Bringing Passion to Experience
By Maegan Shanks
Maegan Shanks is one of eight participants in the 2014 Youth in International Development and Affairs (YIDA) internship program. She and other YIDA interns will be writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with the YIDA program this summer, to be posted at this blog. USICD coordinates the YIDA internship program, which brings a cohort of students and recent graduates with disabilities to Washington, DC, each summer to complete internships at various international organizations in the Washington, DC, area. Maegan Shanks is completing her internship at World Learning. Learn more about the YIDA internship program at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=257. Read Maegan Shanks’ biography, and the biography of other YIDA interns in the summer 2014 program, at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=269. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD.
Growing up, I knew that I wanted to do something unique with my career despite constant negativity from my peers and few adults through my life simply because I am Deaf. As I grew older, I realized I wanted to change the world and promote equality. But for whom and how did I want to promote equality?
During my freshmen year of undergraduate education, my disability counselor discovered this exchange program from Mobility International USA (MIUSA) and encouraged me to apply immediately. I was amazed when I was accepted into the program; I did not fathom how much it would change my life. The MIUSA exchange program in 2008 was my first experience out of the country. Spending a part of my summer surrounded by strong interns and strong local advocates of Costa Rica, learning about the successes and failures of accessibility in Costa Rica, made me realize that international development was what I wanted to do.
When I graduated from college, I did a 6-month internship in Kenya working with a non-governmental organization focused on the empowerment of the disabled community. The internship in Kenya confirmed that working in international development was my passion. After working for 1½ years with at-risk youth in a faith-based organization, I now go to graduate school for International Development at Gallaudet University in Washington DC.
I came to understand that the International Development field is broad, with many areas of focus I can choose from. I decided to focus on disability inclusion especially of youth, education, women, and monitoring and evaluation. I did not think that I was able to do all my interests at one time. I was thrilled when I discovered I had the opportunity to be placed at World Learning via the YIDA internship program coordinated by USICD. It was a wonderful match! World Learning focuses on education, development, and exchange.
I admire how World Learning is eager to promote inclusion in every aspect of what the organization does. It has only been two weeks and I feel that I have already absorbed so much knowledge. I have learned and am still learning of many ways of how to raise awareness of inclusion through, but not limited to, working with the Disability Working Group, formulating surveys on inclusion, writing blogs, and learning a new software that will become a resource database from which the organization and other organizations can gather and share resources on inclusion. I am excited to go to the office on a daily basis to share and learn new ideas. I look forward to what will happen within the next few weeks.
“Being disabled should not mean being disqualified from having access to every aspect of life.”
— Emma Thompson