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Binta Badjie, of Banjul, Gambia; Phanita Maiphone, of Vientiane, Laos; and Biruk Gizaw, of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, have been selected from a field of 600 applicants as Gallaudet University’s newest WDL scholars. They began their studies at the university this fall: Binta entered the graduate degree program, and Biruk and Phanita entered the undergraduate program. Selection for these highly competitive awards was made by Gallaudet’s WDL committee, in collaboration with undergraduate and graduate admissions offices. 

Binta is co-founder of the Gambian Deaf Women’s Society and consults with civil and governmental organizations on measures that promote the inclusion of Deaf Gambians. She has also collaborated with the American International University West Africa to provide annual sign language training for its medical and nursing students. Phanita is highly involved in deaf and disability leadership, and has served as president of the Laos Association of the Deaf and support consultant for Asian Development with the Disabled Persons. Biruk has an associate degree in business technology from Rochester Institute of Technology, worked as a secondary school teacher at Tikur Anbessa Secondary School for the Deaf in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and served as office manager for the Ethiopian National Association of the Deaf. 

The WDL scholarship, which is funded by the Nippon Foundation of Tokyo, Japan, and administered by Gallaudet’s Office of International Affairs, makes it possible for deaf and hard of hearing leaders from developing nations to attend Gallaudet, with the provision that they return home after graduation and work towards improving the lives of deaf people in their home countries through education, advocacy, and partnering with influential leaders and organizations. Since the program was established in 2003, 22 scholarships have been awarded, and all 19 of the earlier scholarship recipients went on to complete their program of study and graduate from Gallaudet. 

The WDL scholarship covers tuition, room, board, and health insurance, and provides an annual stipend for expenses such as books, supplies, laundry service, personal products, and local transportation. Additional support for a WDL Scholar includes mentorship from a member of the University faculty member and an internship in the scholar’s home country. 

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