Written by Nathalia Vargas Sánchez
Dayamarali Espinosa describes herself as ‘bold’. When she was two-years-old, her parents discovered she was deaf. ‘Daya’, as she likes to be called, says communicating was not easy while growing up. After many years of speech therapy, she can hear and speak a little bit but prefers communicating through sign language.
Living with a disability did not stop her from being an active child. “I didn’t let my deafness be an obstacle, so I was a cheerleader, and played volleyball and ran track and field. I also took classes like ballet and hip-hop.” The violin was her favorite activity of all. “I played in the school orchestra from 6th grade through high school. Now I continue playing just for myself.”
n the summer of 2018, members of the IDB Internship Program visited Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. for a recruitment mission to present opportunities available for the Summer of 2018. Daya, who was in attendance that day, thought, “Let me approach the team to learn more about this program.” She confidently noted, “When I see an opportunity, I just take it.” However, Daya explained that finding internships and organizations willing to hire people who are deaf or hard of hearing is not easy.
Daya’s curriculum was impressive and it followed the specific requirements of the IDB Internship Program, including her education and language. She was a student at Gallaudet University earning her Bachelor of Arts degree with a double major in International Studies and Spanish, and a minor in Government. Also, she was multilingual, speaking Spanish and English, using Puerto Rican Sign Language (PRSL), American Sign Language (ASL), and Mexican Sign Language (LSM), and was learning German, French, Japanese, and Chinese. With all those qualifications, and after going through the selection and interview process, she was chosen among the thousands of applicants to be part of the 2018 Summer Internship Program.
The first day at the Bank as an intern started with a full-day Orientation Session where she met the other interns, learned about the specific work of the Bank and connected with Bank leadership.
During the next few days, Daya and her supervisor, Daysi Andrades, IT Lead Business Partner, discussed tools and methods that would ensure a successful and productive internship with the team. In this initial conversation, they recognized the value of understanding the Deaf community and learning some American Sign Language (ASL). This conversation quickly turned into an actual project that was executed during Daya’s internship. “I have taught ASL before, and I enjoy teaching it. I loved the idea of increasing its awareness at the Bank,” she said. In a joint effort with the IT, Human
Resources, and Knowledge, Innovation and Communications teams, they prepared and executed a 6-week ASL workshop. “Honestly, I did not expect people to be interested, but then I was excited to see how spots filled quickly. We even had to open a second workshop!”
At the Bank, there are more than 20 employees from different areas of the organization who know the basics of American Sign Language. They became Internship Program ambassadors among the Deaf community.
Maria Nelly Pavisich, HR Senior Specialist in charge of the Internship Programs commented: “ASL is not an easy language. Daya designed a rigorous, but fun course for busy people like us. She included traditional methods, assistive technology, videos, interactive games and group activities to keep us motivated. She also encouraged us to keep practicing! We learned the ASL alphabet, greetings, how to express feelings, names of IDB member countries and other practical signs. She really made an impact in the way we communicate with and see the Deaf community.”
The mission of the Inter-American Development Bank is to improve the lives of people living in Latin America and the Caribbean. This time, however, Daya improved IDB employees' lives by teaching them a new skill (a language we aim to keep practicing!) and providing a new perspective to help the organization become an even more inclusive workplace.
We invite you to apply for our Internship opening for the 2020 winter program and help us to keep improving lives!