Charity Spotlight: CNIB Foundation

One of my favorite aspects of my job is getting to work with such a wide variety of charities. Our partnerships with larger national organizations aside, we work with over 200 local charities spread across three countries. As the person who coordinates those partnerships, I get to spend a good portion of my week learning about and interacting with some pretty phenomenal people who make the world a better place every day.

Usually the requests I get are pretty cut and dry—organizations fill out the request form and if they meet our criteria and we have the space, we do our best to accommodate them. But every now and then, a request is a bit unusual. Such was the case when I first met Kara of the CNIB Foundation.

An organization that’s been helping the blind since 1918, they’d recently received three trishaw bikes on donation and needed somewhere to store them. Finding a storage facility that was near their clients, allowed them to charge the bikes overnight, and was large enough to house three of them proved to be a challenge. As it turned out, we had to settle for a facility that was large enough for two bikes, but we got it done.

I couldn’t help appreciating Kara’s sunny disposition and patience as we passed emails back and forth over the last couple of months. I learned a lot about their organization during that time, so naturally I asked if we could chat with them on the blog. Here’s what they had to say…

SM: What is the goal of your organization?

CNIB: Celebrating 100 years in 2018, CNIB Foundation is a non-profit organization driven to change what it is to be blind today.

We deliver innovative programs and powerful advocacy that empower people impacted by blindness to live their dreams and tear down barriers to inclusion.  Our work as a blind foundation is powered by a network of volunteers, donors and partners from coast to coast to coast.

SM: What’s something about your organization that many people either don’t understand or have misconceptions about?

CNIB: In speaking with many of our clients, and I am also a person who is partially blind, I think there is a lack of public education. This is everything from what a white cane is and how is it is meant to be used to a lack of education around guide dog etiquette and, lastly, a lack of public education and awareness that not all blind people are fully blind.  Many of us are partially blind but find a lot of the community make assumptions and assume that we are all the same and all have the same amount of loss of sight.  There are many different factors that cause our loss of vision.  I strongly feel that this is something that the public could really benefit from being educated on.

SM: Since its creation, what kind of results or progress have you seen in the community?

CNIB: We’ve seen incredible progress since the creation of CNIB 100-years-ago. We aren’t an organization dedicated to feeding and clothing war wounded anymore, now we’re a place people want to turn to for community, education and advocacy.

SM: What are you most proud of with CNIB?

CNIB: I am not only staff at the Edmonton CNIB, but I have been a client for just over 10 years.  I am very proud of how strongly CNIB encourages our clients to be their own advocates.  There are so many things that blind or partially blind people can do.  CNIB always encourages clients to pursue their dreams no matter how difficult they may be to achieve.  Reaching their and my dreams may take a little longer, as we need to find different ways to achieve them, but they are possible.

SM: Is there a big initiative your organization is currently working on you want the public to know about?

CNIB: We recently started a “Phone it Forward” Campaign.  This is where the community can donate their old smart phones for our blind or partially blind clients, who do not have a smart phone or are unable to afford one, can use.  Some of our CNIB interns then teach our clients how to use these smart phones, specifically iPhones, as they have amazing accessibility options already built into the phone.

SM: What community events are coming up that you want people to know about?

CNIB: CNIB Foundation Edmonton is proud to be launching the internationally recognized Cycling Without Age program in August 2019. This new Edmonton chapter is the first of its kind in Alberta specifically designed for seniors who are blind or partially sighted, and it expected that this new initiative will garner much interest from media and the public.  While the purpose of this program is primarily for seniors who are blind or partially blind, we welcome people of all ages to participate.  For more information, please visit www.cnib.ca or call the Edmonton CNIB office at 780-486-3566.

SM: What are some ways people can get involved? 

CNIB: There are so many ways!  Some examples are:  50/50 raffle ticket seller or counter at this years K-Days, Vision Mate Program, Trishaw Pilot and so many other opportunities to volunteer with the CNIB!

If you’d like to learn more or become involved, visit www.cnib.ca or give them a call at 1-800-265-4127.