Grace Lyimo is the founder of Connects Autism Tanzania and the mother of a 23-year-old adult with autism. Mama Grace, who has degrees in nursing, midwifery and public health, has held administrative positions for a leading international volunteer organization and for the Peace Corps in the region. She is a community leader who has worked for vulnerable youth in a broader sense as a founding member of KIWOCE, the Kilimahewa Women’s and Orphan’s Educational Centre. Mama Grace has three other sons and is active on the Boards of several educational institutions.
Rashid Rajabu has worked in special needs education for the majority of his career. For ten years Mr. Rajabu developed a special needs unit in Moshi. In 2013 he was posted by the Minister of Education to be a Special Needs Education Coordinator in the Siha district. In this position, Mr. Rajabu provides support to special needs teachers and advocates for individuals with autism and other intellectual disabilities.
Connects Autism Tanzania is very proud to announce their new Chairperson, Eunice Tondi Elibariki. Eunice is the City Special Needs Education Officer for Arusha and worked as a special education teacher for six years. Eunice holds a Bachelor of Education from The Open University of Tanzania, as well as a Diploma and Certificate of Special Education from Patandi Special Needs Teachers College.
Samuel Onesmo has been a primary school special needs education teacher for almost 26 years. He is currently teaching at an inclusive primary school in Arusha and acts as a coordinator of all other inclusive schools in Arusha city. As a board member, Mr. Onesmo serves as a link between the work of CA Tanzania and the local government and education officials in Arusha.
Mary Laswai works as an administrative assistant for the Tanzania Communications Regulatory Authority. Previously she has worked for the Tanzanian Red Cross Society as a personal secretary and for Cross Cultural Solutions. She joined CA Tanzania in order to share her advocacy within the communications industry, spreading greater awareness of this condition within the community at large.
Edward is the Managing Director of Pristine Trails Adventures and Safaris. His brother, Erick, has autism and has been the motivator for Edward to become involved in advocacy for those with intellectual disabilities.
Ansila holds a Bachelor of Education and a Masters of Development Management from the University of Dar es salaam. She has experience working for NGOs doing educational advocacy work and has 14 years of experience as a secondary school teacher. Ansila is now determined to advocate for the rights of children with autism as well as for children with other intellectual challenges.
Kerri Elliott is a special needs teacher from the United States. She holds a B.S. in special education and a Masters of Education in curriculum development. A certified learning behavior specialist, Kerri came to Tanzania in 2008 as a volunteer. After meeting Grace Lyimo she learned about the challenges facing children with disabilities and their families. She subsequently agreed to help Mama Grace develop an organization, Autism Connects Tanzania (ACT) to advocate for these families and educate Tanzanian society, particularly the educational sector, about the capabilities and needs of those with autism.
After her first visit in 2008, Kerri split her time between her teaching position in the U.S. and her work in Tanzania. Since 2014, however, she has lived in Tanzania, during which time she assisted Mama Grace in transitioning ACT to a registered Tanzanian NGO, Connects Autism Tanzania. While working as the Educational Lead for Silverleaf Academies in Moshi, she continues to advise and participate in the work of Connects Autism Tanzania.
Body: Stella Hirji is a former teacher who now manages a tour company in Arusha. She has a daughter, Mary, who demonstrated intellectual disabilities and a hearing deficit at an early age. Similar to Mama Grace, Mrs. Hiriji struggled to find schools and resources to support her daughter’s development. Mrs. Hiriji still seeks ways for Mary, who is now 32 years old, to become productive in society. Mrs. Hiriji joined CA Tanzania to advocate for others whose disabilities who face similar obstacles
Felista Mangalu works as the curator of the Tanzanian Natural History Museum. She has a nephew who is autistic and thereby developed an interest in creating awareness about this and other intellectual disabilities within Tanzanian society. After meeting Grace Lyimo, she joined in efforts to assist these children and now works to bring private and government institutions together for the benefit of this population.
Dominick Otaru is a Senior Procurement and Supplies Officer for Tanapa. He holds an MBA in Corporate Management from Mzumbe University. He brings his management skills to bear on the development of CA Tanzania.
Antonia Lekule has been a public health nurse since 1986, acting in various capacities including teacher and nutrition training, anti-natal care, infant feeding and HIV prevention of maternal child transmission. She has worked in numerous districts and hospitals including Ruvuma, Arusha, Njombe and Dar es Salaam. She is now involved in community projects directed toward women’s well being