Local Students Head to Training
On July 3, MIRA Foundation USA sent six blind students to the world renowned training center at MIRA Canada in Quebec.
Two of the students are from the Raleigh area, two from the Sandhills, and one each from Fayetteville and Aiken, S.C.
The students will spend 30 days bonding and training with guide dogs, after which they will return home with their dogs.
After a few weeks of acclimatization, the students and dogs will continue their training as a pair in their respective towns. MIRA professionals travel to each student’s home as many times as necessary, usually two to three visits, spending approximately a week during each visit teaching the dog the routes the students regularly travel.
In addition, parents are coached on guide dog protocol and the ways in which they may assist the student and their dog without interfering.
MIRA Canada has been training guide and service dogs for 30 years, and they hold the distinction of being the only organization in the world dedicated to training guide dogs for blind children between the ages of 11-17.
Their pilot program for children commenced in 1991 when they joined forces with the highly esteemed professionals at L’Institut Nazareth at Louis Braille to bring several students from France to train with dogs.
Their observations and findings during this time confirmed what they had hoped would be true, that is, when placed in an intensive training environment requiring great focus and concentration, the blind children repeatedly faced the stress with the level of maturity and resilience required to successfully manage a guide dog.
It also became quickly apparent that the guide dog gave the child a level of confidence that facilitated their integration into the world of their sighted counterparts while enabling them to more readily embrace new challenges.
It is this gift of independence and confidence coupled with the freedom of mobility that the founders of MIRA USA, Bob and Elaine Baillie, were determined to make available, free of charge, to children and youth in the U.S. when they created the organization in 2009.
In 2010, MIRA USA placed its first two dogs, one with a student who is now studying at Stanford University, and the other with an 11-year-old from the San Diego area.
“Both students are thriving, and one year later the friends, parents and family members of the six current MIRA candidates await their return with a mix of pride, anticipation and hope as they contemplate the life changing impact that the MIRA dogs will make in the lives of their loved ones,” says a spokesman.
MIRA Foundation USA is a national nonprofit organization based in Aberdeen, which is dedicated to providing guide dogs to blind children and youth between the ages of 11-17.
To learn more about MIRA USA visit www.mirausa.org and MIRA Canada at www.mira.ca.
More like this story