A Volunteer’s Experience at the 2015 Gala

Have you ever wondered what it’s like to volunteer at our A Million Laughs for Literacy Gala? Inside NBP talked to one of our volunteers about her experience.

Last week, we held our annual A Million Laughs for Literacy Gala at the Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel. It was an exciting night, celebrating braille literacy and the blind community. The evening was a tremendous success, thanks in part to our dedicated volunteers. Amy Bui, a Northeastern University Undergraduate student, was one of those volunteers. She has been volunteering at National Braille Press for several years, this was her 3rd gala, and in her words, “the best yet!”

Gala blog Ximena

Charlotte Griffiths, Ximena Ojopi and Amy Bui

It was a night filled with inspiration. Starting with Connor McLeod’s acceptance speech for the Hands On! Award (Connor successfully campaigned the Australian government to include tactile features on banknotes). President’s Awardee Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, echoed Connor’s commitment to the blind community in his remarks stating that he will “increase accessibility across all neighborhoods” in Boston. Blind Adventurist, Erik Weihenmayer, continued the inspiration with his special presentation on his adventures kayaking the Colorado River and the concept of No Barriers.

Our volunteers are passionate about NBP’s mission; many of them have stayed with us throughout the years because they share our passion for braille literacy. “I’ve been a volunteer for 4 years now, I love working with the development team at NBP,” Amy Bui continued. “For this year’s gala, I’ve worked on everything from painting the blue man to graphic design for the silent auction.”

Amy Blue Man

Amy Bui painting the blue man for the Blue Man Group silent auction

“My favorite part of the night was Fund a Book. It was fun, fast paced and interactive, with all proceeds going towards braille literacy,” said Amy Bui. Fund a Book is a great way for the sponsor to see the value of their philanthropy.

Fund a Book

Hands On! Awardee Connor McLeod and David Brown

Amy’s overall experience at the gala was a great one, and as she says, “mind-opening.” If you are interested in NBP’s volunteer program please visit: http://www.nbp.org/ic/nbp/support/volunteer.html

Be Mine, Xander

I know everyone has a Facebook page, even NBP, but I have not been tempted. Ever. Not once. Not for friends or family. Until this moment.

I want to friend Xander.

My son showed me Xander’s Facebook page and I’m completely done in. Xander, a squeezable, fawn-colored pug, suffered a head injury when he was two months old and had both of his eyes removed. At ten months of age, his owners put him in a car and dropped him at an animal shelter. Xander snuggles with a young childBut then two people, Marcie and Rodney Beedy, saw what Xander had to offer the world. They not only adopted Xander, they gave him his own Facebook page. Taking advantage of his new online audience, Xander explains what happened next: “I began using my other senses, the love in my heart and my many blessings to brighten the days of everyone I met.”

Marcie took him to school, where Xander passed his Pet Partners exam and officially became a therapy dog.  Because of who he is—who he was born to be—Xander works with victims of child abuse and spousal abuse. Rodney describes Xander’s unique style: “A lot of times he’ll hear a child crying at an event and he’s bolted several times, at least 500 feet over to this child to comfort them.”

Listen, Xander, I’m right now reading How to Add Friends on Facebook (with pictures). I should have something up by Valentine’s Day.Valentine Bone with braille letters that say "Be Mine" Until then, maybe we can tweet. Send me your hashtag. I’ll send Valentine biscuits that say BE MINE.

If There Were Twitter Fifty years Ago

I’m a history, news, and politics buff. Radio is also an enduring passion of mine. It’s been a long time now since I worked full time in commercial radio in New Zealand, but thanks to the Internet, I keep my hand in. With a team of over 40 volunteers, I run Mushroom FM, an Internet radio service staffed predominantly by blind broadcasters.

Mushroom FM has a sister station, Mushroom Escape, which plays a wide variety of radio drama and comedy. Sometimes, we deviate from that mission a little to commemorate special events. This Friday, we’ll be playing radio coverage of the Kennedy assassination from a range of sources, complete with all the jingles and commercials of the day.

In putting this special day of programming together, I’ve immersed myself in many hours of radio and TV coverage from that day, so I can select the best material in terms of both content and audio quality. It occurs to me that in addition to being a profoundly tragic day that altered the course of history, it was also the day breaking news came of age. Television networks went into a continuous news format for a prolonged period for the first time. Radio, with its ability to get correspondents on the air from a range of places more easily than television, held its own.

In sifting through all this material, I began reflecting on just how differently we consume breaking news stories now. Of course we have continuous news channels, and correspondents are easier than ever to put to air, but radio and TV are no longer the first place I turn to for breaking news. When I receive a push notification on my iPhone from one of my many breaking news apps, the first thing I do is turn to Twitter. With Twitter, anyone with a mobile device at the scene of an unfolding news event is a global journalist. It has democratized the news reporting process. Both trained journalists, and people who just happen to be bystanders when history unfolded, can record their experience in 140-character chunks for near immediate world-wide publication.

Mindful that absolutely anyone can be a global publisher thanks to Twitter, a bit of intelligence and healthy skepticism on the part of the reader goes a long way. Sometimes misinformation is spread, and for a while taken as fact. This can happen due to genuine confusion and misunderstanding, and in some cases because people are being mischievous. But reading first-hand accounts of unfolding events is often a more informative way of getting news than the constant repetition of talking heads trying to fill air-time with the same limited material over and over.

Tweeting BlindReading tweets about major events as they develop is just one reason why I find Twitter such a useful communication tool, and just one of the reasons why I hope my new book, “Tweeting Blind”, will encourage more blind people to become a part of Twitter. Twitter is fundamentally a text-based medium, making it ideal for those of us who use screen readers.

How different it would have been, had the thousands of people who lined the streets of Dallas been able to tweet, fifty years ago.

Jonathan Mosen is a highly experienced producer and consumer of assistive technology and a skilled communicator through broadcasting, other audio and print.