she could improve her English skills. Once her English improved sufficiently, she returned here to study for her high school equivalency exam.
Then one day, she was randomly attacked by a stranger resulting in the detachment of her retina, leaving her totally blind overnight.
Adjusting to blindness was difficult. Nooria returned to us for mobility and independent living skills lessons. In 2004, she ran her first of 16 marathons. When she decided to get her Master’s degree, she took advanced technology classes at Lighthouse Guild.
Nooria is extremely grateful to the teachers and volunteers with whom she has worked. They bolstered her self-esteem and self-development. “If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here.” In 2009, she was inspired to start an organization, the Afghan Blind Women and Children Foundation. It’s a nonprofit that provides educational, health, rehabilitation, and community services to thousands of people living with blindness and low vision in Afghanistan. More recently, she founded the Afghanistan International Foundation for the Blind. The Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan in 2021 has limited the organization’s services, but it is working with immigration authorities to send 15 families with blind and visually impaired members to different countries.
Nooria’s own volunteer efforts created an interest in her to become a social worker. Currently, Nooria’s focus is preparing for her social work licensing exam, which she will take in 2024.
None of this would have been possible, Nooria says, without the help of her Lighthouse Guild volunteers. One volunteer, Terry, is “my supporter, my helper, my angel.” Her other cherished volunteers are Sandra and Sheila. Terry’s comfort with technology is especially valuable. Among other online tasks, he helps her locate the test preparation materials she needs for the social exam: books, practice exams, answer sheets.
“Technology is good everybody, but I think for blind individuals it is essential, a part of their development. Now [with] technology, we can do anything now.”