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Kahesa Zanzibar Centre to Enable Intellectually Challenged

To provide a vital service non-existent in Zanzibar to increase the well-being of children with Down syndrome, autism, and development delay

Photo of Simia Ahmadi
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What problem does your idea solve?

The problem is Zanzibar is that children (and adults for that matter) with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome and autism are victimized and stigmatized. In both cases they are prone to all kinds of abuses. There is a lack of access to services and disability education within the community. The Kahesa Zanzibar Centre intends to fill that gap to provide services to increase the well-being of persons with disabilities through art and music therapy.

Explain your idea

I would be able to create a team of professionals, volunteer and paid, to provide art therapy and music therapy to increase the well being of the children, to bring them out of the house and into our centre with various art and music therapy sessions per day. We would also help to break stigmatisation by showcasing their work through exhibitions and have them interact with the community. They could also do music performances at the various music and film festivals in Zanzibar. It would increase their behaviour, social and communication skills, make them happier, as well as their families, and allow them to have more confidence, thus a brighter future.

Who benefits?

Children from age 3 to 18 with intellectual disabilities such as Down syndrome, autism, Global Development Delay, and in some cases Cerebral Palsy

How is your idea unique?

It is unique in the sense that no one else is providing such a service in Zanzibar. (see in the idea above as to the reason it is not being provided for at all in Zanzibar).

Tell us more about you

I am a human rights activist for 25 years. I worked at local, regional and international level, and in East Africa for 15 years (on off). I have worked in Zanzibar at the Zanzibar Legal Service Centre and the Legal and Human Rights Center in Dar Es Salaam, establishing their first Monitoring division. I have established KAHESA PAPER in Kenya for young adults to have jobs since 2012, and the company will be run by someone else while Kahesa in Zanzibar will be an NGO run by me.

What are some of your unanswered questions about the idea?

I have to say I think I have it well figured out! Except for where we will find some of the art and music supplies, though I can always get these in Nairobi where I am currently living (about to move to Zanzibar in two months).

Where will your idea be implemented?

  • Tanzania

Experience in Implementation Country(ies)

  • Yes, for more than one year.

Expertise in Sector

  • I've worked in a sector related to my idea for more than a year.

Organizational Status

  • We are not registered but plan to in the future.

Idea Maturity

  • Mature Growth/Currently Operating: I am currently implementing this idea but may still be iterating.


Join the conversation:

Photo of Seda Topaç

Hello I am an occupational therapist. Sensory integration therapy in occupational therapy is very effective for childeren of autism, development delay and down symdrome. Occupational therapists work to promote, maintain, and develop the skills needed by students to be functional in a school setting and beyond.  Active participation in life promotes: learning self-esteem,self-confidence,independence and social interaction. Occupational therapists use a holistic approach in planning programmes. They take into account the physical, social, emotional, sensory and cognitive abilities and needs of students.
In the case of autism, an occupational therapist works to develop skills for handwriting, fine motor skills and daily living skills. However, the most essential role is also to assess and target the child’s sensory processing disorders. This is beneficial to remove barriers to learning and help the students become calmer and more focused. Sensory integration therapy is based on the assumption that the child is either “over stimulated” or “under stimulated” by the environment. Therefore, the aim of sensory integration therapy is to improve the ability of the brain to process sensory information so that the child will function better in his/her daily activities. Children are often prescribed a sensory diet or lifestyle by the occupational therapist.
A sensory diet/lifestyle helps the child’s nervous system to feel better organised and therefore assists the child’s attention and performance. A qualified occupational therapist can use his or her advanced training and evaluation skills to develop an effective sensory diet for the student to implement throughout the course of the day.
Occupational therapy intervention is proven to impact on improving the communication, interaction skills and motor skills of some of the most complex and ‘hard-to-reach’ children. Children are more regulated following intervention which reduces anxiety and increases these children’s opportunities to thrive and achieve in the overwhelming environment in which we now live.
I love my job. I love children. I love Africa so i want to work with you. :)

Photo of embracekulture

Simia, unique therapies are a service lacking throughout East Africa. I know an organization that has started music therapy in Uganda with some success, though it is expensive to run. Do you have a plan for sustainability? Also do you have trained therapists in Tanzania who could provide the service or would you need international experts to help in developing the curriculum and training trainers?

Photo of Simia Ahmadi

Dear Embracekulture, thank you for your pertinent questions. I am glad to hear of a positive model in Uganda, therefore you have contributed to my reply! (as we can learn from that organization, do send me their details). So, yes, there is a lack of trained art and music therapists in Zanzibar (and perhaps mainland as well), therefore I have foreseen in the budget for a one-time training of 4 therapists for our project (2 in art, 2 in music). Currently there are artists who are providing art therapy to the Kidongo Chekunda Mental Hospital in Zanzibar. We would like them to join our project and thus will have to ensure they are properly trained (I believe they have done courses, but may not be certified). Also a good contact of mine Hilda (who had set up the Dhow Music Academy of Zanzibar) is a trained /certified music therapist and she has been asked to help us in the training. She is back and forth between Germany, the UK, and Zanzibar. So as you see we can tap into regional and international experts, as I also know of trained art therapists in Kenya, who had come a few times to KAHESA in Kenya to assist us in the design and paper-making at the onset of our project in 2012. I hope this answers your question, please do send me any contacts! my email is As for the sustainability element, we plan to make the courses very affordable (5 to 8$) with a monthly membership which will be around 30% discount. Those who cannot afford (underprivileged families) will not have to pay the courses. We will also occasionally sell cards and art work by the children at fairs and events, to showcase their work and talents. We will also accept private donations to keep us more sustainable. All in all, this should be contributing to 10% of our budget, and in the long run I'd like it to reach 20% of our budget. All the best, Simia

Photo of embracekulture

Simia you have thought through your idea well! I will try to link you with a similar project in Uganda in hopes we can all learn from one another.

Photo of Simia Ahmadi

Thank you.. we must keep the dream alive to make it into a reality. Keep in touch. Simia

Photo of Mussa Gunda

Hi Simia,

Thanks to know you over there i hope to visit you one day to see and learn how that music & art therapy work. I am sure giving those kids that power or showing their talents over arts and music it will give them hope and new life.

Showcasing their talents will reduce some how stigma and discrimination. I hope you will have power to continue with this plan and God give you much power @KAHESA Zanzibar. Also i am suggesting not only to use exhibitions to showcase their talents please develop a web based app to show the world how they do even during those exhibitions and that will bring happiness to them the families and also more people will learn from you. If you will stack somewhere in the web development app i will glad to help so as to make Zanzibar a better place for inclusion.

Photo of Simia Ahmadi

Dear Mussa,
Asante sana! (Many thanks!) I appreciate your interest in this project. For sure, I like your idea of creating a web based app to showcase the work of the talents of the children with intellectual challenges, and we will not keep their progress just to the local community, but share with the world. We will also open a Facebook page, and invite friends to like the page. All further ideas are welcome! I was just in Zanzibar and am trying to locate a centre for the project at the Arab Fort, at the heart of the Zanzibar International Film Festival - so that filmmakers can also see their work, and the famous Sauti za Busara annual music festival - also great exposure for African musicians from all over to meet the children and interact with them. Thanks again for your input! and test I know I can turn to you for your help in the development of the app :)