World Deaf Leadership Scholars Since 2003

WDL Scholars

The WDL is funded by the Nippon Foundation of Tokyo, Japan. Since making its first award in 2003, 16 WDL scholarships have been awarded. The following are past recipients of the award:

Hanan Mottsen Ebrahim Aly - (2013)

Country: Egypt. Field of Study: Government and Public Affairs

I am Hanan Aly from Cairo, Egypt. Before I came to Gallaudet, I was a teacher for many years, and the first deaf teacher in Egypt. I am also the first deaf person to work with the Egyptian government towards equal rights for deaf people in the country.

I and every other deaf Egyptian have faced much oppression and struggle throughout our whole lives. My purpose in coming to Gallaudet and in everything I do is to fight to improve the lives of Deaf people in Egypt. At Gallaudet, I plan to get a degree in government and public affairs so that I can better understand the legal process and work with the Egyptian government more effectively to make changes happen in my country. This summer, I made progress by successfully convincing our government to allow Deaf people to vote. However, there is still a long way to go to improve everyday life for Deaf people in Egypt. While my goal for the future is to improve every aspect of life for Deaf Egyptians, the first step in that process is to focus on education. Education is the gateway to more and more rights, and without it, progress will not be made. My plan for my WDL project is to start a Center for Deaf Education in Egypt that will accept and teach Deaf people of all ages. For the first time, no one will be denied the ability to attend school because they are Deaf. From this center of education, deaf leaders and rights advocates will emerge.

Thuy Tien Nguymen - (2013)

Country: Vietnam. Field of Study: Sign Language Education

My name is Thuy Tien Nguyen, and I am from Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. After I completed elementary school, there was no middle or high school available to me. The Nippon Foundation gave me money and supported me to continue my education through middle school and high school, and on to getting my bachelor's degree in elementary school education from Dong Nai University.

After I graduated from college, I taught middle school math for one year before deciding to come to Gallaudet University for my master's degree. In 2008, I was one of the founders of a Deaf organization in Ho Chi Minh City. I served as vice president for our organization for 3 years in which I would provide services for the deaf community like get them jobs or to sign the news for Deaf people who couldn't read or write. Twenty Deaf organizations are required by the government before they can collectively be recognized as a member in the World Federation of the Deaf.

Today, we are only nine organizations shy of our goal. When I finish at Gallaudet, I hope to become a sign language teacher at our organization and teach Deaf people sign so that they can in turn teach it to both hearing and deaf people. Encouraging more signers, deaf and hearing, to be able to communicate easier and improve their everyday life is my goal. I would also like to establish an organization for interpreters in Vietnam so that quality interpreter services are available. I would like to thank the Nippon Foundation for its continuous support throughout my life. The support has given me not only an education, it has given me the motivation I need to help the Deaf community in my country to be better. My goal is to inspire others and provide for them in order to prepare a new generation of Deaf Vietnamese.

Ke Hu - (2012)

Country: China. Field of Study: ASL and Linguistics

I am Hu Ke, from the People's Republic of China. I graduated in 2001 with a bachelor's degree in Graphic Design from Tsinghua University. After graduating, I worked at Beijing Union University (BUU) as a college teacher for 10 years. After many tests and assessments, I won World Deaf Leadership (WDL) scholarship in March 2012. In August 2012, I entered Gallaudet University as a student in the English Language Institute (ELI); then became a graduate student in the Department of Linguistics where I also studied American Sign Language (ASL). I hope to graduate in 2015 with an M.A. degree in Linguistics.

My goal is to continue as a member of BUU's staff, where I will teach and help college students from various parts of China, and be an advocate on behalf of the deaf people there.

My WDL project aims to elevate deaf sign language in Mainland China to the same linguistic status as the languages by hearing people. I also hope to increase access and opportunities for members of the deaf community so that they may rebuild their confidence and skills. Ultimately, I want to enlighten the hearing population about the world of the deaf so that they will see what a wonderful and interesting culture we have and will want to learn more about it.

The WDL scholarship has helped me a lot, especially by offering me opportunities to think from an broader international perspective, to learn more about the global deaf community, and to master the advanced research and knowledge of deaf studies, such as linguistics, interpreting, and deaf learning methods. It has also helped me make many friends and develop an international network with excellent people in a variety fields. Without this scholarship, I can't image what I would be doing and what I would have become in China. The WDL scholarship is helping me reach my dream. I will never forget the support of WDL and the Nippon Foundation.

Anna Arces - (2012)

Country: Philippines. Field of Study: Deaf Studies., Cultural Studies

I'm Ana Kristina M. Arce, from the Philippines. It has always been my dream to study at Gallaudet University, an academic institution known for its prestige as an institution committed towards excellence in Deaf education. My dream finally came true when I became the first Filipino scholar to be awarded the World Deaf Leadership Scholarship to study at Gallaudet in 2012. I am working on a master's degree in Deaf Studies with a concentration in Cultural Studies. I expect to graduate in May 2014.

Upon completion of my graduate studies, I will return to the Philippines to set up a Filipino Sign Language (FSL)/English bilingual literacy program for Filipino Deaf youth and adults. In my home country, they are having difficulty acquiring literacy skills due to the fact that they begin school at a late age and with insufficient financial resources. My aim is to teach them FSL to help them develop skills in reading and writing using bilingual methods so that they will be prepared for college or any job training program. Aside from the WDL project, my dream career is to not only teach a Deaf Studies course for Deaf college students, but to also educate parents of Deaf children and Special Education teachers about Deaf awareness, especially training them in the use of FSL. From the bottom of my heart, I want to educate and see Deaf students becoming Deaf advocate-leaders, researchers, academicians, linguists, and scholars who can make a difference in our home country.

I am deeply thankful to the Nippon Foundation of Japan and Gallaudet University for the WDL scholarship. It is an amazing opportunity for me to prove my worth studying at Gallaudet to further enhance my skills and help improve Filipino Deaf lives - in education, employment, and preservation of Deaf culture.

Arjun Shrestha - (2011)

Country: Nepal. Field of Study: Deaf Education and Deaf Studies

My name is Arjun Shrestha, and I am from Nepal. I was born in a city in midwest Nepal called Syangja. I am the only deaf person out of six siblings. Since the age of 6 I have attended a deaf school in Pokhara City. I experienced huge challenges while studying—by myself—Intermediate level Management at a hearing college for two years without any communication accessibility. Later on I studied for my Bachelor's degree at that college for three years without any interpreting services. It was due to these struggles that I was unsatisfied with my college studies. I used my experiences to do everything in my power to foster the development of deaf education and the deaf community and have held a variety of positions, such as general secretary, treasurer, board member, and advisor to the local and national deaf organization to help this become a reality. I also held a job teaching in a deaf school for a few years, as well.

By working hard to achieve my dream, I became the first Nepali to receive the WDL scholarship award from the Nippon Foundation via Gallaudet University in 2011. My dream is finally closer to coming true and I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to the Nippon Foundation and Gallaudet University for giving me this opportunity. I began studying in July of 2011 and have chosen Deaf Education as my major and Deaf Studies as my minor. My goal here at Gallaudet is to find ways I can promote the improvement of bilingual education and sign language in the deaf schools around Nepal. Gallaudet encourages me to become a qualified deaf leader that will change the deaf world in Nepal academically, socially, culturally, and technologically. My career goal is to become a professor at a university and an education specialist for the deaf programs in Nepal.

There are many difficulties related with the improvement of deaf education, development of a sign language dictionary, and sign language interpreting needs in Nepal. There is also a lack of technical materials and equipment necessary for deaf children and adults as well. In order to be able to solve all these difficulties, I am prepared to sacrifice whatever I can to change the deaf world as an energetic citizen of my country. Upon graduation from Gallaudet University, I will return to Nepal. I plan to organize local and national workshops and seminars, as well as to develop research data related to deaf persons receiving and not receiving their education. Based on my findings I will prioritize the establishment of a national center for deaf education. I will also set up a project that will produce a basic curriculum and books for primary school children in Nepali Sign Language (NSL). The center will also coordinate with any university in Nepal to establish deaf studies programs for students who wish to learn deaf education and NSL. This program will provide educational training to teachers working in deaf schools to improve their teaching capacities. I will also lobby for a national deaf education policy, laws, and other rights to the Nepali government and establish a network between deaf education programs with national and international organizations.

Vee Yee Chong - (2011)

Country: Malaysia. Field of Study: Deaf Studies with Concentration in Cultural Studies

My name is Vee Yee Chong, and I am from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I received the WDL scholarship award in 2010 to study at Gallaudet University. I began pursuing my graduate degree in Deaf Studies with a concentration in Cultural Studies a year later and completed my degree requirements in the summer of 2014.

Due to Gallaudet's rich resources and unique cultural environment, it is the perfect place to nurture the passion that I have for Deaf people and their communities around the world.

In the future, I hope to use my knowledge in Linguistics, Deaf Studies, and Deaf Education to become a professor or a researcher at a university. This position will allow me to empower current and future generations of Deaf people in Malaysia. Now that I have a master's degree in Deaf Education from Gallaudet, I will be able to bring change to the Deaf community in Malaysia with the knowledge and expertise that only a Gallaudet education can provide.

There is a great need for the Deaf community in Malaysia to undergo significant changes in order to improve their quality of life and educational opportunities. Increasing awareness about the Malaysian Deaf community through research projects and academic articles is an important first step. Despite obstacles along the way, I hope to increase opportunities that will show people the infinite potential of Deaf people.

I owe a lot of gratitude to the Nippon Foundation for the opportunity to be able to study at Gallaudet and bring what I have learned back home to develop a better life for the Malaysian Deaf community.

Benjamin Dana Diara - (2009)

Country: Mali. Field of Study: Government and Deaf Education with a minor in Linguistics

I am Benjamin Dana Diarra. I am from Bamako, Mali, which is located in West Africa. I came to Gallaudet in the fall of 2010 to study English as a Second Language at ELI (English Language Institute) because my first language is French. I am majoring in Government and Deaf Education, with a minor in Linguistics, which will help me to realize my future goal of establishing a broad-based Deaf Education Program in Mali when I return. I expect to graduate in 2015.

Upon returning home to Mali, my plan is to work in the Malian parliament or or other government establishment to:

  1. Advocate for the rights of the Deaf and others with disabilities.
  2. To establish a high school for the Deaf.
  3. To develop a comprehensive dictionary and materials on Malian Sign language to preserve it, and to make LaSiMa (Malian Sign Language) a required curriculum policy in all Deaf schools.

I am profoundly grateful to the Nippon Foundation and Gallaudet University for providing me this great opportunity to pursue my lifelong goals to engage and support the Deaf community in Mali in our struggle for better education, work, and social access, and to preserve Malian Sign Language.

Krishneer Sen -

Country: Fiji. Field of Study: Computer Information Systems

I am Krishneer Sen, from Suva, Fiji, in the South Pacific. I came to Gallaudet University in January 2010 as an English Language Institute (ELI) student. I am still running the ELI Student Organization as president. I graduated in 2014 with a major in Information Technology Systems.

My goal is to establish communication access and proper education opportunities for the Deaf community in Fiji. I look forward to doing projects that will benefit the deaf and hard of hearing community in Fiji.

I plan to be an activist and communication advocate for the deaf community in Fiji and around the world. I am thinking about how to develop more educational opportunities for Deaf students in Fiji, and how to produce new work opportunities for Deaf people in my country so that their unemployment rate will be lower.

The World Deaf Leadership scholarship has supported me a lot. Without this, my precious education would have not been completed here at Gallaudet. The scholarship gave me many opportunities, such as an internship, socialization with international students and American students, and participation in other programs.

Namiraa Baljinnyam - (2008)

Country: Mongolia. Field of Study: Special Education

My name is Namiraa Baljinnyam. I was born and raised in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. I received my education from both hearing and deaf schools. When I was a student at the Deaf school, I noticed that most of the students had very poor abilities in our native language, and they received a poor quality of education. When I left the school, I promised myself that I would return and help deaf children learn their native language as best as possible. To achieve my goal, I decided to educate myself first. I graduated from The National University of Mongolia in 2005 with a B.A. in linguistics because I believed that I should excel in our native language in order to teach it to deaf children. Right after graduating, I enrolled at Mongolian State University of Education and graduated with my M.A. in Educational Studies.

Since there is no Deaf Education program at Mongolian universities, I dreamed for a long time of studying at Gallaudet University. Finally, I received the World Deaf Leadership (WDL) Scholarship from the Nippon Foundation, Japan, to study at Gallaudet University.

I enrolled at Gallaudet as a graduate student, majoring in Deaf Education, in 2010. I learned that early intervention is the key to supporting and facilitating deaf children's language acquisition, as well as their cognitive and social/emotional skills. In 2012 I enrolled into an Early Intervention Graduate Certificate Program in conjunction with my Deaf Education major. I am currently further developing my WDL project along with my schoolwork. My WDL project is named "The Future in Our Hands." It is a proposal to establish an early intervention program in Mongolia. I graduated from Gallaudet University with my master's degree in the summer of 2013.

My special thanks go to the Nippon Foundation. The WDL scholarship's support is very great. It is like a dream come true. It opens our eyes to the world's Deaf community, opens the door that had been closed for Mongolian Deaf people, gives many opportunities to study abroad, and supplies professionals who will work on the development of Deaf community. Actually, there are no professionals who specialize in bilingual Deaf education in Mongolia, so I am glad that I am the first one who specializes in Deaf education as well as early intervention.

My WDL scholarship does not just benefit me, it benefits the Mongolian Deaf community as well. For example, our Deaf people are unsure of their abilities to get higher education and their right to receive qualified education. Furthermore, our Deaf community doesn't know about Deaf culture, Deaf value as well as Deaf education. However, when I return to my home country, I will immediately give my best effort to build a strong foundation for Deaf Education as well as teach Deaf issues to Mongolian Deaf community. I want both our Deaf and hearing communities to understand the true meaning of Dr. Marlee Matlin's quote: "It may be true that life is challenging when you are unable to hear, but believe me when I say the real 'handicap' of deafness does not lie in the ear, it lies in the mind."

Jacob Ireri - (2007)

Country: Field of Study: International Development

My name is Jacob Ireri. I hail from Embu, the Republic of Kenya, Africa. I became deaf at age 3 from German Meningitis. I started my early education at a mainstreamed program in the 1990s. After that, I enrolled at a deaf school in Kenya for my elementary education. Upon successful completion of my elementary education in 2001, I enrolled at a mixed high school.

Due to my inability to hear, I experienced discrimination in Kenyan society. When I finished high school, I realized that it was time to begin my dream of becoming a leader. Luckily, my parents encouraged this interest. I successfully founded a deaf-centered local organization whose main purpose is to promote equal human rights and to eliminate all forms of obstacles against deaf people in Kenya. My desire to discover and explore the world drove me to apply for and get accepted into Gallaudet University in 2007 to pursue a degree. Fortunately, I was awarded the prestigious World Deaf Leadership (WDL) scholarship by the Nippon Foundation.

My major goals are to pursue and successfully complete both B.A. and M.A. degrees with honors in International Development at Gallaudet.

My WDL project is to return to Kenya and invest all my skills I have gained and all that I have learned to help deaf-centered organizations lift the living standards of deaf and hard of hearing people socially, economically, linguistically, culturally, and politically. I also hope to work closely with other leaders in developing countries to build the capacity of institutions to incorporate the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities into their legislation in the education, health, and employment sectors so that deaf people can equally lead a more rewarding, inspiring, comfortable, and sustainable lifestyle.

Jiayi Zhou - (2007)

Country: China. Field of Study: International Development for Persons with Disabilities

My name is Jiayi Zhou, and I am from Shanghai, China. I received the World Deaf Leadership (WDL) scholarship award in 2007 and began my undergraduate degree in Graphic Design at Gallaudet University. I graduated with my Bachelor's degree in May 2009. Thanks to the Nippon Foundation, I then became a graduate student at Gallaudet in the International Development for Persons with Disabilities program. My dreams are to obtain a position in the field of Art with a specific interest in the training, service, and development of Deaf people and society.

My WDL goal is to establish a place in Shanghai, China to obtain accurate information, training, and services about: (a) deaf leadership (b) deaf education (c) Chinese Sign Language (d) entrepreneurship (e) employment (f) communication and (g) advocacy. This place will be called the Dragon Deaf Leadership Training and Service Center.

In order to achieve my WDL goal: (1) to initiate data gathering and focus group (2) network and partnership development (3) leadership training, community development, and advocacy workshops (4) internship with non-profit organization in Shanghai, China, (5) identify organizations, agencies, schools, and universities for partnerships to promote Chinese Sign Language, interpreter training, and provide leadership opportunities/participation by deaf people (6) recruit and train the trainers, (7) establish the first Shanghai Deaf Leadership Conference for deaf leaders from all over China and (8) develop sister schools between U.S. and China deaf schools to promote exchanges.

Rian Gayle - (2005)

Country: Jamaica. Field of Study: International Development

I am Rian Gayle, a 2005 World Deaf Leadership (WDL) scholarship recipient from Kingston, Jamaica, who completed the scholarship in May 2010 with an M.A. in International development. Thanks to the opportunities to develop my skills and gain more education and life experiences that the WDL scholarship afforded, I was able to return to Jamaica and get right to work. I was involved in the Deaf Drivers for Equality campaign, successfully lobbying for Deaf Jamaicans to be permitted to obtain drivers licenses. I am passionate about the Deaf community in which I grew up, and felt a deep urge to contribute in any way I can. I did that by presenting about the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to several deaf leaders in Jamaica. I was also a motivational speaker at a number of schools.

I also played an instrumental role in establishing the new Deaf Sports Jamaica organization, which aims to use sporting activities to develop the deaf community for the better. I also established my own organization, Miss Deaf Jamaica, to use a beauty pageant to attract young deaf ladies, then put them through a one-month course to educate them about job-hunting, self-development, and how to be advocates, leaders, and ambassadors. I successfully launched Miss Deaf Jamaica organization with a well-executed beauty pageant on December 18, 2010 with eight contestants.

Through Miss Deaf Jamaica, I have been able to employ some of the strategies from the project that I designed through WDL, which was to tackle unemployment within the deaf community.

My current job position is Research Officer within the Jamaica Association for the Deaf, which is a non-governmental organization in Jamaica that serves Deaf Jamaicans. A few of my responsibilities are:

  • Collecting and researching information to set up a new "Deaf Library" at the head office that can be used to implement future projects.
  • Collecting data to build the contents of a new Deaf Study Curriculum to be used in Deaf schools across Jamaica. This project is being sponsored by the Organization of American States.
  • Leading the design of a CRPD DVD in sign language that would help deaf viewers become more aware of deaf rights. This is a project sponsored by the Australian Agency for International Development.
  • Helping with other projects where research is needed, and the writing proposals.

Kaneng Rose Kwandi - (2004)

Country: Nigeria. Field of Study: Deaf Education

My name is Kaneng Rose Kwandi, and I am from Nigeria. I was born in Kuru, Plateau State of Nigeria, on January 5, 1977. I received my primary education in Kuru, and my secondary education at Plateau School for the Deaf, Jos.

I came to Gallaudet University as a President's Scholar in the fall of 2003. In the fall of 2004, I was awarded the prestigious Nippon World Deaf Leadership (WDL) scholarship. My WDL project was titled "Center for Advocacy, Job Development, and Information on Deafness." My project was announced by Plateau State Radio Corporation of Nigeria in 2006. For this project, I conducted a feasibility study, analyzed the results, and gave a presentation to the Gallaudet community. I graduated with my master's degree in Deaf Education on May 15, 2009.

I did post-master's training in Deaf Education at the Phoenix Day School for the Deaf, Phoenix, Ariz., teaching deaf and hard of hearing 4th graders with multiple learning disabilities who are from diverse socio-cultural backgrounds.

I am forever grateful to Nippon and the WDL scholarship program for the support they gave me while completing my undergraduate and graduate programs in Deaf Education at Gallaudet.

Nickson O. Kakiri - (2003)

Country: Kenya. Field of Study: Government / International Development

Nickson O. Kakiri, born and raised in Nyanza province in Kenya, was the first recipient of the Nippon funded World Deaf Leadership (WDL) Scholars program at Gallaudet University. He graduated in 2005 with a degree in Government with a focus in International Development. He was chair of the Kenya National Association of the Deaf (KNAD), a grassroots national organization of the Deaf advocating for the linguistic rights of Deaf Kenyans. Also prior to earning his bachelor degree at Gallaudet, he worked for six years with South Nyanza Association of the Deaf an affiliate branch of KNAD, as Secretary General. He is also co-founded Global Deaf Connection, currently based in the U.S. and owns Deaf Safaris Ltd, a tour company.

After graduating from Gallaudet, Kakiri returned home, equipped with leadership and research skills he got from the experiences he gained at Gallaudet through the WDL program, and through research study on "Development Assistances Desired by Deaf Kenyans" sponsored by the WDL. The study has been shared through presentations at various conferences around the world, including the World Federation of the Deaf (WFD) congress in Spain in July 2007.

Using the results of this research study that emphasized the educational priority needs of Deaf Kenyans, he has since set up a project at the Kenya National Association of the Deaf called "Promoting Kenyan Sign Language in the field of Deaf Education," funded by the Nippon Foundation. In collaboration with the WFD, other organizations for people with disabilities, and the Kenya Deaf community, Kakiri has successfully lobbied before the Kenya Parliament for the recognition of Kenyan Sign Language as one of the country's three official languages—in addition to English and Kiswahili—as stated in Article 7(3) (b) and Article 120(1) of Kenya's constitution. As a result, Kakiri believes academic institutions will take notice and do more research in Kenyan Sign Language.

Kakiri has also conducted a survey,"How Deaf Women in Kenya View Empowerment by Education," co-presented papers on Deaf people in developing countries, and was part of the Kenya National Disability Survey team that was commissioned by Government of Kenya. He was one of the leaders who received official invitations from the Speaker of Parliament's National Assembly to submits petitions on disability rights. This has since resulted in a Disability Bill of Rights, Article 54 of the constitution.

Nickson was also a PSO Netherlands junior professional and a disability mainstream development advisor at Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) Mongolia Disability mainstreaming effort (December 2007 to June 2009). He is pursuing a Master's degree in Development Studies at the University of Nairobi, and is interested in international law and development issues towards people with disabilities.