The Life-Long Impact of USICD’s Internship Program
Theophilus Jlateh is one of eight participants in the 2014 USICD Youth in International Development and Foreign Affairs internship. He and other USICD program interns will be writing a series of blog posts about their experiences with the program this summer, to be posted at this blog. USICD coordinates the 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. Theo Jlateh is completing his internship at the International Medical Corps. Learn more about the internship program at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=257. Read Theo Jlateh’s biography, and the biography of other interns in the summer 2014 program, at http://usicd.org/template/page.cfm?id=261. The views and opinions expressed at this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of USICD.
Disability is something to be proud of and not something to be ashamed of. Before my internship I was almost quiet on issues relating to disability. Perhaps, unfortunately, this was the result of living in an environment where people, especially decision makers are consciously and continually choosing to build barriers that will put people with disability at the lower level of life, especially in many fields- political, economic, and social and so on. As a disabled person, I was always laughed at, bullied, and often shy of speaking out. I later realized that part of growing up and becoming comfortable in my disability requires that I should love, forgive, and teach people who do not understand the day-to-day challenges people with disability go through.
My experience as a USICD program intern was impactful. It helped me join the debate on issue regarding disability. I cannot no longer be a backgrounder in this respect. The internship also opened my eyes to the disability advocacy networks and other opportunities. Although it is very sad to be in Washington DC and witnessed the unhealthy delay of the CRPD ratification by the federal government, it is an opportunity for me and many of us to join the debate which I considered as “The healthy discussion of the unfinished business–CRPD” This is the time to keep the courage and continue to swelling the base.
I could not have asked for more. From the time I arrived in Washington DC as a YIDA interns up to the time my internship is officially over, I have unmasked career opportunities through an assignment called “Informational interviews”. I have expended my networks, while working at my host organization-International Medical Corps. But more interestingly, I have experienced a rapid transition in my own life, as I broke down some barriers and regained self-confidence. Moreover, I have been granted admission at the The George Washington University, which was part of my dream.
Of course, I am a person with disability. However, by pairing and teaming up with colleagues who are also disabled, I really realized that by coming together we can remove unnecessary barriers that continue to separate individuals with disability from achieving their dreams.