“When I was just two years old, I started learning braille so that I could help my dad. When he realized my interest in learning, he poured every dollar and every ounce of his energy into ensuring that I would get a fair chance at success.”
New York, New York - October, 2020
My name is Heaven. When I was just two years old, I started learning braille so that I could help my dad, who has a degenerative eye condition that has left him completely blind and unable to work. We are very close. He depends on me to help him with everyday tasks.
When my dad realized my interest in learning, he poured every dollar and ounce of his energy into ensuring that I would get a fair chance at success.
Early last year, my dad and I had to leave an abusive family situation in the South. We moved to the Regent Family Residence, a family shelter in New York City, run by Volunteers of America-Greater New York. New York City is a whole new experience for me. The staff at The Regent connected my dad to the Lighthouse Guild and other organizations that provide services for blind people. It allowed him to get around the city and receive proper care.
One of the greatest things I received from VOA-Greater New York was a backpack filled with all the grade-specific supplies I needed for school. Each year, they provide children in shelters across the city with a full backpack. When the caring staff saw that I love to draw and paint, they got me connected with Rutgers Presbyterian Church Community Programs where I was able to take art classes. That was an exciting year. I received the New York State Attorney General’s Triple C Award for “Commitment, Character and Courage.”
My dad was so proud of my award. He said that the award validates everything that we’ve been through. I went on to attend the Wadleigh Secondary School for the Performing & Visual Arts. All of this schooling was a dream of mine and my dad’s. It allowed me to explore a lot of subjects and has led me to think that I would like to be a science teacher.
We were at The Regent for about nine months when VOA-Greater New York said they had found an apartment for us. It was wonderful to move into our own space. I‘m able to play my trumpet, make my claymation movies and practice science experiments. Still, I miss The Regent and my friends.
The Regent was so helpful for us. I only hope that someday I can repay the people who helped us. VOA-GNY helped change our lives.