Professional Fellows Alumni Named U.S. Embassy Tanzania AEIF Awardees

The Ohio State University Nisonger Center and a team of AUCD Professional Fellows alumni in Tanzania have won an U.S. Department of State Alumni Engagement Innovation Fund (AEIF) award for the Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program, a virtual training partnership that connects Ohio UCEDD and LEND faculty and trainees with teachers in Tanzania so they can exchange disability knowledge, best practices, and experiences in the U.S. and East Africa. The $32,000 award from the U.S. Embassy in Tanzania will allow the team to expand the program to four cities across Tanzania so more teachers and other disability professionals in both countries can learn online about inclusive education and employment for people with disabilities.

The Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program is a partnership between Transition Services Director Dr. Margo Izzo and three Tanzanian alumni of AUCD’s Professional Fellows Program on Inclusive Disability Employment (PFP-IDE), which enables UCEDD and LEND to exchange knowledge, deliver international training, and build partnerships with African disability rights leaders (known as Professional Fellows). Dr. Izzo co-created the Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program with a former Professional Fellow she mentored, Bijal Lal. Ms. Lal is a special educator and the founder of the education NGO Tujumuishe Tanzania (Let’s Be Inclusive, Tanzania).

Teachers at AMSEN School in Dar es Salaam exchange knowledge about inclusive education, employment, and student needs in the U.S. and Tanzania with Nisonger Center Ohio LEND faculty and trainees.
Teachers at AMSEN School in Dar es Salaam exchange knowledge about inclusive education, employment, and student needs in the U.S. and Tanzania with Nisonger Center Ohio LEND faculty and trainees.

Dr. Izzo and Ms. Lal designed the ECHO Program so that disability professionals and trainees in the U.S. and Tanzania could learn directly from each other and build relationships regardless of travel ability. During her Fellowship in Ohio, Ms. Lal adapted and translated many of the Nisonger Center’s disability toolkits for Tanzanian teachers, but the ECHO Program goes several steps further by letting them learn U.S. best practices directly via interactive monthly Zoom meetings with faculty, staff, and trainees from the Ohio LEND and UCEDD. These ECHO Program meetings are rewarding and informative for Nisonger Center participants too, since they have the opportunity to learn about disability inclusion in an international setting. This has been especially beneficial to LEND trainees, who can interact directly with disability professionals in a completely new context, and build professional skills by sharing their own knowledge while learning from participants in Africa.

Bijal Lal and Margo Izzo present the Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program model during a PFP-IDE webinar on university-led partnerships in May 2021.
Bijal Lal and Margo Izzo present the Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program model during a PFP-IDE webinar on university-led partnerships in May 2021.

Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program sessions include reciprocal trainings, reviews of case studies brought by both the Nisonger Center and Tanzanian participants, and rich conversations about disability inclusion and best practices in each countries. The ECHO Program also includes regular extensive conversations about inclusion and accessibility, and how to adapt and use disability tools in different contexts of language, culture, education, and technological capacity. Since the first session in early 2020, it has been a massive success and a terrific learning opportunity for all involved. The program’s online model has proven especially valuable during the COVID-19 pandemic, when international trainings that involve travel have been blocked. Their program has received praise from the U.S. Department of State Disability Rights Team and USAID officials. Dr. Izzo and Ms. Lal also presented about the Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program during an AUCD webinar in May 2021.

Dr. Izzo and Ms. Lal share the award with two other AUCD Professional Fellows alumni, Gwaliwa Mashaka and Archy Gomba. Ms. Mashaka is an entrepreneur, tech expert, and deaf self-advocate who is the CEO and founder of Employable Africa, the first private sector inclusive employment support platform in Africa. She is also the founder of Rafiki Connect, the first pan-African captioning provider. Mr. Gomba is a disability rights activist, community leader, and inclusive development expert, and is the director of SARDO, an NGO that fights against disability discrimination in rural Tanzania.

Ms. Lal, Ms. Mashaka, and Mr. Gomba will collaborate to expand the Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program across to country, to new sites in Dar es Salaam, Moshi, Arusha, and Iringa. They will engage local educators, NGOs, and members of the disability community to set up local sites and networks for expanded online inclusive education & employment trainings with U.S. specialists

Click this link to learn more about the Nisonger Center Tanzania ECHO Program.