‘Sesame Street’ given $100 million grant to make programming for refugee kids

Many of us grew up loving “Sesame Street.” In addition to hanging out with Bert and Ernie, Big Bird and Elmo, we learned our alphabet and values like being kind to one another. And now, thanks to the MacArthur Foundation, children who have been displaced by Syria’s ongoing civil war will be able to fall in love with the show also.

On Dec. 20, “Sesame Street” was awarded a $100 million grant from the foundation, the largest its ever given, to create programming specifically to educate refugee children whose lives have been affected by the civil war.

According to the Chicago Tribune, the MacArthur Foundation contest was announced in June 2016. It called for proposals “promising real progress toward solving a critical problem of our time in any field or any location.”

The goal of the program will be “creating a transformative early childhood development program designed to reflect the unique experiences of displaced families in the Syrian response region,” Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee wrote on a joint website. “Reaching children, parents, and caregivers wherever they are—from classrooms to health clinics to mobile devices—the program will address immediate needs and help build a strong foundation for future well-being.”

The nonprofit groups went on to say, “Our early childhood development program will be the largest in the history of humanitarian response, bringing hope and opportunity to a generation of refugee children.”

syria refugee kids photo
Getty Images | Sean Gallup

The statistics of the situation in Syria are staggering. According to UNICEF, there are more than 20 million people in need, with 9.2 million of those being children, in Syria as well as in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey. Moreover, countries surrounding Syria are hosting more than 5.3 million registered Syrian refugees, including more than 2.5 million children.

syrian refugees photo
Getty Images | Milos Bicanski

Given that many refugee children are not enrolled in school at all, this grant will certainly be put to the best use possible. The program will include a customized, local version of “Sesame Street,” home visits with caregiving support sessions and the creation of child development community centers.