9. Multidisciplinary Teams in Kenya and Tanzania, with Pooja Panesar and Brooke Jedidah

Discover what’s possible when team members effectively collaborate to transform people’s lives.

Pooja Panesar is a Board Certified Behavior Analyst, and the first professional to practice Applied Behavior Analysis in East Africa. Brooke Jedidah is a Speech and Language Pathologist, Psychologist and Clinical Child Neuropsychologist. Both of these phenomenal leaders are Co-Directors of Kaizora Center for Neurodevelopmental Therapies in Nairobi, Kenya and Kaizora Child Development Center in Dar Es Salam, Tanzania. 

In this episode, Pooja and Brooke compare the understanding of autism in Kenya and Tanzania, and they describe the challenges of educating families about evidence-based interventions. Parents in their communities often turn to religious practices before trusting science as they progress through different stages of grief. 

Back in 2010, when Kaizora was just Pooja, and the Global Autism Project was just our CEO Molly Ola Pinney, the two entrepreneurs supported each other to create what partnership with the Global Autism Project looks like today. You can hear Molly’s side of the story in episode 2. 

Over the years, Kaizora has established itself as the leading autism center in Africa. In April of 2019, Pooja and Brooke merged their services to provide affordable packages under one roof. Today, both of their centers in Kenya and Tanzania offer a range of services, including Applied Behavior Analysis, Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, Special Education, and Vocational Training. 

I visited the center in Kenya twice last year and was inspired by the staff’s dedication to their students’ progress. Pooja and Brooke stress the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration, which they encourage by scheduling weekly training sessions led by alternating departments. 

In this conversation, Pooja and Brooke comment on each other’s leadership styles and explain how they work together to balance out their strengths. Listening to them speak, I could sense the deep respect they have for each other as colleagues. They also provide insights on how to run a business with the right mindset and an open heart. 

A huge struggle for Kaizora has been to deliver quality services for families who can not afford it. Pooja and Brooke have recently developed Kaizora Foundation, an organization aimed to raise funds for their centers and ensure that they will no longer have to turn children away. You can make a donation to their cause here: Kaizora Foundation.

We also discuss the impact of Covid-19 on Kaizora. Since recording this episode on April 7th, their center in Kenya has reopened its doors, taking extra precaution to use protective equipment and sanitize thoroughly. Understandably so, student attendance is not at regular capacity. 

Their center in Tanzania eventually had to close for an indefinite amount of time. Staff from Kenya are currently running online sessions for their students in Tanzania because they don’t have enough laptops for therapists to use. They also continue to face challenges with unstable internet connections and frequent power outages. 

On this note, I would like to apologize for the inconsistent quality of our call. Unfortunately, we had some issues with the internet connection but we’ve done our best to correct the sound, and I’m sure you will still find much value in Pooja and Brooke’s story. 

The two Co-Directors are remaining positive and confident that they will come out of this crisis having learned innovative ways to run their organizations and will continue to support the families in their communities with whatever resources they have. 

To learn more about Pooja, Brooke, and the team at Kaizora, please click here: Kaizora.

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