Sesame Street in Arabic comforts refugee kids

Ahlan Simsim (Welcome Sesame)
United States (New York)

Meet Basma and Jad, the Muppets addressing the devastating impacts of crisis and displacement on children. 

American educational children’s television series Sesame Street is trying to help refugee children suffering from war by airing on channels in the Middle East – including Syria, Lebanon, Jordan and Iraq, along with local channels and YouTube. The show offers children coping skills for feelings like anger, fear, frustration, nervousness and loneliness.

Ahlan Simsim (‘Welcome Sesame’ in Arabic) offers a warm and joyful welcome to early learning to young children. Designed for children ages 3-8, Ahlan Simsim features familiar friends Elmo, Cookie Monster, and Grover, as well as two brand-new Muppet characters named Basma and Jad.

Basma, an almost-6-year-old purple Muppet, welcomes her yellow-furred friend Jad with open arms when he moves to her neighborhood. Basma is a born performer who loves to sing, while Jad expresses himself through art and can paint in midair with his grandfather’s special paintbrush. Each episode of Ahlan Simsim follows Basma and Jad as they explore their world with the help of trusted adults, animated characters, and friends like a lovable and mischievous baby goat named Ma’zooza, who eats everything in sight.

“Ahlan Simsim is a powerful reminder of what we’ve set out to do: give all children, from displaced and host communities alike, the opportunity to grow smarter, stronger, and kinder  –  and build a better future together. It’s an ambitious goal, but one that’s worthy of the challenge.” – Sherrie Westin, President, Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop

Designed in close collaboration with local producers, creatives, and early childhood development experts, the first half of each Ahlan Simsim episode is a comedic story segment, during which Basma and Jad experience emotions in situations relatable to young children, like fear of the dark during a movie night or frustration when friends don’t play by the rules of a game.

Each time, Basma and Jad learn to manage their feelings by practicing concrete strategies such as counting to five, belly breathing, and expression through art. The fun continues in the second half of each episode during a variety show segment, when real kids and celebrity guests join the characters to play games and sing songs that reinforce the episode’s educational content.

The new Ahlan Simsim show is part of a groundbreaking humanitarian program between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC). It combines the new show, along with storybooks, educational materials and caregiver-facing programming. It will bring playful early learning opportunities to millions of children and caregivers wherever they are – from classrooms and health clinics to TV and mobile devices.

The program received the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s first-ever 100&Change $100 Million award, with additional support provided by the LEGO Foundation, the first organisation to step up to the MacArthur Foundation’s call for the bold philanthropy needed to transform the way the humanitarian system serves children affected by crisis. Its is poised to become the largest early childhood development intervention in the history of humanitarian response.

AtlasAction: There are many ways you can support Sesame Workshop’s mission to help kids everywhere grow smarter, stronger, and kinder. Beyond one-time or monthly gifts, you can organise a workplace giving event, contribute while you shop with your favourite online retailers, or host a fundraising event.

Written by

Article adapted from a piece on The Mind Unleashed (07 February 2020)

Project leader

Sherrie Westin, President, Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop

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