Investing in Guam’s Deaf Youth

Guam brings to mind a vacationing paradise of tropical palm trees and white sand beaches. However, Guam is more than just a beautiful island, as third-year Gallaudet University student Andrew Morrill discovered last summer while there on an internship with two other Gallaudet students.

Andrew interned at the Oasis Empowerment Center, which works with women struggling with substance abuse and homelessness. Oasis also administers the Manha Project, the deaf camp outreach project that brings together the sign language community, including parents, professionals, interpreters, teachers, and deaf adults.

Andrew, an international studies and history major, was responsible for working with other interns and a supervisor to host and coordinate a variety of events, forums and workshops during the summer for the Manha Project. Additionally, he helped facilitate sign language camp for deaf, hard of hearing, and hearing children, helped teach a community American Sign Language (ASL) class every Tuesday, helped facilitate a workshop about Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) rights, and helped coordinate ASL movie nights. Andrew helped create and design event flyers, some evaluation forms, access tools, and the camp logo and t-shirt. He even documented the internship experience with his GoPro camera.

Internship Supervisor Heather Zimmerman created internship opportunities in Guam for Gallaudet undergraduates through Oasis. She has a master’s degree from Gallaudet in international development and is currently a Ph.D. student at the university.

“We enhance the island’s well-being through collaborative leadership and capacity building. We do this through a range of advocacy projects-a children and youth summer camp, social events, and workshops and trainings,” said Heather, who grew up in the Philippines and Guam. Heather’s parents run Oasis and she has worked with deaf people in Guam for the past five years.

Andrew was struck by the island nation’s culture during his time there.

“Guam is a collectivist society, they do not believe in individualistic actions. Doing things on my own was considered offensive and egotistic,” he said. “I had to learn how to work with many people, and listen to everyone. I work much better in group situations now, and I find myself giving everyone a chance to express their opinions.”

An endowment from Gallaudet sponsored Andrew’s internship, room, and board. He also received a weekly stipend.

“When you do an internship abroad, I think it’s doubly beneficial. First, you get work experience and the added benefit is exposure to the culture, people, and everything else that’s special about the country you’re in. This broadens your worldview and you come back a different person,” he said.

Andrew said he definitely came back from Guam a different person. His commitment and passion towards his international studies and history majors have increased ten-fold. “This experience just confirmed to me that I’m on the right path, and strengthened my commitment to my dream career in international development.”

–By Jane Jonas

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