The LEGO Foundation will award a $100 million grant to Sesame Workshop.

In partnership with BRAC, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and New York University’s Global TIES for Children, Sesame Workshop will use the grant to reach children affected by crises in Bangladesh and the Syrian response region with early childhood and play-based learning opportunities.

The LEGO Foundation is the first to step up and meet the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s call for the bold philanthropy needed to transform the way the humanitarian system serves children affected by crisis in early childhood.

Today, 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide. Among them are 25 million refugees, half of whom are children. As refugees experience displacement for an average of 10 years, millions of children are spending a significant part of their childhoods without access to adequate early childhood development opportunities. Adverse experiences like displacement can affect young children’s developing brains, with lasting effects on health and wellbeing. Engaging in play-based activities with responsive caregivers can help mitigate the detrimental, long-term effects of displacement and trauma, ultimately giving children affected by conflict the skills they need to thrive into adulthood and rebuild their communities.

Less than 3 percent of the global humanitarian aid budget is currently dedicated to education, with only a small fraction benefitting young children, despite clear evidence that early childhood interventions have immediate and long-term benefits for both children and their communities. The LEGO Foundation is committed to making a difference for children affected by conflict and displacement.

Sesame Workshop and its partners will use the $100 million grant to implement quality, play-based early childhood interventions. This includes the following areas:

  • Direct Services: Partnering with BRAC, the new program will scale up BRAC’s network of Humanitarian Play Labs to address the developmental needs of children ages 0 to 6 from Rohingya refugee and Bangladeshi host populations. BRAC’s Play Lab model is designed to give pre-school children age relevant and culturally appropriate play materials, a play-based curriculum, and safe spaces for guided play.

    The program will introduce wew Sesame videos, storybooks, games, puzzles, and more featuring the Muppets of Sesame Street to foster engagement between children and their caregivers, nurture developmental needs, and build resilience for children ages 0 to 6.

    The new program will also deepen the play-based learning aspects of the existing Sesame Workshop-IRC program that serves children and families affected by the Syrian conflict, including support for caregivers to better engage in playful learning with their children.

 

  • Mass Media: Harnessing the power of the Sesame Street Muppets, Sesame Workshop will create videos focused on play to be shared through family-friendly mobile and pop-up viewings in refugee and host communities. These videos will include global Sesame content, including Sisimpur, the Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street, and a new TV series in production in the Syrian response region.
    Much of the new content will use animated and nonverbal formats, so it can be used to address the needs of displaced children from different areas who speak different languages.

NYU’s Global TIES for Children has been selected as the independent evaluation partner for the program and will implement an evidence-based research and evaluation program, which will deepen understanding around play-based early childhood interventions in humanitarian contexts.

Sesame Workshop will receive the $100 million grant over a five-year period, with funds released as they meet established milestones.