When she first traveled abroad with MIUSA on a disability leadership exchange program to Costa Rica, Maegan fell in love with advocacy and wanted to help others reach their potential. Since then, she’s traveled to Belize and the Bahamas to do mission work, studied in Greece, interned with a disabled people's organization in Kenya, taken on a master’s degree in International Development at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C., and served as a Youth in International Development and Affairs (YIDA) intern.
Maegan tells us about how she made the leap into international disability rights work with her internship in Kenya:
Maegan: As I approached the end of my senior year in college, I figured why not combine my love for advocacy and adventures by going out to do an internship in a developing country? The Foundation for Sustainable Development (FSD) arranged my internship with a non-governmental organization in Kenya called Empowerment of Disabled Development Organization (EDDO). My project was to promote and improve the self-sustainability of the organization.
“My advice for anyone with a disability planning to do an exchange like this is to speak up if you feel there is something people can do to accommodate you, because chances are that they won't know how unless you say something.”
MIUSA: How did you fund your exchange?
Maegan: As a fundraiser for my program, I arranged an art auction in my community. I received generous donations from community members, a local disability organization, and a Christian organization called Journey of Sisters.
MIUSA: What was it like for you to live and work in Kenya?
Maegan: One of my challenges was figuring out how to live in another culture that was so different from what I was accustomed to in America. But the accomplishments, such as improving EDDO's self-sustainability and sending a young Deaf girl back to school, were worth the challenges. I learned a great deal of patience and perseverance from the local people, and in return, I believe I taught them that we cannot keep silent in the face of injustice.
MIUSA: What was it like as a visitor with a disability?
Maegan: I used hearing aids during my internship. In Kenya, the general cultural attitude is that disabilities are curses caused by something you or someone related to you did. However, various human rights-focused organizations are trying to change that attitude.