by Andrew Plaudis
Zora A has spent the last sixteen years defying the odds. Arriving in Canada several years ago, the Afghan native struggled to learn the language of her adopted country. However, Zohra had another obstacle to overcome. A surgery she had undergone to remove a spinal cord tumor as a young girl in Afghanistan had caused quadraplegia.
Zora persevered with a determination to show others the same love she had received. Her compassion led her to volunteer with the Canadian Paraplegic Association (CPA) Ontario.
“My goal is to be there to hold others’ hands,” Zora said. “So much was done for me that I needed to give back and help other people. Someone was there for me and I had to repay that debt.”
Zora acts as a translator and a peer support volunteer in her role at CPA Ontario. She believes that her background and ability to identify with other cultures will make many of the people she works with more comfortable. Her passion for life and positive outlook seem to resonate with everyone she encounters.
Her eternal optimism can be traced back to her childhood in Afghanistan. This is a period of her life she remembers fondly.
“I have lots of good memories,” she said.
Zora recalls a meeting with a young woman where she was able to reflect on memories from their home country. She felt a strong emotional bond.
“God brought an angel into my life,” she said.
Though some friendships stand out, Zohra feels she is able to make a difference in the life of every person she meets. She tries to learn as much about others as possible and share her own experiences.
“I hope they learn something from me,” she said. “I was afraid to go to school when I first got here. A teacher that I knew let me come see the school during the summer and told me to give it a try in September.”
She never looked back.
“People saw me for who I was,” she said. “I don’t see myself as a disabled woman in Canada, just a person like everyone else.”
Zora credits her friends and family for helping her endure the darkest days of her life.
“My brother was always beside me,” she said. “He told me to go to Canada because he knew I would make it. He married and moved to Europe and he was able to not worry because he knew I would be alright.”
Zora feels changes over the years have made CPA Ontario more accessible than ever to those who need its services.
“The door is never shut,” she said. “CPA Ontario is like a bright ray of sun lighting up the sky.”
She encourages the general public to get to know the person, regardless of physical ability, before making a judgment.
“People just see the chair,” she said. “’Give the person a chance. More than likely, you will find they are just like you.”