Gallaudet University Museum Opens Exhibition on Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers

Image: Visitors to the new Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers exhibit. Photo by Matthew Vita.

Visitors to the new Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers exhibit. Photo by Matthew Vita.

On October 25, 2011, the Gallaudet University Museum opened an exhibition, "Making a Difference: Deaf Peace Corps Volunteers," which highlights the work of Peace Corps volunteers who are deaf or hard of hearing, many of whom are Gallaudet University alumni.

Thirty-four deaf volunteers who have served since 1967 contributed photographs, artifacts, stories, historic footage and documents of their time in the Peace Corps. These deaf volunteers served in Kenya, Ghana, the Philippines, St. Lucia, Malaysia, Sierra Leone, St. Vincent, Ecuador, Nepal, Benin, Zambia and Guyana.

"The experience of deaf Peace Corps volunteers reveal issues of access to education and perceptions of deaf people on an international scale," said Gallaudet University President T. Alan Hurwitz. "Deaf Peace Corps volunteers serve as leaders in their assigned communities and as role models for deaf children. They push the boundaries and challenge assumptions of what deaf people can accomplish."

"I'm proud to celebrate and thank the deaf and hard of hearing men and women who served their country as Peace Corps volunteers," said Peace Corps Director Williams. "Deaf volunteers in the early years of Peace Corps were pioneers and since then, many more have continued their legacy of service. Deaf volunteers have strengthened communities by building greenhouses and digging wells, promoting HIV awareness, and advocating for the rights of local deaf communities."

Gallaudet Museum Director Jane Norman remarked, "Deaf Peace Corps service is a prime example of international connection and commitment that exists between deaf people. The Gallaudet University Museum is proud to bring to the public an exhibition that sheds light on that story."

"What started as a plan to display a few photos to recognize the service of deaf Peace Corps volunteers exploded into a much larger exhibition concept inspired by the compelling responses of deaf people who served in the Peace Corps," said Norma Morán, senior advisor to the exhibition. Donations of over more than 450 photographs and filmed interviews comprise a new archival collection. Morán, explains, "The overwhelming response from deaf volunteers demonstrates how passionate this group is about Peace Corps service." Morán is one of 59 known deaf Peace Corps volunteers.

"The exhibition examines ways that service of deaf Peace Corps volunteers aligns with or diverges from that of hearing volunteers," said curator Jean Bergey. "Deaf volunteers embody proof of the value of educating deaf children, their presence in leadership positions often challenges accepted notions of what deaf children can become and authority deaf adults can assume. Stories from volunteers who served over a span of more than four decades demonstrate progress in education, access and attitudes on what it means to be deaf. They teach us much about the ways societies respond to human difference."

For more information on opening day events, visit the Gallaudet University Museum website.

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