The LEGO Foundation has awarded Sesame Workshop a grant of US$100-million over a five-year period to support children affected by the Rohingya and Syrian refugee crises.
In partnership with Bangladesh-based global humanitarian org BRAC and the International Rescue Committee (IRC), the Workshop will use the funding to offer play-based early childhood learning opportunities through mass media programming and direct services, including a play-based curriculum, culturally-appropriate play materials and safe play places for children ages zero to six.
Additionally, new Sesame videos, storybooks, games and puzzles will be provided featuring popular Muppets from Sesame Street. Much of the new video content will be animated and non-verbal to help displaced kids no matter where they live or what language they speak. Existing Sesame content will also be used including videos from Sisimpur, the Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street. The videos will be shared via family-friendly mobile and pop-up screenings in refugee and host communities.
Under the new grant from the LEGO Foundation, Sesame is also working in partnership with New York University’s Global TIES for Children, which has been appointed as the independent evaluation partner for the initiative. It will provide an evidence-based research and evaluation program to strengthen the understanding of play-based early childhood interventions in humanitarian contexts.
The LEGO Foundation was moved to make the donation following another US$100-million five-year grant given to the Workshop and the IRC a year ago by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. That donation was made to help educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Middle East. It represents the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian setting.
One of its projects currently in production that will also benefit kids affected by the Rohingya and Syrian refugee crises is a new Arabic version of Sesame Street. The pan-Arab content is expected to help an estimated 9.4 million young children develop language, reading, math and socio-emotional skills, including lessons of inclusion, respect and gender equity.