In November 2017, The Stevens Initiative, an international effort to build career and global competence skills for young people in the United States and the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) by growing and enhancing the field of virtual exchange, awarded Sister Cities International a 1.5 year grant to use online, collaborative learning to increase cross-cultural understanding and equip young people with the skills needed to thrive in a 21st century economy.
The Stevens Initiative grant will help enable more children with special needs through supporting exchanges of experiences between both teachers and specialists in both cities of Ramallah and Muscatine, and this will surely reflect positively on children as well.
– Sally Aby Baker, Director of Culture and Social Affairs Department
Through December 2018, Sister Cities International will oversee two programs through its Special Education and Virtual Learning in the U.S. and Palestine (SEVLUP) grant in collaboration with team members in Gainesville, Florida and Muscatine, Iowa.
The Gainesville program connects students in Florida and Qalqilya, Palestinian Territories in order to develop an ASL-Palestinian sign language video dictionary for Deaf and Hard of Hearing students.
United States students will develop a beginner level of Palestinian Sign Language while the Palestinian students will develop an intermediate level of American Sign Language through weekly conversations about their lives, cultures, and experiences being Deaf/Hard of Hearing in their own country.
The Muscatine program is working with sister city Ramallah, Palestinian Territories, to provide special education training for middle school educators and to expand intercultural curricula for special education students. Middle-school age students in Muscatine and Ramallah will communicate via live video chats, blog posts, and individual projects to deepen their local and global knowledge and understanding.
Of 43,000 deaf citizens in Palestine, less than two percent attend school and receive formal education. With the support of the Stevens Initiative, Sister Cities International, and our partners in Gainesville, we will be able to create a resource that expands educational opportunities for Deaf and Hard-of-Hearing youth and allows participating students to build international friendships and enrich language skills.
-Waleed Nazzal, General Manager of the Al-Amal Association for the Deaf
Students and educators/facilitators from both programs will attend the Annual Conference and Youth Leadership Summit in Aurora, CO in August 2018 and will participate in a session on virtual exchanges and the Stevens Initiative program.
The Stevens Initiative is supported by the U.S. Department of State and the Bezos Family Foundation. For more information, please visit the Stevens Initiative Webpage.