Throughout my life, I have met people I’ve admired: teachers, clergy, family members, some politicians, and my friend Richard, who has been blind since childhood. He is one I truly admire. Because of his cheerful attitude, I was inspired to offer my services to the Braille Institute.
The Santa Barbara Braille Institute is a beautiful facility offering classes in art, sculpture, computer, Braille reading, languages, and many others. The classes help people with vision impairment not only to function better but to appreciate a world that might otherwise be inaccessible to them. In a discussion with Barbara, the manager of volunteer services, I learned of the need for a volunteer in the Friday morning cooking class.
I told her I would be available since I love to cook.
She took me on a tour of the facility before walking with me into the kitchen. It was a spacious bright room, well equipped with stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, sinks, and Corian countertops. Although all that was fine, I was most impressed by the students, who came from Ventura, Oxnard, Corona, Thousand Oaks, and other communities.
An oversized TV, mounted on a wall, displayed information on the nutritional value of foods to be prepared that morning. On the extended island table, ingredients were placed for volunteers to hand to each student. I watched with admiration as Barbara, a visually impaired student, peeled onions, then chopped and placed them in a buttered pot to be sautéed. (She did this with machine-like efficiency and never cut a finger.) The instructor read off the list of ingredients, and students measured spices and herbs as they were handed to them. Each vegetable was washed and cut to appropriate size.
The students learned to do everything a sighted person could do in a kitchen. The amazing part of all this was the abundant cheerfulness and camaraderie as the students went about their tasks. I asked some of the women how long their vision had been impaired. Some had lost sight in their teen years, others later in life. With their stories, I heard not a trace of self-pity.
After the food was prepared, the students set the table, and lunch was served. It was a pleasant time for enjoying a tasty meal and participating in good conversation.
I found volunteering most rewarding. Being with these uncomplaining people, many who smile and think positively, made me feel fortunate to be a part of this wonderful organization.
The Braille Institute is always in need of volunteers and contributors. If one has an hour or two to give each week, that time will be spent in a most rewarding way.