Iowa's UCEDD Welcomes a Professional Fellow from Zanzibar

June 16, 2023

Iowa’s UCEDD welcomed Bakar Hamad from Zanzibar last month as part of his experience in the Professional Fellow Program, a joint project of the Institute for Community Inclusion at UMass Boston and Humanity & Inclusion. Hamad is the fourth Professional Fellow that Iowa’s UCEDD has hosted through the program, which has provided wonderful opportunities for the fellows and for UCEDD staff to exchange information, ideas and strategies for supporting people with disabilities. His visit highlighted some common challenges shared by our rural states, Iowa and Zanzibar.

Hamad is the acting executive director of the Organization of Women with Disabilities in Zanzibar (JUWAUZA). JUWAUZA is a nonprofit organization that advocates for the rights of women and girls with disabilities, based in Zanzibar. Zanzibar is an island state located in the Indian Ocean off the coast of East-Central Africa, and part of the United Republic of Tanzania. Hamad points out that he is the “acting” director of JUWAUZA, because he envisions a women will lead the organization in the future.

While at CDD, Hamad fulfilled his goal of learning from peers and mentors at the UCEDD. He focused on finding ways to create a more inclusive society in Zanzibar, providing people with disabilities the opportunity to interact and raise their voices. He called his fellowship project, “Haki Yangu,” or “My Right,” as it aims to increase the participation of people with disabilities, particularly women with disabilities, in political decision-making and monitoring.

Hamad looks forward to drawing on two training programs that the UCEDD currently supports. The Community Ambassador program trains people with disabilities who have participated in Iowa’s Money Follows the Person program, with curriculum adapted from Special Olympics Iowa. They participate in outreach opportunities to share their experiences transitioning to community living. Hamad is also reviewing the annual Youth Leadership Academy (YLA) program, sponsored by Iowa’s DD Council. Each summer, YLA convenes a virtual cohort of young adults with disabilities who want to develop leadership skills. Hamad plans to join the program from Zanzibar.

While he visited Iowa, Hamad was able to attend the annual conference of the Iowa Association of Community Providers and hear UCEDD staff present on a variety of state programs and projects for people with disabilities. He also enjoyed a couple of baseball games, watching the Big Ten Iowa Hawkeyes and the state’s minor league team, the Iowa Cubs, play baseball. Hamad traveled around Iowa and visited Kansas City with Iowa UCEDD director, Derrick Willis. Willis will apply for a reverse visit to Zanzibar to continue the fellowship exchange.

Find more about Iowa’s Youth Leadership Academy:

For questions about Iowa’s UCEDD, get in touch with Meredith Field at [email protected].