Client & Volunteer Spotlight: Meet Mireya Cortes

Mireya Cortes

Mireya Cortes

It’s National Volunteer Appreciation Week! This is a nationwide opportunity to celebrate the impact of service and the power of volunteers to change their communities for the better.

So this week, we wanted to highlight Mireya Cortes, who has the distinction of being both a client of Society for the Blind, as well as a volunteer!

Mireya first discovered Society for the Blind fourteen years ago, when her ophthalmologist suggested she could benefit from their services. Mireya had been losing her vision for most of her life, and she remembers how warm and welcoming the offices of Society for the Blind were as soon as she stepped through the doors.

“I had never received any formal training in blindness instruction before, even though I’d been losing my vision for a long time. So first I got involved with the Senior IMPACT Project retreats and I was able to learn so much,” Mireya said.

Society for the Blind provides their Senior IMPACT Project retreats for individuals 55 and older who are blind or have low-vision, and are in need of learning non-visual techniques to continue maintaining their independence. Society for the Blind also provides these retreats in Spanish – of which Mireya has attended twelve (a new record!).

The retreats have been incredibly valuable to Mireya, providing her the ability to learn to read Braille, navigate her kitchen safely and continue cooking, and maintain her mobility and independence.

Mireya volunteering in the Training Kitchen during a Senior IMPACT Retreat

Mireya volunteering in the Training Kitchen during a Senior IMPACT Retreat

“Last year, I even stepped out of my comfort zone and attended one of the retreats taught entirely in English. It really showed me how much my confidence has grown, that I’m not limited to doing things in just one language. I’m able to branch out and do more with the confidence I’ve gained through Society for the Blind,” Mireya said.

About four years ago, Mireya became a Senior IMPACT mentor. A mentor is a volunteer who has completed Society for the Blind’s programs and has shown determination to move forward through their blindness. They help with everything from greeting new clients, to speaking in groups, to engaging in special activities.

“Being a mentor is such a wonderful opportunity,” Mireya said. “I am able to give back just a small amount of what Society for the Blind has given me. When I’m mentoring, meeting clients for the first time, I’m someone who can say to them ‘it’s going to be okay’ and I wouldn’t have been able to do that if I hadn’t experienced it for myself.”

Last summer, Mireya was even able to expand the cooking classes offered during the retreats. She was asked to serve as the teaching assistant in the Living Skills class, and she helped the instructor craft a menu that would be appealing to many different backgrounds, because Society for the Blind has Spanish-speaking clients from around the world.

A year ago, Mireya became her very own Mary Kay consultant, selling their products, and for the first time, she now has her own income. She continues to participate in the many classes offered by Society for the Blind, while also volunteering three hours a month as a mentor.

Volunteers like Mireya are absolutely invaluable to the success of Society for the Blind. Thank you to Mireya, and the hundreds of volunteers that help us have a positive impact on the lives of others!