Kid Insight

Sesame Workshop & IRC receive US$100-million grant

Designed to help children affected by conflict and persecution in the Middle East, the MacArthur Foundation funds represent the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian setting.
December 21, 2017

The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has awarded a US$100-million grant to Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC).

Disbursed over the course of five years, the grant will aid in the education of young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Middle East.

Sesame Workshop and IRC will use the funds to implement an evidence-based, early childhood development intervention program to improve kids’ current learning outcomes, as well as their long-term intellectual and emotional development. The program is designed to address the “toxic stress” experienced by children in the Syrian response region of Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.

The intervention program was designed in consultation with local child development and curriculum experts with a focus on providing kids with the tools they need to overcome the trauma of conflict and displacement. The program includes educational content and a new local version of Sesame Street delivered through television, mobile phones, digital platforms and direct services in homes and communities. The pan-Arab content will help an estimated 9.4 million young children develop language, reading, math and socio-emotional skills, including lessons of inclusion, respect and gender equity.

Additionally, the program will provide for home visitation and caregiving support sessions–reinforced with digital content–for 1.5 million of the most vulnerable children. The content will promote caregiver responsiveness, early learning, mental well-being and resiliency. Sesame Workshop and IRC will also work to transform community sites and schools (both formal and informal) into nurturing care and learning centers equipped with storybooks, video clips on pre-loaded projectors, activity sheets and training guides.

According to MacArthur president Julia Stasch, less than 2% of the global humanitarian aid budget is dedicated to education, and only a portion of all education assistance benefits young children. Sesame Workshop and IRC’s intervention program is set to be the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian setting.

The grant was awarded through 100&Change, the foundation’s competition for solutions to global problems. The foundation’s board also awarded grants of US$15 million to three other finalists, which include Catholic Relief Services, HarvestPlus and Rice 360° Institute for Global Health.

About The Author
Elizabeth Foster is Kidscreen's Copy Chief & Special Reports Editor. Contact Elizabeth at


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