Nooria Nodrat: Chasing Milesones, Pushing Forward

Nooria Nodrat is a runner, a grandmother, and an advocate for empowerment and advancement in Blind communities. Nooria’s story describes her journeys in activism, education, and wellness; her bravery and tenacity are contagious!

I was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, but the US has been my home for the past 28 years. I live in Long Island City, New York. I am a grandmother of two and I have participated in 13 marathons, including the New York City Marathon and the Chicago Marathon. I have an advanced yellow belt in Karate, and I am fulfilling my life-long dream of running an organization that helps enhance the lives of the blind individuals in my home country, the Afghanistan International Foundation for the Blind.

I know the struggle blind people face first-hand because I am blind myself. In 1997, I was attacked by a mentally disturbed teenager on the subway at 34th Street in New York City. The teenager repeatedly punched me in the head and damaged my retinas. Despite five surgeries, the doctors could not restore my sight and in 2003, after developing an infection my eyes had to be removed.

I did not let the incident define who I am. I kept my focus and energy on what was most important to me: my education and my desire to help other blind people.

In 2009, I received my bachelors in Human Services from the New York City College of Technology. While in school, I volunteered to teach English as a second language for the Catholic Guild for the Blind and the Jewish Guild for the Blind; served at different capacities at the National Federation of the Blind’s New York Student Division, the Women’s Association of New York, and the Queens Center for Progress. My goal was to help provide educational programs for homeless people with mental illness and physically disability.  

I have received many awards and scholarships in recognition of my activism and academic achievements 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, among others. I received the New York State Senate Disability Achiever’s Award in April 2007 and was also one of the 10 New York City residents to receive The Liberty Award from the National Academy of Science sponsored by The New York Post. I was featured in a documentary called New York Nooria, elected New Yorker of the Week in 2005, and Queen’s Person of the Week in 2010. I am also an active member of the Women’s Association of New York.

In 2001, I received an award from the Islamic Community of New York and Long Island and a medal award from Jewish Community Center of Queens. I am currently the secretary and a member of the board of director of the Vanguard Chapter of the National Federation of the Blind of New York State, and a member of the UN Women’s Association. I am pursuing my masters in community development and leadership from Hunter College School of Social Work.

My disability has only defined a part of my life, not my whole life. My mission is to empower blind students to understand their rights and get the opportunity to have an education. I participate in marathons and organize fundraising events to help the blind population in Afghanistan. My foundation focuses on collaboration with other nonprofit organizations that focus on offering services to blind individuals in the area of health, education, rehabilitation, and community services.

I am thankful for all the opportunities that I was given in this country and for everyone who have made this journey possible. I hope that my work will inspire and encourage sighted people to support organizations that help women and the disabled.