Kathy Gallagher is volunteering as a reading mentor under the United We Serve program. This summer she is helping two brothers improve their reading skills during summer vacation. Gallagher, who is blind, uses books with one page printed in Braille and the opposite page in print lettering to read to her students and assist them with their reading pronunciation and comprehension.
Gallagher is a people person. She is especially good with children and can comfortably answer the boys' many questions about being blind. They met at a local library where they were also introduced to Victor, Gallagher’s Seeing Eye guide dog.
For the boys' first reading session, Gallagher brought a “How to Read Braille” card with each of their names printed in Braille and a special message written in Braille for the boys to read and decode. Gallagher talked about how she uses the Metro train and bus systems to commute to work and travel around Washington, D.C. She also uses a text reader built into her mobile phone to read books, pamphlets and other text not printed in Braille.
Gallagher invited the boys to visit her at work this summer so she can show them how she uses a computer and other technology to do her job as a human resources professional at the National Industries for the Blind (NIB) in Alexandria, Virginia.
After reading time, Gallagher and the boys went to dinner together. After dinner, one of the boys said he “forgot Kathy was blind.” They both were looking forward to their next reading session with their new tutor.
Volunteering as a reading tutor is just one of the community service activities Gallagher performed during the kick-off week of United We Serve. The day after reading at the library with the boys, Gallagher spoke to more than 100 Girl Scouts at a day camp in Alexandria. She didn’t just talk about being blind, she told the girls about her experience camping and canoeing (which she described was “awful” because it rained so much!).
NIB is supporting United We Serve by encouraging their employees and staff at 85 associated agencies nationwide to participate in the three-month long summer of service volunteer program. NIB is specifically encouraging people who are blind to serve in their communities. They’re doing just that and more. Agencies like the San Antonio Lighthouse for the Blind which is painting a house in August are organizing fund raisers, food drives and a variety of other community service projects that will be performed throughout the year and in years to come.