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Introductions July 27, 2011

Posted by miifrancini in Individual Fellowship, Philippines, Undergraduate.
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Hello! This will be the first of many posts here on WordPress describing and sharing my many experiences, thoughts and encounters while here in the Philippines. My name is Alyssa Francini, and I will be a senior at the University of Michigan this upcoming fall semester. My studies include sociology and women’s studies, but I love taking random classes about just anything. This is what’s great about Michigan, the university allows you to carve your own academic path.

Alyssa Francini with students at Leyte National High School

Leyte National High School as an interpreter and teacher for third-year high school students.

This summer I have been given the opportunity of a lifetime. I am working with the Deaf in Tacloban City, Leyte, Philippines. Through Volunteer For the Visayans (VFV), I was placed at Leyte National High School as an interpreter and teacher for third-year high school students. Not only do I volunteer at the high school, but on weekends and during my spare time I help VFV build their community center just outside of Tacloban. Although I was originally told that Filipinos use American Sign Language (ASL), within my first week with my students I quickly discovered that in fact they use Filipino Sign Language (FSL) which models ASL. Because I don’t want to further the language barrier between me and my students, I have been learning Waray Waray (the local dialect) and FSL. It is my goal to become conversational in FSL during my two months here.

I’ve been asked many times, why the Philippines? Well, I knew that I wanted to work abroad in a third world country for both the chance to give back and to better understand the barriers the Deaf in other countries face. After practically stumbling upon this opportunity, I knew it was the choice for me. As an active member in the Deaf community through my family and my own doing in the U.S., I’ve also always wanted to take part in the Deaf community somewhere else in the world, and what better place than halfway across the world?

So here I am, in the Philippines and loving it. One of my goals for this trip was to examine and study the differences and similarities between the two Deaf communities. I chose to work in a school because that’s usually where the Deaf need help the most. Often neglected and ignored in many societies, the Deaf tend not to receive a proper education or any education at all. If I could help one student here, then my summer has been a success. I also strive to learn how to be a Filipino. The best way to really learn about people’s culture is to live within it, which is exactly what I am doing here. I live in a homestay with a family of nine and have quickly become one of the family. I hope to share and bring back what I’ve learned from this experience with both my Deaf community and also the students at Michigan. This world has so much to see and offer. It’s begging to be explored.

Of course, this opportunity would not have been possible without Michigan’s help. More specifically, both the Michigan International Internship & Service Program (MIISP) and the International Institute (II) helped me get to where I am now. The International Institute has graciously helped fund my trip to the Philippines. Due to rising oil costs and VFV not having funds of its own, the cost to come here was quite high. But, I was fortunate enough to receive an Individual Fellowship from II, allowing me to give back to the Filipinos and have the experience of a lifetime while doing it.

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