Peace Corps Honors National Disability Employment Awareness Month
WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 1, 2008 - Peace Corps recognizes National Disability Employment Awareness Month by celebrating the hard work and dedication of Peace Corps Volunteers and staff with disabilities throughout the month of October. Around the world, Volunteers with disabilities are making an impact among communities through positive, sustainable change and international friendship.
"Volunteers with disabilities have made lasting impressions in the communities they serve, and bring their unique skills and talents to their Peace Corps service," said Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter. "This month provides the opportunity to formally acknowledge and cherish the contributions of these Volunteers who serve with courage and distinction."
Established in 1945 by Congress, National Disability Employment Awareness Month highlights and honors the contributions of American workers with disabilities by engaging public awareness. This year's theme, "America's People, America's Talent…America's Strength!, features the progress gained from President Bush's New Freedom Initiative for people with disabilities.
Peace Corps Volunteers with disabilities, as well Volunteers who work with individuals who have disabilities, work in the areas of education, health, community development, business, and agriculture, as does the entire Peace Corps Volunteer community. Here are some examples of Volunteers in these areas:
- Shannon Hy-Coe joined the Peace Corps in Paraguay in 2004. As a youth development Volunteer, Hy-Coe worked with the Special Olympics, organizing events and activities, leading workshops, and interacting with the athletes. Hy-Coe also taught English and established youth groups in her host community. Since the completion of her Peace Corps service in 2006, Hy-Coe has earned the title of Ms. Wheelchair California 2008 and is working towards a master's degree from the Monterey Institute of International Studies. "My experience in the Peace Corps has brought me to where I am today," said Hy-Coe. "I have been promoting service-oriented work, such as the Peace Corps, among the disability community. I think it is very important to have people with disabilities in the Peace Corps. While in Paraguay, I felt that my presence there dramatically changed attitudes towards people with disabilities, and was beneficial to the entire community."
- Frank Lester was born deaf during the rubella epidemic in 1964. After graduating with a masters degree in social work in 1998, he served as a guidance counselor at California School for the Deaf. In 2006, Lester joined the Peace Corps in Kenya, serving as a behavior change communication Volunteer and worked among the Deaf community. Lester is currently serving in Zambia as an education Volunteer. He works closely with Deaf students as a Deaf educator. 'I realize that besides the service I am providing, my presence as a Deaf adult proves to be valuable as a role model for the Deaf youth," said Lester. "Being exposed to a Deaf, non-African, who moved far from home to work with them, greatly expanded their mind into thinking they are capable of anything but hearing."
- Sarah Gordon is a Deaf education Peace Corps Volunteer in Kenya. She works primarily in the Deaf Unit at the Mtwapa Primary School. Of her experiences there, Gordon said, "The beauty of being Deaf and working in any country is that there are no language barriers because we have the common understanding of life as a Deaf person. Once someone accepts their Deaf identity, their world changes and so many new opportunities come up for communication, education, and friendships. This is why I'm continuously fighting to work with hearing parents of Deaf children, as well as hearing teachers, school administrators, and the general public to create awareness that understanding and acceptance of their Deaf children will go a long way."
The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently there are 8,000 Volunteers abroad, a 37-year high for Volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 190,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. To learn more about the Peace Corps, please visit our website: www.peacecorps.gov.
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