My Internship Experience at MIUSA

Headshot of Ash, wearing glasses and a jacket, smiling with a purple backdrop that has decorative flowers hanging above Ash
MIUSA Intern Ash Alunan
Learning about the power of relationship-building to work towards justice and access.

As I near the end of my fall internship with MIUSA, I am filled with gratitude for the wonderful opportunity to support this amazing organization, championing in international development and exchange while fostering leadership among people with disabilities.

I was first attracted to MIUSA because I have a keen interest in disability rights and wanted to understand them further from a global perspective. After working at a Center for Independent Living (CIL), I found an affinity for disability rights and a passion for disability justice. Thus, when the opportunity of a remote fall internship with MIUSA presented itself, it felt perfect for me. One of the silver linings of the pandemic was that I was able to learn and work virtually from Sacramento, CA, even though MIUSA is based in Eugene, Oregon.

Throughout this internship, I have been able to assist with two exciting international development projects. The Armenia project is working to empower people with disabilities and establish Independent Living Resource Centers (ILRC) across Armenia.

With my background working at a CIL, I was encouraged by the commitment of the partners in Armenia to create their own ILRC that meets the needs of the disability community.

My main project with the internship was working on the technical assistance guide to support disability rights leaders with developing an ILRC in Armenia. Based on previous workshops from MIUSA staff and CIL leaders in the US, I have been consolidating key information into a concise, helpful reference.

Additionally, I have been involved with the Kenya project where Deaf people and interpreters are leading efforts to draft and implement legislation for more Kenyan Sign Language (KSL) access. As a Hard of Hearing person myself, I am aware of the systemic inequality and lack of access for Deaf and Hard of Hearing people. The implementation of a KSL Bill will be a game changer for the lives of Deaf/Hard of Hearing people and interpreters. I am grateful for the chance to learn from these powerful disability leaders and be a part of the MIUSA team during my internship.

My biggest takeaway from the MIUSA Internship program is the power of relationship-building. As emphasized by MIUSA staff and under the leadership of Susan Sygall, building connections and collaborating is foundational as we collectively work towards more justice and access.

Even though my internship was entirely remote due to the COVID-19 pandemic, everyone at MIUSA was incredibly welcoming and excited to meet me. They took care of all of my accommodations virtually with such consideration that I was impressed. The staff at MIUSA brought their full selves to each meeting and were generous about sharing their stories with me. Near the end, I felt inspired to share my own story during an in-service presentation.

After my internship with MIUSA, I hope to continue down the path of Disability Advocacy and Disability Justice. I want to pursue a Master’s of Social Work to become a stronger advocate for marginalized communities. With gratitude, I will take everything I have learned from MIUSA wherever I go.  And maybe in the future, I will have the chance to go to Eugene, Oregon and connect in person with everyone at MIUSA?


Ash Alunan