South African ambassador visits Israel’s Beit Issie Shapiro

December 4, 2013 by J-Wire Staff
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South Africa’s Ambassador to Israel, Sisa Ngmonbane, lit a Chanukah candle of hope yesterday at Beit Issie Shapiro with Yoav, a child with intellectual disabilities, and had high praise for Israeli innovation at Beit Issie Shapiro, Israel’s leading disabilities organisation on International Disabilities Day which this year coincides with Chanukah.


Ambassador Sis Ngmonbane and BIS executive director Jean Judes light the menorah with Yoav, a child with intellectual disabilities

Ambassador Sisa Ngmonbane and BIS executive director Jean Judes light the menorah with Yoav, a child with intellectual disabilities

“Beit Issie Shapiro represents the thing that we cherish most in South Africa: Ubuntu, an ancient African philosophy meaning human kindness, interconnectedness and collective responsibility – ‘I am because you are’. Beit Issie Shapiro encompasses this value” said Ngmonbane.

Beit Issie Shapiro (BIS) is based in Raanana and its work impacts on 30,000 children and adults each year. It has been named Israel’s inaugural ‘most effective non-profit organisation’.  The charity is also special consultant to the UN’s Economic and Social Council, and shares its innovations all over the world – including back in South Africa.

The Ambassador visited Beit Issie Shapiro in order to hear about the many examples of partnership working between the organisation and South Africa.

In 2011, BIS showcased its innovations at its Fifth International Conference on Disabilities in Tel Aviv.  Professionals from South Africa attended, including the Selwyn Segal Society, University of Pretoria, Chevra Kadisha, Wits University, Astra Jewish Sheltered Employment, Shonaquip / Uhambo Foundation, and Glendale Home.  BIS continues to work and share best practice with of these organisations.

Beit Issie Shapiro has provided professional consultation for several institutions in South Africa that expressed interest in replicating Beit Issie Shapiro’s flagship models, including the organization’s inclusive and accessible playground, ‘Park Chaverim’ (‘Friendship Park’), the first of its kind in Israel which allows children with and without disabilities to play together and learn from each other.

“Park Chaverim is designed to allow children with disabilities independence, while presenting opportunities to meet other children. We partnered with Sesame Street in Israel and the Ministry of Education to develop an educational program to teach children about disabilities, and we are developing the world’s first tool to measure changes in attitudes of young children towards

BIS founding president Naomi Stuchiner, Ambassador Sisa Ngombane and Jean Judes

BIS founding president Naomi Stuchiner, Ambassador Sisa Ngombane and Jean Judes

disabilities.” said Jean Judes, Beit Issie Shapiro’s Executive Director who originally hails from South Africa.

In addition, BIS is in contact with Pretoria University regarding a possible project to promote the provision of Snoezelen environment services in South Africa, and BIS is working with Highlands House in Cape Town on the possibility of setting up a Snoezelen room, which is known also to help older people.

At the core of the longstanding relationship between Beit Issie Shapiro and South Africa is local South African philanthropic support for the organisation’s programs and operations. Without their friendship and contributions, Beit Issie Shapiro could not impact the quality of lives of children of children with disabilities and their families, throughout Israel and also back in South Africa.

Ngmonbane concluded: “Beit Issie Shapiro stands up to the challenge and finds solutions. Assisting other institutions to help others is quite inspiring. The fact that it can be replicated is testament to the foresight and vision of this wonderful organisation”.

We actually have some current and past professional collaborations with Australia as per below. Tomorrow (Dec 3) is International Disabilities Day so if you do decide to publish, you might prefer to release it on that day to coincide.

Beit Issie Shapiro built Israel’s first accessible and inclusive playground, Park Chaverim (Friendship Park), in Ra’anana. This year, BIS began working with Australian organisation based in Sydney, Touched by Olivia (TBO), in accessible and inclusive playgrounds. TBO has a lot of experience in setting up accessible playgrounds across Australia and we are planning collaborations, exchange of knowledge and a joint presentation at a conference in Turkey in May 2014.

–        Jewish Care Victoria recently visited Beit Issie Shapiro and enjoys a continuing relationship with the organisation.

–        Beit Issie Shapiro’s joint research with University of Brisbane and University of Toronto has been translated into 22 languages to benefit the quality of life of families with children with disabilities.

–        A professional from the Australian disabilities NGO Noah’s Ark also visited Beit Issie Shapiro to learn about our Early Intervention Centre model.


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