CALGARY -- For the second year in a row, Habiba Hafez is set to represent Calgary on an international stage.

The 11-year-old Calgary girl has again earned a spot in the North American Braille Challenge, the only academic competition of its kind on the continent.

Recently completing fifth grade, Habiba has been blind since birth.

“It means now I can help more sighted and blind people around the world,” Hafez said. “It also means the responsibility of representing my city, and keeping Calgary at the top.”

The event features 50 students from first grade  through Grade 12 using braille to compete in several formats, including speed and accuracy, charts and graphs, and reading comprehension.

Habiba is one of three Canadians in the challenge.

Habiba’s mother, Alma Hafez, says the repeat showing is the culmination of perseverance, patience, and hard work.

Along with her father, Hafez, the entire family moved to Calgary from Egypt in 2014.  At that point, Habiba had no skill set with braille.

“Six years ago, all we really wanted was for Habiba to read and write in braille,” said Amal. “The main reason we came to Canada was to give Habiba the best opportunities, and we’ve found it,” she added.

The challenge usually takes place in Los Angeles, but this year is moving to a virtual setting as a result of COVID-19.

“I think it will give students a better chance to focus,” said Hafez of the virtual format. “I’m looking forward to it.”

The North American Braille Challenge is slated to take place in late July, with the awards ceremony being streamed live on YouTube ( on July 25.