Two Nigerian representatives just completed a four-day study tour to Israel to learn about its inclusive and accessible playgrounds as well as its educational-therapeutic center models.

Financed by an anonymous Israeli donor, the tour was hosted by special-needs organization Beit Issie Shapiro in Ra’anana, recognized internationally for pioneering Friendship Parks designed as common playgrounds for children with and without disabilities.

“I’ve learned from Beit Issie Shapiro the importance of moving society from exclusion to inclusion, and the integration of all groups of children for the benefit of national development,” said Fatima Hajju Tomsu Abdul Kadir from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Nigeria, the office that is also responsible for children with disabilities in the country.

Ayobisi Osuntusa, director of Sesame Square (the Nigerian version of Sesame Street), said she will be bringing many ideas back home from the four-day tour.

“I was so impressed to see how therapy, care and inclusion are applied on so many layers at Beit Issie Shapiro,” Osuntusa said,“whether by looking holistically not only at the child with disability but also the parents, the siblings, the whole family and even the community; or by finding ways to integrate a range of innovative and multidisciplinary therapies, models and techniques.”

In 2013, Beit Issie partnered with Hop! and Rechov Sumsum (Sesame Street in Israel) to teach kindergartners about inclusivity and tolerance using footage from the program showing “Sivan” — the first puppet in the Sesame Street family worldwide who uses a wheelchair — playing with her friends at Friendship Park.

Osuntusa, Askayo and Abdul Kadir in Friendship Park. Photo courtesy of Beit Issie Shapiro
Osuntusa, Askayo and Abdul Kadir in Friendship Park. Photo courtesy of Beit Issie Shapiro

The Nigerian officials visited inclusive playgrounds and centers in different areas in Israel that were developed by Beit Issie Shapiro and the National Insurance Institute, learning about the unique model that combines physical as well as social accessibility. They hope to establish an inclusive therapeutic center and playground in the Nigerian capital.

“We are always excited to share our knowledge and experience, especially when it fosters even greater global impact in the field of disabilities,” said Sharon Yeheskel-Oron, Beit Issie Shapiro’s international collaborations officer. “We are proud to have opened this new professional collaboration with our Nigerian partners and we look forward to assisting them with creating better quality of life for children with disabilities in Nigeria.”

Beit Issie Shapiro holds special consultative status at the United Nations and won the International Play Association’s 2014 Right to Play Award.