Sesame Workshop brings magic of Muppets to Middle East after $100M MacArthur Foundation winnings


Three years ago the MacArthur Foundation offered the unthinkable. It was a public competition: Identify a problem, then come up with a feasible and durable solution. That’s it.

In 2017, there were 2,000 applications and only one winner. They walked away with $100 million to make their dream become a reality.

That year, the partnership between Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee was the victor. In less than three years, they have planned out and put into motion Season 1 of “Ahlan Simsim,” which means “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic.

Basma and her best friend Jad and Ma’zooza, a sweet baby goat who follows them everywhere, are the new faces of Sesame Street in the Middle East. Their goal: to help children living impoverished and displaced in war torn regions, cope and maybe even recover the Sesame Street way. They do it with love, patience, learning from one another and they do it in Arabic.

“Through our research with local experts and partners, we have learned the most important thing we can give child who have lived through. traumatic experience is to give them their emotional ABC’s if you will,” Sherrie Westin, Sesame Street Workshop, said.

Sesame Workshop’s plan over five years is to create a new local Sesame Broadcast on digital platforms and satellite filled with content, learning materials, training and more that could reach kids who are survivors of war like in Syria.

While there’s new faces, there’s some familiar ones, too such as Elmo, Grover And Cookie Monster. They emphasize the importance of play based education which is as important as ever now that we are in the middle of a global pandemic.

The leaders at Lego Foundation were so impressed with the MacArthur competition, 100 & Change, and its 2017 winner that they matched the prize money allowing Sesame Workshop to extend its work to Bangladesh.

Season 2, 26 more episodes, will be airing in 20 countries in the Middle East, launched over the weekend. The people at Sesame Street just getting warmed-up when it comes to using the magic of Muppets to aid children traumatized during those critical early learning stages.

The 100 & Change competition is at it again. The first competition went so well, the second competition for $100 million is already underway.

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