Peace Corps Volunteers Teach and Conduct Classes in Sign Language

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 3, 2011 Peace Corps volunteers in Bulgaria, Guyana, Jamaica and Kenya are using sign language to conduct classes in science, social studies, creative arts and life skills to deaf and hard of hearing students.

Speaking to teachers and the principal, I helped them realize that the only thing that deaf people cannot do is hear, and they are capable of doing everything a hearing individual can, said Peace Corps/Jamaica volunteer Megan Hicks, who worked as a freelance sign language interpreter prior to her Peace Corps service.

Magnifying glass icon Peace Corps volunteer Megan Hicks teaches sign language to deaf students in Jamaica.Recently, deaf returned Peace Corps volunteers spoke about their service at the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, D.C. Watch the video on Peace Corps\' YouTube Channel.

Peace Corps volunteer Kathleen James of Sharpsburg, Ga., will be teaching five hard of hearing children in her local community using a Picture Exchange Communication System, which uses pictures to help children communicate.

Magnifying glass icon Peace Corps/Guyana volunteer Allen Neece teaches a 13-year-old boy the alphabet in American Sign Language.Peace Corps Response volunteer Allen Neece of Arlington, Va., has been working in Guyana since February 2011 teaching sign language and HIV/AIDS awareness classes to deaf and hard of hearing teachers. Neece is also revising standard school curricula to be appropriate for deaf students. Neece, who is deaf, served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya, where he also taught and advocated for the deaf community.

Volunteer Jillian Johnson of Johnson Creek, Wis., is teaching an American Sign Language class at a special needs school. Jillian also facilitated a week-long special celebration summer camp for disabled students in July 2011.

Magnifying glass icon Jamaican students in Peace Corps volunteer Megan Hicks class learn sign language.Peace Corps volunteer Megan Hicks of South Lake Tahoe, Calif., is working in a school with 43 deaf and hard of hearing students aged three to 13. She teaches classes at the school and sign language classes for the general public, Hicks has also helped to create a school library.

Since arriving in Kenya in October 2010, Peace Corps volunteer Alan Kawamura of Garden Grove, Calif., works as a deaf education teacher in a school in western Kenya with students aged three to 21. Kawamura teaches Kenyan sign language, science, social studies, creative arts and life skills classes. Kawamura graduated in 2009 from California State University, Northridge with a degree in Deaf Studies.

Magnifying glass icon Peace Corps/Guyana volunteer Allen Neece teaches a young boy the alphabet in American Sign Language. Neece also served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Kenya.Peace Corps/Kenya began a deaf education program in 1992 for volunteers to give deaf and hard of hearing students the same standard of education as their peers. Volunteers teach students and teachers Kenyan Sign Language and incorporate health and HIV/AIDS awareness into lesson plans. Peace Corps Kenya currently has 16 deaf education volunteers and four math and science volunteers who are teaching to deaf and hard of hearing secondary school children.

About the Peace Corps: President John F. Kennedy established the Peace Corps on March 1, 1961, by executive order. Throughout 2011, Peace Corps is commemorating 50 years of promoting peace and friendship around the world. Historically, more than 200,000 Americans have served with the Peace Corps to promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of 139 host countries. Today, 8,655 volunteers are working with local communities in 76 host countries. Peace Corps volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment. Visit for more information.

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