Dipawali Sharma
Global Xchange 2009, National Federation for Deaf

I am Dipawali Sharma. My sign-language name is Dipawali. I am currently working as a Project Officer with the National Federation of Deaf Nepal for DEAFWAY Projects. 

In 2009, the British Council in partnership with VSO and the National Federation of the Deaf Nepal implemented a Global Xchange Programme through which nine volunteers from the UK and the nine volunteers from Nepal had an opportunity to volunteer three months in Nepal and three months in the UK. I had an opportunity to work as a Programme Supervisor from Nepal alongside my British counterpart Carolyn Nabarro in the project.

For many of us, this was our first visit abroad. The first week was difficult due to communication barriers. However, we gradually bridged this communication gap by learning each other’s language. We went on to work together for six months and it was such a fun and motivating experience. 

During our six-month stay, as part of our skills training, we learned British Sign Language Communication (BSLC). From basics to advance BSLC; we learned all the alphabets. This helped us to communicate better with our hosts. Our young deaf volunteers volunteered in different schools, organizations and universities that helped them to communicate better and with the work placement. Despite coming from very different cultures, we were able to work and learn effectively once we overcome the language barriers. This program also helped enhance my personality and I am sure it did the same for my colleagues. Me and my counterpart, we supervised the 18 young deaf volunteers as their parents throughout the programme phase.

My fellow volunteers and I still keep in touch with all our friends in the UK. I, for one, communicate regularly with my counterpart Carolyn. 

The Global Exchange Program was conducted in 2009. I had hoped that the Council would continue the project but, sadly, it was stopped. If the British Council revives this project and runs it periodically, several other youths like me could take advantage of this opportunity. Many deaf youth who are isolated or victimized could potentially improve their living standard. They could possibly change the way societies perceive them. The Global Exchange Program instils self-confidence in youth so that they can implement what they learn for their self-development. I truly wish this kind of program is conducted again as it is of great advantage to the participants.

The British Council is celebrating 60 years in Nepal, and I would like to extend my best wishes on behalf of the Deaf Federation of Nepal and all the deaf youth in my country.