Recognizing the desperate need for children's education in refugee camps, the creators of 'Sesame Street' have stepped in to take action.
When it comes to inclusivity and diversity in children's shows, no one does it better than Sesame Street. The television series tackles difficult issues like homelessness and disability while making sure everything is done with sensitivity and empathy. Now, they're taking things a step further. Recognizing the desperate need for children's education in refugee camps, Sesame Workshop, the folks that bring you and your kids great Sesame Street content, is partnering with the International Rescue Committee in order to produce educational content for and provide resources to children in refugee camps, especially those in regions where Syrian refugees have fled to. In addition to a special edition of Sesame Street in Arabic, they'll be delivering in-person educational services to children in these camps, CBS News reports.
The production of the new television show in Arabic, called Ahlan Simsim (which literally translates to "Welcome Sesame"), has already begun in Jordan, a country that has accepted hundreds of Syrian refugees since the humanitarian crisis began. The show features a purple girl Muppet named Basma, a boy Muppet named Jad who has just moved into the neighborhood, and their fluffy little pal, a naughty baby goat. Though it's never explicitly stated that Jad is a refugee, there are lots of clues to hint at the fact. For instance, not only is he voiced by a Syrian voice actor, but he also can't show his friends his favorite childhood toys when all the Muppets are sharing their toys. He says in Arabic, "My toy is not with me. I left it behind in my old home when I came here."
The show will launch in 20 countries in the Middle East, North Africa, and the Gulf. The first episode is set to air in February next year, which means there are only a few months left. According to the International Rescue Committee, satellite dishes are quite common in refugee camps. Along with this, the organization has already been establishing the second part of their plan in these camps - early childhood centers where refugee kids can come to play and learn together in an enriching environment. The learning centers will be a space for children to receive traditional education while also learning how to cope with the trauma and emotions of a humanitarian crisis, a necessary resource at a time when few adults, let alone children have the tools to recuperate mentally and emotionally following such experiences.
The project was made possible by The MacArthur Foundation, which offered a $100 million grant to any organization that was ready to "solve a big global problem." While the program will pilot in the Middle East first, the International Rescue Committee and Sesame Workshops hope to extend their efforts to other parts of the world such as Uganda and Bangladesh. At present, it's estimated that the project will benefit eight million children.
According to David Miliband, the Chief Executive of the International Rescue Committee, "There's no reason not to take this to refugee communities from Myanmar who are in Bangladesh, from South Sudan who are in Uganda. Because this is a model that should work for every child who's forced to endure the trauma of being a refugee. You're not gonna be able to see the moments of hopelessness. But I hope that by seeing the smiles, you'll see the potential. And you'll come away thinking, 'What a waste not to give these kids every chance and to give more kids the chance of what these kids are getting.'"
This is exactly the compassionate kind of thing the world needs right now.