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When the staff of Shutaf (Hebrew for partner)—a year-round inclusion program that brings together kids, teens and young adults with and without disabilities—understood early this summer that they couldn’t hold their in-person flagship camp in August, it broke their hearts. Camp glittered as the season when the whole community, comprising 150 participants ages 6 to 30 from across Greater Jerusalem, came together for three full weeks. It sparkled as a time of wholesomeness and joy. A communal gathering of fun, where inclusion wasn’t a slogan but a reality, a way to be.

Yet with COVID-19 raging, it became clear that in-person togetherness couldn’t be done.

It was also obvious that there was no way that Shutaf cofounders and codirectors Beth Steinberg and Miriam Avraham were going to let the scorcher days of August stretch on without sending their campers and families a hug. Something to say they were thinking of them. And something to actually fill those days, virtually.

So they put their heads together with program director, Marci Tirschwell, and a cadre of Shutaf’s year-round professional staff, many who were either furloughed or quarantined or both (!), to create a care package of fun, engaging educational activities. They reached out to many beloved people who staff camp—Lisa teaching her Zumba lessons, Marvin with his signature hip-hop lessons, Tamir Goodman twirling a basketball, a coach from Hapoel Katamon’s youth soccer league. They filmed morning circle, and even an organizer. Counselors came from near and far to film at the office so that participants could see familiar faces. Over a month, some 12 to 15 people contributed, culminating with 14-hour days, brainstorming sessions full of smiles and creativity.

Making the videos was its own form of staff development, explained Tirschwell. Translating and distilling knowledge and understanding accured over Shutaf’s 13 years of running camp. How to be mindful in giving directions when some children can read and others cannot. Tirschwell often stopped to ask, How do we do this the Shutaf way? In other words, How can we make this video as accessible as possible, as inclusive as possible? That involved choosing the right educational platform that worked well on a cellphone.

The result was a colorful cardboard box teeming with tools for activities: a deflated soccer ball and basketball........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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