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Chandani Returns From Philippines After Working With Discovering Deaf Worlds

Gallaudet University Student Success Specialist and Peer Mentorship supervisor Alim Chandani, Ph.D. recently returned from a trip to the Philippines where he served as a program specialist with Discovering Deaf Worlds (DDW), a global non-profit organization that promotes the rights of Deaf communities abroad. The trip was for phase four of a seven-phase, two-year program entitled Expanding Participation of People with Disabilities in the Philippines (EXPAND). EXPAND is administered by DDW and made possible by a $300,000 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The goal of EXPAND is to provide organizational development, consultation, and training to the Philippine Federation of the Deaf (PFD) and its 28-member organizations.

Along with Chandani were Davin Searls, DDW Executive Director, David Justice, DDW International Programs Director, and Allie Rice, Youth Programs Coordinator for the National Association of the Deaf (NAD). Chandani also serves on the DDW Board.

“We collaborated with PFD to strengthen their ability to implement and evaluate different advocacy programs in the Philippines, and assist them in reaching their goal of becoming a strong and sustainable organization,” said Rice.

DDW asked Chandani to participate in the EXPAND project due to his expertise in international development and social entrepreneurship. In 2007, Chandani founded Global Reach Out Initiative, Inc. (GRO), a nonprofit organization that seeks to empower deaf individuals in India, his country of birth. Since establishing GRO, Chandani has advised governments and NGOs in emerging markets across the world on deaf education and skills training as well as delivering several TEDx Talks on the subject. Moreover, Chandani has multiple fieldwork experiences such as he traveled to Bhutan in 2013 to assist the country’s deaf education system.

At Gallaudet, Chandani enacted the Peer Mentorship Program for first and second-year students. As a supervisor of this program, it is his responsibility to ensure that these students have the support needed to successfully transition to life on campus. Chandani sees the correlation between this and the EXPAND program operated by DDW.

“My experience at Gallaudet of implementing the Peer Mentorship Program served as an example of educating the deaf Filipino leaders on how to set up a program for their deaf organization,” he explained.

Chandani and Rice acted as the two program specialists and developed and instructed five workshops connected to Program Development and Program Evaluation. These courses described the purpose and importance of measuring outcomes. Nine leaders from the Filipino deaf community attended these workshops to learn the content and then take the knowledge back to their communities.

“This phase was the most hands-on,” said Chandani. “Instead of watching lectures, the participants completed activities and can apply what they learned to real-life situations.”

The first workshop entitled Bago Planeta, or New Planet, was designed to promote creative thinking. Attendees were split into groups, asked to invent a new planet, and given a specific scenario. At the conclusion, they presented their planets and explained how they overcame the challenges they were assigned.

“This workshop was mainly to help them step outside of their comfort zone and to imagine how they would create and design a new organization, based on the organizations’ purpose and priorities,” said Chandani.

The second course, Program Development Structure, allowed participants to again complete a hands-on activity. Entitled Daan Mapa, or Road Map, the activity allowed attendees to develop hypothetical programs that could mitigate real issues facing the deaf community.

One group developed an advocacy plan for Filipino Sign Language (FSL) intending to promote its validity as a language and advocate for its recognition as a national language. Another group created a program to advance interpreter ethics and establish it as a legitimate profession with common standards.

“It provided an opportunity for the Filipino leaders to point out detailed plans for strong and sustainable programs,” said Chandani.

The third part of the training focused on the framework and structure of program development with an emphasis on the comprehension of vocabulary used in the field to help the students fully understand the terminology used in the provided materials.

Participants had the opportunity to apply what they learned, teaming up into groups to create evaluation plans, consider different evaluation options, and identify which elements need to be included in evaluation reports.

“To maintain a successful program, it is crucial to evaluate what happens within a program, seek ways to take further action, and ensure that it continues to make an impact,” said Chandani.

All of the workshop participants were volunteers, and many of them attended the training in the evenings after working all day.

“They were passionate about the work and the impact the program had on their lives was evident,” said Chandani. “During the closing ceremony, a lot of the participants shared inspiring words about what they had learned during the two weeks.”

“Through training, we worked together to support the PFD in developing tangible outcomes for their programs that will have a lasting impact on the Filipino deaf and hard of hearing community,” said Rice.

In the remaining three phases of EXPAND, DDW hopes to continue towards its goal of empowering the deaf Filipino community to fully participate in their society, workplace, and culture.

“I am so grateful to DDW and Gallaudet for allowing me this tremendous opportunity to make a difference in the lives of deaf people in the Philippines; it was an experience I will treasure forever,” said Chandani.

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