Arabic Language Version of Sesame Street to Help Refugee Children

Sesame Street, the famous American-made educational children’s television show that started in 1969, is releasing a new Arabic–language version of the show aimed at helping refugee children from Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria deal with the trauma of war and displacement.

According to the Sesame Workshop (the educational charity group that produce the show), they are planning to roll out “Ahlan Simsim” in February this year (2020).

The show is set to be a “ground-breaking program that delivers early learning and nurturing care to children and caregivers affected by the Syrian conflict. Through a brand-new, localized version of Sesame Street and in-person direct services across Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria, Ahlan Simsim reaches families wherever they are—from classrooms and health clinics to TV and mobile devices—with the vital educational resources that they need in order to thrive.”

This isn’t the first Arabic-language version of Sesame Street. From 1979 to 1990, Iftah Ya Simsim (Open Sesame) ran in the Middle East, and it was revived in 2015 for nine regional television stations.

But this new version has been especially created to help refugee children strengthen their resilience, engage with learning, and mitigate the effects of the traumatic experiences they have suffered through educational play, nurturing care and early education.

The Sesame Workshop hope to equip children with “language, reading, math, and social-emotional skills that can set them on a path to thrive into adulthood.”

On the show children will meet Basma, a five year-old purple Muppet with pigtails, who loves dancing but can’t always find the words she needs to express herself so she calls “Yella” (an Arabic idiom meaning ‘let’s go’) when she sets of on an adventure with her friends, Jad, a bright yellow muppet who loves painting with his grandfather’s paintbrush, and Ma’zooza, the playful baby goat.

Through the characters, children will be able to explore a range of emotions, see how others are affected by similar issues, and learn strategies such as, counting to five and belly breathing to help them cope with the pressures they face in their daily lives.

Funding for the show has come from donations made by the Lego Foundation, and the MacArthur Foundation, who both pledged to donate $100 million over five years, and by working in partnership with BRAC, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and New York University’s Global TIES for Children, Sesame Workshop hope to reach millions of refugee children affected by crises in Bangladesh and Syria.

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