The global Sesame Street family is receiving three new Muppet members: Basma, Jad and Ma’zooza.
The characters are creative and adventurous, speak Arabic and are ready to address another difficult issue: the trauma faced by refugee children in the Middle East. They will direct a new show in Arabic language, produced locally, created by Sesame Workshop together with the International Rescue Committee, which aims to bring laughter and learning to children affected by displacement in Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon.
Called "Ahlan Simsim," which means "Welcome Sesame,quot; in Arabic, the show will debut in early February 2020, according to a Medium publication on Sunday by the show's executive producer, Scott Cameron. By addressing emotions such as fear, loneliness and hopelessness, the program hopes to provide children with tools to succeed and understand the world.
The purple-haired Basma is almost 6 years old and loves to sing and dance, Cameron wrote. Basma welcomes Jad, a yellow-skinned boy of the same age, to the neighborhood with open arms. Jad likes to plan and organize and likes to paint with a brush that he brought from where he used to live. The two are followed by Ma’zooza, a goat that eats anything in the shape of a circle.
The show is driven by a $ 100 million grant provided by the MacArthur Foundation in 2017. Julia Stasch, the president of the foundation at that time said then they wanted to reach young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Middle East by financing "the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian environment."
More than 5.6 million people have fled Syria since 2011, according to the figures of March 2019 of the United Nations refugee agency, with many seeking refuge in neighboring countries such as Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Approximately 50 percent of all registered Syrian refugees are under 18, with the crisis stealing basic rights such as the education of millions, and leaving suffering from "toxic stress,quot;, a serious form of psychological trauma, according to a 2017 report by the international non-profit organization Save the Children.
Since its inception in 1969, "Sesame Street,quot; has combined music, puppets and animation to educate children around the world and make them come to terms with hard truths. The public television program has addressed numerous problems that affect society: from homelessness and hunger to pain, racism, gender equality and addiction.
The program, which first came to the Middle East in 1979, began showing in countries such as Afghanistan and South Africa. Last year, Sesame Workshop partnered with the Lego Foundation to create game-based learning programs for Rohyinga refugees in Bangladesh.
To create "Ahlan Simsim," the International Rescue Committee and the Sesame Workshop held brainstorming sessions in Lebanon and Jordan last year with early childhood specialists, psychologists, linguists, writers and artists, according to Mr. Cameron In its first season, the program will address how to handle emotions and use strategies such as abdominal breathing and art to cope with difficulties.
The message of the program is vital, Cameron wrote, because "we know how important it is for children to see their own lives and experiences reflected on the screen."
David Miliband, head of the International Rescue Committee, said in an email Thursday that programs such as "Ahlan Simsim,quot; were crucial as refugee children continue to spend more time away from home. The United Nations agency for refugees in 2015 estimated Prolonged refugee situations by the end of 2014 will be 25 years.
"Throughout the Middle East, there are Syrian refugee children whose entire childhood has been a life of displacement," Miliband said. "Lan Ahlan Simsim,quot; is a massive and transformative investment that recognizes the scale of the problem and what is at stake. "