Board of Directors

Betty NobelBetty Nobel, President

Betty Nobel is a native British Columbian. She has been a Braille user since age five, and still loves to read and write Braille. After graduating from Killarney Secondary School in 1969, Betty attended UBC where she graduated first with a BA and later with a diploma in adult education and a MA in Higher education. Betty worked at Vancouver Community College for more than 30 years teaching adults who are blind and visually impaired. She taught Braille and computer courses and was the Department Head for much of that time. Her many volunteer activities include serving as the Past chair of the board of the CNIB Library for the blind and Past Chair of the board of the Canadian Braille Authority which is now called Braille Literacy Canada. Betty is the Vice Chair of the board of Accessible Media Inc.

Throughout her life, she has been committed to Braille as a primary literacy format for people who are blind. She believes that Unified English Braille will make Braille easier to learn and more available to those who need it.

During her career, Betty served as the Division Chair of Adult Basic Education. She also worked as Special Advisor on Disability Issues for the Ministry of Advanced Education. In the year 2000, Betty received the YWCA Woman of Distinction award in the category of Education Training and Development in recognition of her community work and innovative educational leadership.

 

Maria ZeldisMARIA ZELDIS, VICE PRESIDENT

Maria graduated with a B.A. from UBC in 2006 and went on to complete her law degree at the University of Toronto in 2009. She specialized in commercial real estate at a national law firm, and currently acts as legal counsel for an international real estate company.

While at UBC, Maria was an active volunteer and fundraiser for the CNIB and Service for Sight. It was not until a decade later that Maria would have a personal experience with blindness.

Maria and her husband became involved with Blind Beginnings in 2014, when their eldest daughter became blind at just one year old. Since that time, the family has actively participated in the Pre-School and Junior Explorers programs with their blind daughter and her sighted little sister. The family has benefited immensely from the resources offered by Blind Beginnings, the network of other families they have met, and most of all from the positive outlook that Blind Beginnings has instilled in them about their blind daughter’s future potential.

 

Kim ZebehazyKIM ZEBEHAZY, SECRETARY

Kim is an Associate Professor in special education, blindness and visual impairment at the University of British Columbia. She is co-director of the Masters program to prepare teachers of students with visual impairments and director of the graduate certificate program in orientation and mobility (O&M). Kim’s research agenda includes investigating how to promote the critical thinking and problem-solving skills of students who are blind or partially sighted so that they can realize their potential. Prior to working in personnel preparation at the university level, Kim was an itinerant teacher of students with visual impairments and certified O&M specialist working with children and youth, birth through 21 years. In addition to her certification in O&M, she is also a certified low vision therapist. She is co-chair of the cross-Canada committee that updated the Canadian National Standards for the Education of Children and Youth who are Blind or Visually Impaired, Including those with Additional Disabilities. This document outlines the field’s vision for quality school programming.

Kim has a passion for art, in particular creative writing and photography. She loves nature, enjoys travel, and tries to be a yogi. She has been an avid supporter of Blind Beginnings, volunteering for youth leadership weekends, family camps, and Project Adventure whenever she is able. Kim was a board member of Blind Beginnings from 2010-2016 and is thrilled to be returning to the Board.

 

harjinder saran, youth representativeHarjinder Saran

Harjinder has been on the Blind Beginnings Board since 2016, serving as the youth representative. She graduated from Aldergrove Community Secondary School in June 2017 and is now in the Faculty of Arts at the University of the Fraser Valley. She is hoping to be accepted to the teaching program and later become a social studies teacher.

Harjinder has been blind since birth, diagnosed with Bilateral Microphthalmia. She was not exposed to other children who were blind while growing up. This caused her to be sheltered from a young age, as her parents were not aware of the services and programs that would help her learn the skills she would need to be independent in life.

When she was 14 years old, Harjinder joined Blind Beginnings as a participant in the Youth Leadership Program. Due to being her first time having to be more independent than she was used to, she felt it to be a true challenge. However, this motivated her and her family to challenge the beliefs they had previously held about her abilities as a Blind Person.

Harjinder continued with the program and became the chair of the Card Making Committee and started doing presentations to schools to educate students on blindness. She has found this to be something she highly enjoys and will continue with. Harjinder joined the board because she wants to be an advocator and educator for other blind children and their parents who are unable to speak up for their needs and are not aware of the services available to them. Being from a small town where services for people who are blind are scarce, Harjinder hopes to represent a diverse group of youth from all parts of BC.

 

Victoria LevyVictoria Levy, Member at Large

Victoria Levy became a Blind Beginnings board member in the Fall of 2018. She currently works in communications at Vancouver based Public Relations agency Talk Shop Media. As an expert in media relations, profile building, and building brand awareness, Victoria is working alongside the Blind Beginning team to help ensure the Greater Vancouver community knows about the fantastic work the organization is doing to empower blind and partially sighted children and their families. In her spare time Victoria enjoys travelling, reading and spending time with family and friends.

 

Sofeya DevjiSOFEYA, DEVJI, Member at Large

Sofeya is a teacher of students who are blind and visually impaired (TSVI) and Orientation & Mobility Specialist (O&M) in School District 8, Kootenay Lake. Sofeya’s passions involve being outside hiking, climbing, paddling and skiing. Her desire for being active in the outdoors has led her to develop a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities for her students who are blind and partially sighted.

Sofeya was one of two Kootenay TSVIs who were instrumental in creating Project Adventure, a program that promotes experiential education through outdoor adventures. Sofeya is a fierce advocate for outdoor program accessibility and has been instrumental in helping to create accessible recreation in her Nelson community. She has been a Paranoric ski guide for a visually impaired student athlete, created and supported rock climbing opportunities for individuals who are blind and partially sighted and currently oversees weekly goalball practices in Nelson. Sofeya has also held board positions with the Kootenay Climbing Association in Nelson and the British Columbia Vision Teachers’ Association in the past.

Sofeya has won the Community Sport Hero Award and the Excellence in Teaching Award for her work in advocacy, recreational accessibility and for developing unique place-based learning opportunities for her students. As an avid supporter of Blind Beginnings, Sofeya volunteers her time to help at family camps and leadership programs when she can. She is excited to join the Blind Beginnings board member team.

 

COLETTE MITCHELL, Member at Large

Colette Mitchell is an implementation specialist for Payworks Canada and has 30 years of payroll and accounting experience. Colette is married to Jay (Big Daddy) Phillips who sang at several of the Blind Beginning Spring Galas. She enjoys music, golfing, gardening, sewing, reading and her grandchildren.

The value of volunteering was instilled in Colette by her parents who contributed to their community through volunteering their whole lives. Her association with Blind Beginnings began by way of their Volunteer Committee where she was able to see firsthand Shawn’s positive attitude and effective leadership of their programs. She’s excited to be part of such a worthwhile organization and share her expertise as a board member.

 

Candice MahCANDICE MAH, Member at Large

Candice Mah has over fourteen years experience in experiential marketing, communications and event management in industries including the arts, organic food, cosmetology, government and not-for-profits. Currently as the Marketing Experiential Manager at Nature’s Path, she is responsible for managing events and leading the company’s experiential and sampling program throughout North America.

She and her husband have a wonderful young son who was born partially sighted. When they learned about his diagnosis, they would ensure their son will lead a fulling life not limited by his vision. When she learned about Blind Beginnings, she immediately knew her values aligned with the organization’s mandate and signed up to volunteer her help where needed. Now as a board member, she is excited to promote and support the organization’s mission to inspire limitless potential for children and youth in BC who are blind or partially sighted.

During her free time, you can find her running along a trail, producing and directing short films or testing a new recipe for her Candice’s Cusina food blog videos.

Bios coming soon:

  • Richard Marion – Treasurer