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18 young deaf volunteers from the UK and Nepal unite for a pioneering programme to smash stereotypes and celebrate international volunteering.  

VSO and the British Council have launched the world's first Deaf Xchange volunteering programme this week in Preston, Lancashire. The groundbreaking Deaf Xchange is providing a unique opportunity for hearing impaired communities in Nepal and the UK to take part in an international volunteering scheme that for many would have been impossible as individuals. 
Nine young deaf volunteers from each country, aged between 18-25, will live with host families in Preston and Kathmandu, volunteer alongside local community organisations and work together to produce and perform a new theatre production. The nine volunteers from Nepal arrived in Preston this week and will be in the UK until January 2010, the volunteers will then travel to Nepal for a further three months.
UK Programme Supervisor Carolyn Denmark, herself deaf, has taken a career break to support the young volunteers on this groundbreaking programme:
"It is really positive that the British Council and VSO have organised this Xchange. It is easy to feel isolated if you're the only deaf person in a group of hearing people. This will be a great chance for young people to learn and appreciate each others' cultures."
"It's a huge challenge to send deaf volunteers out to work overseas, this is a real opportunity for young volunteers. In the UK we often have low expectations of deaf people and because of this many don't work, but rely on state benefits. Deaf Xchange shows how disability, in whatever form, is no reason to miss out on great opportunities. Young deaf people can make a real difference to international development."
Deaf Xchange is also offering the people of Preston the opportunity to open their doors as host homes for the volunteers. Deaf Xchange hope that by living in local homes and interacting with hearing communities this will increase understanding of Nepalese, UK and deaf culture across the UK.
Deaf Xchange is run by Global Xchange, a partnership programme managed by the British Council and leading international development charity VSO. Open to people aged 18-25 it teams young people from the UK up with young people from a developing country who work together on community projects in the UK and the developing country.  The main aim of the programme is to promote intercultural learning and understanding through volunteering.  
The local implementing partner for Global Xchange 2009 is National Federation for Deaf and Hard of Hearing (NFDH) in Nepal and Deafway in UK.

Editor's notes

  • For further press information please contact:
    Rachel Trayner (VSO), 020 8780 7265, 07738 982122, rachel.trayner@vso.org.uk
    James Rowe (The British Council), 020 7389 4939, 07771 718135, James.Rowe@britishcouncil.org

  • Case studies and further information on the volunteers from Nepal and the UK are available on request.   

  • Celebrating 75 years in 2009, the British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We work in over 100 countries worldwide to build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people. We work in the arts, education, English, science, sport and governance and last year we engaged face to face with 13.2 million people and reached 221 million. We are a non-political organisation, which operates at arm’s length from government. Our total turnover in 2008/9 was £645 million, of which our grant-in-aid from the British government was £209 million.

  • VSO is an international development charity that works through volunteers.  VSO volunteers live and work with some of the poorest communities in the world to share their skills and leave a lasting impact.  For more information visit www.vso.org.uk 

  • Deafway work to achieve equality of access and opportunity for deaf people in every area of life. Deafway provide residential services, youth services, premises for Deaf Clubs, BSL and other training, projects in partnership with deaf organisations in Nepal and India, BSL Theatre projects and The Sign Bytes Broadband Internet project. www.deafway.org.uk

  • www.globalxchange.org.uk, e: enquiry@globalxchange.org.uk or call 020 8780 7500

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