PFP-IDE Fellow Archy Gomba at the Center for Disabilities and Development, Iowa City

I am Archy Gomba, the AUCD international fellow at the Center for Disabilities and Development, Iowa’s UCEDD in Iowa City, Iowa. Life in Iowa is incredible, and I am super excited to be here!

I began my first week at the Iowa Center for Disabilities and Development (CDD), with a welcome reception and orientation. I was so happy to receive such a welcome and look forward to the opportunity to meet with many different people. I work with Derrick Willis and Tammie Amsbaugh, who are my mentors at CDD. During my first day, I met with many CDD and UCEDD staff.

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Archy with his University of Iowa mentors Dr. Derrick Willis and Tamara Amsbaugh

I traveled to Des Moines with Derrick for a training with consumers from the “Money Follows the Person” program (MFP). They were learning to present about their transition from living in institutions to life in the community. This will help me reach parents of children with disabilities in Tanzania to raise awareness about the need for their children to have opportunities for inclusion in their communities.

Tammie and I visited Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Services (IVRS). Meeting with IVRS director David Mitchell and statewide coordinator LeeAnn Russo was a great opportunity. They explained how they work with individuals to help them with job placement and self-employment. Learning about customizing jobs based on skill and interests impacted my project idea.

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On Friday I met with Disability Rights Iowa (DRI), the state’s Protection and Advocacy organization. They assist people with their rights in education, employment and self-employment.  Daniel, one of the DRI attorneys who specializes in education, knows organizations in Kenya working on access to education for children with disabilities. He will be able to connect me with them to work on this in Rorya district, Tanzania, where my NGO provided educational materials and supplies to kids with disabilities last year.

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Archy with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds and self-advocates at proclamation of National Disability Employment Awareness Month (NDEAM)

Late Friday afternoon, we capped off the week by meeting the Governor of Iowa, Kim Reynolds, at the proclamation of October as National Disability Employment Awareness Month. I also visited the Iowa State Legislature.

I had the chance to speak with Governor Reynolds to congratulate her on the work being done for the employment of people with disabilities in Iowa. She thanked me and said, “Iowa still has a long way to go!” The meeting with her and my interactions with other leaders inspired me as I see how Iowa values inclusion and the leadership of women.

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Archy with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds

My first week included many cultural experiences, like going to dinner. I had the Chicken Marsala, I think!  Derrick and I played pool with Ty, of the MFP consumers. I beat Derrick once and Ty beat him twice! In another cultural experience, I got to ride Derrick’s Harley motorcycle.  I went to church, the gym, and helped Derrick rake leaves from the yard.

While we were grocery shopping, I suddenly saw a person with a disability working there. “Cowi” really enjoys his job and let me take a picture with him.  This showed me how a big grocery store, HyVee, values people with disabilities.

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My welcome to Iowa included a “first” for me: while I participated in the Iowa MFP program retreat at Honey Creek Resort in Moravia, Iowa, I experienced my first snow. Cindy Pauk, one of the original transition specialists from Iowa’s MFP program, joined me out in the cold!

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At CDD, I saw a strong partnership and collaboration with UCEDD and Iowa LEND, and many of the staff and projects. I look forward to sharing more about that in my upcoming posts.