Muppet Helpers

September 28, 2018
FUZZY FRIENDS Elmo makes a visit to a refugee camp in Jordan.
RYAN HEFFERNAN—SESAME WORKSHOP

When Hanadi was 4, a bomb destroyed her school. Soon after, her family fled their home, in Syria. They went to nearby Lebanon to live as refugees. Hanadi enrolled in school there. But she was scared to go.

Her experience is not unusual. There are now nearly 25.4 million refugees around the world. That is according to the United Nations refugee agency. Most refugees today are from Syria. Civil war broke out there in 2011.

To help kids affected by the crisis, Sesame Street has teamed up with the International Rescue Committee (IRC).Together, they will launch a new version of Sesame Street. It will be especially for refugees, using Muppets as teachers.

“We don’t just want to help children learn letters and numbers,” Sherrie Westin told TIME for Kids. She works at Sesame Workshop. It is the nonprofit group behind Sesame Street. “We want to help them feel less alone.”

Watch and Learn

In the new Sesame Street for refugees, the Muppets will speak the local language. They will wear local clothes. They will deal with situations that are familiar to refugee kids. Some Muppets, for example, may have been forced to leave their home.

For the world’s 12 million refugee children, educational opportunities are limited. And even if kids go to school in a host country, they may have fallen behind in their studies.

“These refugee kids had to leave their home and everything comforting in their lives: their schools, their playgrounds, the places they love to go,” the IRC’s Sarah Smith says.

Many Syrians now live in refugee camps in Iraq, Jordan, and Lebanon. Kids in these countries and in Syria will be able to watch the new Sesame Street on a TV, computer, or mobile phone. The show will launch in 2019. Sesame Workshop expects it to reach more than 9 million children. Hanadi may be one of them.