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U.S. Deaf Volunteer teaches a sign to a Deaf African student

A World Awaits You - Experiential Exchanges

Welcome to the online A World Awaits You (AWAY) journal on people with disabilities traveling with a purpose.

This issue introduces you to people with disabilities from the U.S. who have participated in experiential programs abroad. They are volunteers, interns, performers, athletes, and citizen diplomats. Stories and best practices include the strategies that were influential in their success.

Personal Stories
Busy street in Zambia

Connection and Community from Zambia to California

Surfing the internet, trying to find other career options, landed Frank Lester on the Peace Corps website and led him to its Deaf Program in Kenya. This immediately sparked Frank’s interest.

He always enjoyed teaching and working with Deaf youth, and this seemed like an exciting international experience, which still allowed him to apply his existing skills. That was all Frank needed to see. He applied, got accepted, and was ready for his flight to Africa, but little did he realize the impact this would have on his life and others.

Personal Stories
Carla Valpeoz in Arabic covering dress

Middle East Experiences Lead to Career Path

Carla Valpeoz wouldn’t take no for an answer. When her application for the Peace Corps was unsuccessful, she decided to contact a friend in Yemen to brainstorm other ideas for an international exchange. 

“I asked him if he knew of any job I could do for six months that was social justice based. He then emailed me and said he had something waiting, so I went."

Personal Stories
Erikson with students and faculty at the School for the Deaf

Teaching a World Away

One day while teaching as usual, I noticed new parents appeared with their Deaf daughter. After my colleagues and I met with the parents, I was shocked to discover that their daughter never had been to school or learned sign language. Instead, she stayed at home and worked on the farm. She was already 18 years old. It was heartbreaking for me.

Tip Sheets
A small group of people are seated in a boat on a river. Most are people of color wearing dress common to Bangladesh. A white man with grey hair sits to the far right.

International Exchange for Late-Career Professionals

Before you begin your search, consider:

  • Type of experience. Are you interested in conducting academic research? Service-learning/volunteering? Sharing your expertise with a local community?
  • Length of program. Would a short-term program (ranging from a few weeks to a few months) be ideal, or are you interested in a longer-term experience (6-24 months)?