Braille Teacher Volunteer – Halifax, NS
Every Tuesday, Genevieve Wales volunteers with the CNIB Foundation in Halifax, where she teaches braille to three individuals living with sight loss.
Genevieve begins teaching her first student at 8:30 a.m. and finishes her third by noon. Each student has varying levels of sight loss and different levels of comfort with braille, so Genevieve adjusts each lesson to match the student.
“The best feeling is simply just seeing that ‘Eureka!’ moment on someone’s face after they’ve been successful with braille for the first time,” says Genevieve.
With the positive moments, there are challenges. Some students may be new to their sight loss and with that comes adjustments and emotional challenges.
“You need to realize you’re teaching the person more than just braille and that learning can’t take place when a student is feeling frustrated,” says Genevieve. “Allow them to express their frustrations, be patient and understanding, and continue when everyone’s ready.”
Genevieve began volunteering with CNIB in April 2011, starting as a vision mate and event volunteer. Three years later she was asked to begin teaching a person with sight loss who wanted to improve their braille. Having experience and interest in it from her time at the Atlantic Provincial Special Education Authority (APSEA), she accepted and has been volunteering in the position ever since.
“It felt like the most natural, easiest way to give back to the community,” says Genevieve.
Genevieve’s personal gratification from volunteering comes from beyond the enjoyment she feels when working with students and giving back to her community. She’s encouraged by people who want and need to learn braille, and knowing that she’s responsible for helping them learn it.
“With Genevieve’s knowledge and skills, she’s able to offer a unique volunteer service to our members,” explains Jeff deViller, manager of foundation programs with CNIB Nova Scotia. “Not only does she teach braille, she also is often one of the first people to offer help at CNIB events and has been an incredible addition to our team.”
Before retiring, Genevieve worked with students who are blind or partially sighted at APSEA. She held a number of positions in her 30-year career: from residence counsellor, tutor and parent coach, to employee assistance coordinator and transition planning facilitator. It was during her time at APSEA that Genevieve received her braille certification.
Genevieve believes volunteering is a two-way street. “Any volunteer I’ve spoken to has said that they get more out of volunteering than what they put in,” she says. “I urge more people to volunteer – get involved with something you’re interested in and help someone in your community in the process. Everybody involved benefits – the organization, the volunteers, and the community.”
If Genevieve’s story inspires you to consider volunteering for your local CNIB Foundation, fill out the application form below.