Browsing Tag

Disabilities and Inclusion

U.S. Fulbright

Being There: A Conversation on Collaboration in Barbados

May 11, 2016

Katherine Cloutier is a 2012-2013 Fulbright-mtvU alumna, currently finishing her PhD in ecological-community psychology. Her Fulbright-mtvU grant was a participatory research project that was done in collaboration with a sexual health education program and secondary school students.

Matt Saleh is a 2015-2016 Fulbright U.S. Student in Barbados whose research focuses on collaboration and service coordination among community service providers, government agencies, and secondary schools in school-to-work transition for youth with disabilities.

After learning of the overlap between our two Fulbright projects and experiences in Barbados, we decided to sit down and try to put some of the commonalities into words for the benefit of future Fulbright Students. On the shores of Accra Beach over refreshments at the Tiki Bar, we quickly got to work. 

Katherine Cloutier

Katherine with Lisa Thompson from PEPFAR (left); Katherine Cloutier, 2012-2013, Barbados, with previous U.S. Ambassador Larry Palmer; and dance4life partners Maisha Hutton, Leila Raphael, and Shakira Emtage-Cave (middle to right) at the 2012 World AIDS Day Event where the participatory action research project was presented by the secondary school students.

Katherine Cloutier: I came to Barbados through a series of planned accidents, I suppose. I remember walking into the office of the Fulbright Program Adviser at Michigan State University, my alma mater, and telling him, “I’m going to get that scholarship; it’s just a matter of when.” The next thing I knew, I was walking off a plane in Barbados on a humid September day in 2012, about to begin my year as a Fulbright-mtvU grantee. Two individuals from my host community partner, dance4life (a sexual health education and youth empowerment program), were waiting for me at the airport. I had never been to the Caribbean before, let alone this particular rock, but I felt so welcomed by these two. Here I am, years later, and I am back in Barbados, my second home.

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Foreign Fulbright U.S. Fulbright

Fulbright: An Inspirational and Inclusive Community

June 9, 2015
Disability Seminar - 1

Fulbright Disability Seminar attendees at an offsite session at the Bay Area Recreation and Outreach Program

Are you a U.S. citizen with a disability interested in applying for a Fulbright grant? Attend the webinar for applicants with disabilities on Friday, June 12, 3:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m. ET. To learn more, click here.

“The disability community is the one minority group that you can join.” In her key note address, Paralympics medalist and humanitarian aid worker, Tiana Tozer, shared her story of becoming disabled at the age of twenty when a drunk driver hit her car in oncoming traffic. Through her story, Tozer touched upon common assumptions, attitudes and stigmas that reinforce the exclusion of those with disabilities. She called on Fulbrighters to “educate change” through leadership and service and set the tone for an eye opening, interactive seminar.

From April 29 to May 3, over sixty Fulbrighters from forty different countries attended the Fulbright Enrichment Seminar on U.S Disability Rights in Berkeley, California. This seminar is one of several enrichment seminars that the U.S. Department of State sponsors for Fulbright Foreign Students in the United States.

Throughout the seminar, participants heard from key figures in the disability rights movement as well as those working towards broader community inclusion through policy, advocacy, and design. Several sessions stood out as exceptionally inspiring.

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U.S. Fulbright

Spectrums of Development: Developmental Disabilities and Mutual Understanding in China

July 3, 2013
Rachel Reetzke

Rachel Reetzke, 2011-2012, China, works with a father and son at the YangAi Parent Club for families of children with developmental disabilities

The impetus for me to begin my Fulbright U.S. Student Program application came during the summer of 2010, as a U.S. Department of State Critical Language Scholar. That summer, I tested my intermediate Mandarin skills by independently organizing a month-long service project at Beijing Stars and Rain Autism Education and Research Center. Through volunteer work at Stars and Rain, I was exposed to a new method of parent training, which provided insight into the diagnosis, and treatment intervention methods for autism spectrum disorders (ASD) in China. Ultimately, the experience revealed to me a dire need for evidence-based practice (EBP) research in the field. I aimed to return to China as a Fulbright student to further explore and develop my place within the networks of doctors, teachers, students, and clinicians serving individuals with ASD in China.

As a Fulbrighter, I became part of an interdisciplinary research team and contributed to the validation of the Chinese Autism Diagnostic Scale (CADS). Currently, there is no autism diagnostic scale based on Chinese linguistic and cultural differences. Therefore, once published, CADS will be a vital tool for current and future diagnosis of ASD in China.

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U.S. Fulbright

Good Karma: Volunteering While on a Fulbright Grant in Nepal, By Franz Knupfer, 2008-2009, Nepal

March 21, 2012

When I visited the Naxal School for the Deaf on my first day in Kathmandu, the students crowded around me asking questions. “What’s your name?” they asked. “Where are you from? Are you Deaf?” I touched my index finger to my ear and then my mouth, the sign for Deaf in both Nepali and American Sign Language. I was Deaf, too, and I knew immediately that I had found a community that was willing to accept me as one of its own. In fact, I was beginning to realize that I am part of a much larger community of more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide.

The focus of my Fulbright research in Nepal was creative—I was there to work on a collection of short stories. Just as importantly, though, I knew that I wanted volunteering to be a big part of my project. In my Fulbright application, I had mentioned that I planned to teach at the Naxal School in order to find inspiration and material for my stories.

Of course, that was only part of the reason I wanted to volunteer. As a former AmeriCorps volunteer who spent two years working on environmental projects in Portland, Oregon, I knew that volunteering would help empower both the community I was working with and myself. Also, it felt good to volunteer. Volunteering gave my Fulbright experience a deeper, more fulfilling meaning that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. It gave me the opportunity to make new friends and to give back to the community that was so generously hosting me for ten months.

I volunteered to teach art and American Sign Language at the Naxal School. Soon, I discovered that my students were used to learning drawing through copying and rote memorization, just like their hearing peers in most of Asia. My goal was to teach my students to think creatively, so I taught them art techniques like shading, perspective and drawing three-dimensional objects. Eventually, I showed them how to combine all of these techniques to make a landscape, and I was rewarded one afternoon when I came into the classroom and discovered that my students had drawn a landscape on the board for me.

After school, I taught students American Sign Language and learned more Nepali Sign Language in return. During lunch breaks, I sometimes played soccer and cricket with the students. Through my experiences, I made many close friends and I also got to know a Deaf Sherpa who eventually became my guide for a month spent in the Everest region of the Himalaya. Near the end of my time in Nepal, I helped arrange an overnight camping trip around the Kathmandu Valley with ten of the older students.

While volunteering is not a requirement for a Fulbright grant, I highly recommend it. Citizen diplomacy is an important part of the Fulbright experience, and in my mind, volunteering is citizen diplomacy at its best. Fulbright grantees, with or without disabilities, may find it particularly rewarding to volunteer within the disabled community of their host country. There are many opportunities to work with people who have disabilities, especially in developing countries. Disability-related organizations and people with disabilities are helping to lead a new worldwide human rights revolution that is working towards full inclusion and participation in all aspects of society for people who have disabilities. Volunteering has the potential to leave a high impact and allows Fulbright grantees to see disability in a new context.

In Nepal, being disabled has traditionally been considered a karmic curse and people with disabilities often weren’t allowed to marry. That is gradually changing, as more people with disabilities are being included in society and are working, marrying and speaking out for their rights. While I was in Nepal, I felt anything but cursed—instead, I felt blessed to be there on a Fulbright, and by volunteering, I wanted to spread some of that good karma around.

Photo: Franz Knupfer teaches students at the Naxal School for the Deaf in Kathmandu how to draw a three-dimensional landscape.

Franz Knupfer now works as the Project Coordinator of the National Clearinghouse on Disability and Exchange, a project administered by Mobility International USA and sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Specific resources for people with disabilities interested in applying for a Fulbright grant can be found at: http://www.miusa.org/ncde/fulbright/.

U.S. Fulbright

The Diplomacy of Mutual Inspiration: Combining Service and Creativity in a Fulbright Grant, By Franz Knupfer, 2008-2009, Nepal

September 14, 2010

As the Fourmile Fire rages in the canyons west of Boulder and smoke covers the city, the autumnal light has taken on a hazy, golden quality, like the lighting in a painting by one of the Old Masters. I’m reminded of autumn afternoons in Kathmandu, where the lighting was almost exactly like this. I’m reminded, too, of how much I miss Kathmandu and my friends there, and how much my experience as a Fulbright grantee in Nepal changed me. As I write this, it’s been almost two years to the day since I left the States for a Fulbright grant in Creative Writing in Nepal. Though I’ve been home almost a full year, I still remember the route I took from my apartment in the neighborhood of Hadigaun to the deaf school where I volunteered in Naxal. When I close my eyes, I can still walk through the rooms of the school and see my students in their classrooms.

In my Fulbright proposal, I wrote about how I planned to volunteer with the deaf community and write a collection of short stories. Though I wanted to learn and write about Nepal’s deaf community, I hadn’t realized how much I’d learn on a deeper level, on the level of the body; the body’s knowledge, in many ways, is far more ineffable and profound than the mind’s. It’s what we mean when we say, “you had to be there.” It’s exactly the kind of experience that writers and artists need for their work, but it’s also the kind of experience that can be of tremendous benefit to anyone.

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U.S. Fulbright Unknown

Found in Translation: Investigating and Comparing the Japanese and American Stigma Associated with Schizophrenia , By Misty Richards, 2009-2010, Japan

May 25, 2010

People in Japan are polite. The traditions and history are rich. Efficiency is high. The bright lights of Tokyo cast a glow on the serene rock gardens and trickling streams that highlight the beautiful contradictions that resonate throughout the city.

Before I came to Japan, I was trapped in the A to B mentality that medical and/or graduate school tends to steer you towards. Having lived outside of this environment for the past 10 months, I can now look at this type of mentality objectively and see that it may not promote creativity or foster individual development. In my opinion, you need to stimulate new neurons to fire every day in order to come up with the ideas that will lead to important discoveries. This inside-out approach was once novel to me, but it is one I truly endorse now after my Fulbright experience in Japan. I feel so fortunate to be working on the first cross-cultural stigma study between Japan and the United States, specifically, comparing the levels of stigma associated with schizophrenia between the two cultures. The formal title of my projects is, “Found in Translation: A Cross-Cultural Comparison of Stigma Associated with Schizophrenia between Japan and the U.S.” and I am completing this research at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry in Tokyo. We are surveying hundreds of American and Japanese physicians, psychiatrists and psychiatric staff, as well as the general public, on their views of those suffering from schizophrenia. It has been an incredibly productive year and we truly hope that the results of our stigma study reach far beyond the pages of an academic journal. In the end, we hope that it will help advocate for those suffering from schizophrenia throughout the world, giving patients the resolve they need to adequately treat their illness.

Furthermore, I have been particularly impressed with the Fulbright conferences I have attended at the Japan -U.S. Educational Commission (which administers the Fulbright Program in Japan) concerning soft power, global relations and diplomacy, as well as talks given concerning the environment and climate change. Japan is a very diplomatic and conscientious country. To be a conscientious global citizen, I have learned that we cannot completely separate our lives from public policy or politics, the environment, other countries, technology and science. I believe these subjects to be imperative if we are to grasp the world’s future direction and to harness our individual potential to initiate progressive change. After all, it is when we open our minds to the global consequences of our actions that we can begin to understand that what we do today will affect future generations.

While living and working in Japan, I have met people from all walks of life. I feel so fortunate to have met so many interesting characters who have contributed to my overall impression that Japan is a wonder. Considering that I work at a psychiatric/neurological hospital, I encounter patients with schizophrenia (“togo shitcho sho”) and mental illness everyday. Moreover, I see patients with severe cases of epilepsy, brain retardation and rare genetic diseases as they try desperately to make their way down the hall. Each step for them is careful, calculated, and seems to take just as much courage as it does energy to execute. These people are my heroes, for they are alive and functioning in a world that may not be as considerate as it could be. The stigma, discrimination and shame that are often associated with such illnesses permeates all cultures and geographic boundaries, which is why it is a global problem to be solved and not one specific to Japan or the United States. We must understand – as scientists, physicians, and human beings – that a major part of healing and understanding brain pathophysiology resonates in comprehending the integration of nature with nurture. We often neglect the nurture aspect of this partnership, which is comparable to looking through a window at the world with the shades only half drawn. Seeing these people at the hospital and learning their stories reminds me that it is essential to open the shades completely to let the sunshine – or lack thereof – stream in.

It has been an incredible experience to learn more about the mental health system in Japan and to compare it with how mental illness is approached in America. I hope that the results of this first cross-cultural study on stigma levels between Japan and America concerning schizophrenia will elucidate ways in which we can help patients live life more comfortably and happily throughout the world.

Photo: Misty Richards, 2009-2010, Japan, with two fellow lab members at the National Center of Neurology and Psychiatry, researching both clinical and basic scientific aspects of schizophrenia.