For decades, “Sesame Street” has been a favorite television series of both kids and adults in the US, bridging cultural and educational gaps through its adorable characters. Now, the program is looking to expand its impact by helping millions of children who have been displaced by the war in Syria, or other crises, and may no longer have the opportunity to go to school.
Sesame Workshop – the nonprofit behind “Sesame Street” – has partnered with the International Refugee Committee to develop a new, locally produced TV program for the hundreds of thousands of children dealing with displacement in Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon.
Called “Ahlan Simsim,” which means “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic, the show was designed in close collaboration with education experts to assist children in developing necessary foundations for success in school and life. Each episode of the show contains original content focused on new characters, with support from classic Muppets like Grover, and a narrative structure that the team says is proven to help children learn.
Though the themes have a clear connection to the lives of refugees, the show is not aimed solely at refugee families or those who have been displaced. Some episodes revolve around more general topics aimed at helping children develop critical social and emotional skills.
Sesame Workshop is also working with the International Refugee Committee to create in-person tools to deal with more difficult topics like grief, such as a storybook featuring the show’s characters that children can read along with a trained professional from the nonprofit.
Stories and shows are powerful tools for communicating with children. Tackling complex topics of displacement and conflict via the lens of a children’s show is truly an innovative solution for helping children understand and process these events.