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Blind Woman Raising Funds So Poor Students With Vision Loss Can Get Canes, Live Independently

04/06/2015 08:50 am ET | Updated Apr 06, 2015

A woman is working to help blind students in Indonesia gain more autonomy.

Amber Shuping, a blind 29-year-old from Raleigh, North Carolina, began writing to her braille pen pal, Muhammad Arifin, about a year and a half ago. Shuping learned that Arifin is a teacher at The Makassar School for the Blind in Indonesia and that his school, which teaches blind adult students, lacked some important resources.

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Amber Shuping.

"The school didn't have canes," Shuping, a member of the National Federation of the Blind (NFB), told The Huffington Post. "It's so hard [for the students] to be independent if they don't have canes."

After some research, the 29-year-old decided to begin an initiative to bring canes to schools for the blind that didn't have the funding and resources to buy them, starting with the Makassar School. Shuping started a crowdfunding campaign two months ago in the hopes of raising $4,000 to fund travel expenses, and purchase canes for the school's 35 students.

A cane is a valuable tool for people who are blind, as it allows them to move around by themselves, increasing their independence. Shuping explained to HuffPost that while the Makassar school teaches its students life skills that can help them be more self-reliant, the lack of canes hindered the students ability to be autonomous.

"The school for the blind teaches [the students] skills to live on their own, like finding and keeping jobs," Shuping told HuffPost. "But that's difficult to do if you can't walk on your own."

She says that once she brings the blind students the canes, their lives will change for the better.

"When we bring the canes over, once they learn how to use them, they'll open up their minds to their city," the 29-year-old says. "They'll be able to go to the market on their own, find a job on their own, and maybe move into an apartment on their own. That independence is a huge for me."

Shuping hopes that with the proper funding, she can travel to Indonesia with her fiance, Michael Cox, by late next year, so she can distribute the canes to the students. It's a big goal, but she told HuffPost that she credits the NFB for fueling her to pursue her mission of helping the blind students.

"My inspiration is the NFB. We believe that with the right technique and tools, you can do whatever you want. You can be whatever you want," she said. "This is one more tool in their toolbox to help them be independent."

To donate to the initiative, visit Amber Shuping's fundraising page on the crowdfunding website, DreamFund, here.

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