The Afghanistan invasion and continued terror forced Nooria Nodrat to flee for the U.S. for safety. But after an attack on the train left Nodrat permanently blind and unsure of what to do, she became inspired her to start an organization benefiting blind women and children in Afghanistan.
“Dwelling in the past only makes people depressed,” Nodrat said. “I am focusing on the future and continuing God’s work in helping others.”
Nodrat, a New York City College of Technology (City Tech) graduate, has published a book and has been a guest speaker at a number of events which has awarded her notoriety and accolades from the National Federation of the Blind, the American Council of the Blind and the New York City Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind.
How did you start your foundation?
When I started my organization I did not have any penny in my hand. On the night of a banquet for my documentary New York Noria, I told the audience that I started a non-profit organization and I was asking for donations that night. I raised $1,100 dollars.
Did any person or institution specifically support you in maintaining your foundation?
My college was supportive of my organization. I discussed my plans with the chairperson of Human Services Department at The City University College of Technology, Dr. Justine Pawlukewicz, and she referred me to the president of the college. Then, luckily, one of the board directors worked in a law firm and that’s how the legal process began in having this organization.
How long did the process take in starting your organization?
The process took three months for me. To start the documentation, I paid $850 for paper work to be filed then I paid $150 for application then $85 for the IRS documentation.
There are non-profit organizations who profit from their work. Is that the same with your organizations?
The board directors and myself, we are all volunteers. This organization is a non-profit that means we do not receive any money straight to our pockets. Any donations that we received are for the blind woman and children in Afghanistan. There is no payment here. We just don’t have enough budget.
Is the war in Afghanistan going to affect your goals and what you’re trying to achieve?
In any society, war will have a negative impact and I am sure that it will affect my work but I hope that the United States Army and Afghanistan council can come together and find a solution on the war with the Taliban. I am not concern about my safety, but one of the board directors is accompanying me to Afghanistan so I care for her safety not mine. Our focus is on Kabul and other areas that are not as dangerous as the other cities in Afghanistan.
How do you stay motivated considering what you have been through being blind and all?
You can’t look back on your life and say that you should have done this or that. I think that having eyesight is one of the most beautiful things on this earth. When I put down my keys for example, I have to pat down everywhere in the house just to find my keys. If someone has eyes, they can just look for it and remember where they put it. Because I cannot see remembering where I put my keys is a bit futile.
In what ways did the death of your brother affected you?
Things impact people’s lives positively and negatively. My brother was my motivation. He was a blind individual who helped others and in the process lost his wife. I feel like it is my duty to follow in my brother’s footsteps. I am going to make my brother’s dream a reality and that’s why I created this organization and work tirelessly to help the blind people in my native country.
Since you mentioned your organization, what is your expectation of your blind women and children foundation?
This foundation is a new one. But since I started it in August 2009 we have a web site, we have a logo and have worked with other organizations who offer us grants. I am bringing two women from Afghanistan to America to do surgery on their eyes. My expectation of this organization is to consistently give aid to blind women and children in Afghanistan.
Have you forgiven the girl that attacked you on the train?
Living with my brother gave me the skills to read and write as though I was blind. So the transition was not that difficult. I forgave her. I cannot keep living in the past. I hope that she is doing well and that she has since changed.
How did you learn how to cook and clean after you lost your eyesight?
I was in a program that taught me how to cook and clean but more importantly they taught me how to be normal.
How long have you had your seeing eye dog Yahoo?
It has been 10 years since I’ve had Yahoo. He will retire at the end of this year. Yahoo is a good dog. He is very helpful even though he did not finish the marathon. I appreciate animals more now than I ever did because now I have to depend on Yahoo for so many things.
You participated in the New York Marathon knowing that you have asthma, what made you sign up for the Marathon?
I like to exercise and prove to myself that I can overcome any challenges that are out there. With my asthma I get short of breath and can’t breathe, that does not stop me from finishing the marathon. I am disappointed that I did not reach my goal but I am happy that I finished the 22 mile. Whenever you are depressed think about homeless people and how they don’t have anything. Don’t think about what you should have done. Think about what you’re going to do.