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Sesame Street launches Arabic show to comfort refugees

Sesame Workshop's new show “Ahlan Simsim” will feature, from left, Jad, Ma'zooza, Basma, Grover, Cookie Monster and Elmo for the Arabic TV program that will focus on helping Syrian refugees [Twitter]
Sesame Workshop's new show “Ahlan Simsim” will feature, from left, Jad, Ma'zooza, Basma, Grover, Cookie Monster and Elmo for the Arabic TV program that will focus on helping Syrian refugees [Twitter]

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 26-minute long episodes will explore emotions experienced by all kids, but particularly relevant to children dealing with the trauma of displacement and will offer coping skills for feelings like anger, fear, frustration, nervousness, and loneliness.

“One of the big gaps in humanitarian assistance for so long has been that only about 3 per cent of humanitarian aid goes to education, and of that, only a tiny fraction goes to early childhood education,” says Scott Cameron, the executive producer of the show.

“As a global community, we need to figure out ways to really create new models to help children in need in these crisis settings.”

Called “Ahlan Simsim”, which means “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic, the show will have new Muppet friends known as Basma, a purple Muppet who befriends the yellow Jad, who’s new to the neighbourhood after having to leave his home, while featuring the familiar characters Elmo, Cookie Monster and Grover.

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Each episode will follow Basma and Jad as they explore their world with the help of trusted adults, animated characters and friends including a baby goat named Mazooza.

In one episode, Basma shares feelings of anxiety and the group learns breathing exercises to help her cope, reported the National.

Sherrie Westin, president of Social Impact & Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, states in the press release: “The thing that became very apparent in our work on the ground is how critical the need was for the children of this region and children who have been affected by traumatic events to have the social and emotional skills they need.”

The programme launched by Sesame Workshop – the non-profit educational organisation behind Sesame Street – was initially funded by a $100 million award by the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

The LEGO Foundation then awarded an additional $100 million to deepen the play-based learning of “Ahlan Simsim” and gave Sesame Workshop the chance to expand to Bangladesh to serve families affected by the Rohingya crisis.

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