Working in partnership with BRAC and the International Rescue Committee, Sesame Workshop will use the funds to implement quality, play-based early-childhood interventions for refugee children as well as children from host communities in Bangladesh and the Syrian response region. In Bangladesh, the initiative will scale BRAC's network of Humanitarian Play Labs, providing Bangladeshi and Rohingya refugee children up to age 6 with culturally appropriate play materials, a play-based curriculum, and safe spaces for guided play.
In December 2017, Sesame Workshop and IRC were awarded $100 million from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation's 100 & Change competition in support of a joint project to address the "toxic stress" experienced by children caught up in the Syrian refugee crisis, with a focus on the four countries — Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and Syria — most directly affected. The grant from the LEGO Foundation will support efforts to deepen the play-based learning aspects of the existing Sesame Workshop-IRC program, including support for caregivers that enables them to better engage in playful learning with their children.
In addition, Sesame Workshop will create play-focused videos that can be shared through family-friendly mobile and pop-up viewings in refugee and host communities. To meet the unique needs of refugee and host community children, Global Sesame content, including video content from Sisimpur, the Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street, and a new TV series in production in the Syrian response region, will be used.
With the aim of deepening understanding around play-based early childhood interventions in humanitarian contexts, New York University's Global TIES for Children will serve as the independent evaluation partner for the program and will implement an evidence-based research and evaluation program.
"This partnership marks the first step of the LEGO Foundation's commitment to work within the humanitarian field to support children's holistic development that incorporates learning through play," said LEGO Foundation board chair Thomas Kirk Kristiansen. "We hope to inspire other funders, humanitarian actors, world leaders, and governments to act and urgently prioritize support for play-based early childhood development for children in humanitarian crises — a vastly overlooked but vital component in the progress of humanitarian aid. We hope that young children impacted by these crises will have opportunities to benefit from learning through play and also develop the skills needed for them to thrive in the future."
To explore submissions to the 100&Change Competition, check out the MacArthur Foundation 100&Change Solutions Bank.