Jim Henson productions have been entertaining and educating children for decades. Now it looks like his beloved Muppet characters from the hit television show, Sesame Street will be taking their particular brand of “edu-tainment” to some of the most vulnerable children in the world.
Indeed, Sesame Workshop—Sesame Street’s educational nonprofit arm—has teamed up with the global humanitarian aid organization International Rescue Committee (IRC). This new relationship will aim to develop, distribute, and to test educational resources and programs designed specifically for young refugees.
The pair plans to announce this initiative on Monday at the very first World Humanitarian Summit, in Istanbul. Phase one of this initiative is to develop educational multimedia content to reach those children living in displaced communities or in resettled communities via mobile devices, television, printed materials, and even the old-fashioned radio.
“We really set out to find a partner that complements our offerings, and I think the IRC is ideal,” explains Sherrie Westin, who is the executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy for Sesame Workshop. She goes on to say, “Working with them, we’re able to provide the tools, and they’re able to reach the children who need it most … It feels like a marriage of strengths.”
Basically, the team will adapt various Sesame products and existing content to be more effective in regions where the two organizations already have at least some presence at work with young children and their associated families. Furthermore, the team will also analyze the best places to implement these new products and content. This could mean developing special curricula, working with social workers to improve best practices for parents and caregivers, or in more broad efforts like the development of impactful PSA-like messages.
IRC senior director for education Sarah Smith mentions, “We’ve seen time and time again, in the context of conflict and crisis, that those very young children don’t have a safety net to support them.”
She continues, “The consequences to them as young children are immediate and grave, but … later in life, they’re also more likely to have health problems, a harder time holding down a job, and a harder time learning and achieving in school.”
Of course, this effort is still in its infancy; and Westin says the group is aware of the amount of work still ahead. Westin notes, “Sadly, this issue isn’t going away anytime soon. It’s more important that we get it right, that we can prove impact, because that’s the first step to do more and to take something to scale.”