In 2013, Rechov Sumsum (the Israeli Sesame Street) got a very special new star. Sivan, the first puppet with a wheelchair ever to appear in a Sesame Street production worldwide, made her debut playing at a park called ‘Friendship Park.’
As it turns out, the disability-inclusive Friendship Park that featured prominently on the show for young children was not just television fantasy.
Disability advocate group Beit Issie Shapiro has been working hard in recent years to build real-life Friendship Parks throughout Israel where children of all abilities can play together.
Now, it seems their hard work and dedication to inclusion has gained the attention of another part of the international Sesame Street family.
Recently, with the help of an anonymous Israeli benefactor, members of the Nigerian government and the country’s own Sesame Street (called Sesame Square) visited Israel to learn about how they can create more inclusive educational models and spaces for kids to play.
Fatima Hajju Tomsu Abdul Kadir from the Ministry of Women’s Affairs in Nigeria was part of the delegation. Her office deals with disability issues in her country.
“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,” the government official said.
Also on hand was the director of the Nigerian Sesame Square, who said she was impressed by the multi-layered approach to helping kids.
“I was so impressed to see how therapy, care and inclusion are applied on so many layers at Beit Issie Shapiro,” Ayobisi 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.”
Israel’s Beit Issie Shapiro hosted the delegation during their four-day visit. They called the Nigerian visit a win-win.
“We are always excited to share our knowledge and experience, especially when it fosters even greater global impact in the field of disabilities,” Sharon Yeheskel-Oron, Beit Issie Shapiro’s international collaborations officer said of the international visit that she hopes will foster future collaborations and ultimately help improve the lives of children with disabilities.