Frontrunners lead the way to deaf awareness

Frontrunners Team 12 in Helsinki, Finland

Frontrunners is a deaf international education programme that focuses on topics such as human rights, deaf studies and sign language(s), leadership and project management, social entrepreneurship and social media. The programme has hosted more than 110 students since 2005. The WFD and Frontrunners share many values and are long-standing mutual supporters. Frontrunners students visited the WFD Secretariat in 2014 and 2017 as part of their curriculum. The WFD President was also invited by Frontrunners to Castberggård, Denmark, to give a presentation for its residential programme.

WFD Project Officer Paul Scott had the opportunity to find out more about Frontrunners by interviewing one of the students – Hyewon Jee from South Korea.


Why did you join the Frontrunners programme?

I wanted to explore within myself, build up my confidence, and also gain knowledge on deaf culture and leadership. Though I came from a deaf family background, my understanding is still basic and I wanted to learn more about my identity.

How long will you be in the Frontrunners programme?

It is a one term programme that over a period of 9 months. So far I have been in the programme for 7 months. Time has flown really fast. I wish the programme would be longer.

Why is Frontrunners important?

The training focuses on deepening our knowledge about human rights of deaf people, deaf leadership, deaf history, Deafhood, as well as learning about empowerment. The students are international, coming from different countries with diverse cultures.

You are from South Korea – what are your thoughts about the culture difference?

It was my first time in Europe and living in Denmark, so it was important for me to learn more the local and regional cultures. It is naturally different from my own culture; for example, when greeting a teacher, I bow to show respect. Here, the teacher waves hello instead.

What are your plans after completing the programme and returning to South Korea?

I am currently not working. However, Korea Deaf Youth Association will have a board election. I intend to join the board as a media/promotion officer. At Frontrunners, I discovered my skills as a video editor and in designing posters, and this is something I wish to pursue.

Before joining Frontrunners, what did you know about the WFD and WFDYS?

Initially, I did not have comprehensive understanding about the WFD or WFDYS. Through Frontrunners, I understood the importance of their work especially in deaf empowerment and advocacy of human rights of the deaf.

When you return to South Korea, do you have plans to work with the WFDYS?

As mentioned, I intend to involve myself as a board member for Korea Deaf Youth Association who is the WFDYS Youth Ordinary Member.

Why is it important to support the WFD?

WFD’s work is important because of the advocacy of sign language rights and empowerment of deaf people. It is vital to support the WFD’s work because together we achieve more. Through our support, WFD can continue its good work.

Why is human rights of deaf people important?

The Deaf Community remains oppressed in the society. We need to work towards achieving equality in all aspects of our lives.

What about Sign Language rights?

Sign language rights is most important. I grew up in a Deaf family whereby access to sign language was given to me at an early age. This enabled me to have full communication and develop myself.

Why do you think it is important for the WFD and Frontrunners to work together?

Both organisations have similar goals so it is important that they work together toward achieving them.

 What is your future hope for the WFD, WFDYS and Frontrunners?

Their continued work in human rights, advocacy of sign language rights, employment of deaf people and deaf education. There are still countries that do not recognised sign language as official languages. In countries whereby sign language is recognised, deaf people still face barriers in gaining employment. It is also to ensure that quality education is delivered to deaf children.

What message would you give to people who want to know more about the WFD?

WFD and WFDYS are active advocators of human rights of deaf people and sign language rights. These are important and must be reciprocated – we have a role to play in supporting them in their work. Additionally, countries with challenging situations too require support. Empowering each other contributes to the work of the WFD and WFDYS.