The Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind “Sesame Street”, has been awarded a $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to create digital content and other programming for children displaced by the "global refugee crisis".
The Sesame Workshop, in partnership with International Rescue Committee, was selected for the foundation’s coveted 100 & Change grant earlier this week for a proposal to bring early education programming to refugee children. In the first instance, the grant will be used to focus on creating programming for children displaced by Syria’s civil war along with children located in Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq.
“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,” Sesame Workshop says on its website.
"When children in crisis have opportunities to learn, they can grow and thrive—into a better future. Together, Sesame Street and the IRC are creating a transformative early childhood development program designed to reflect the unique experiences of displaced families in the Syrian response region. 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 statement said.
The organization has already started a pilot program in Jordan and will now begin work to replicate its model on a global scale.
According to an article published in the Chicago Tribune close to 2000 proposals were winnowed to 800 by an initial review process, for the MacArthur contest Foundation contest, which was announced in 2016, and were scored by a panel of judges. The foundation’s board of directors selected eight semifinalists and then four finalists, who presented their plans on a Chicago stage last week.
United Nations Children's' Fund, UNICEF, has noted that the countries surrounding Syria are hosting more than 5.3 million registered Syrian refugees, including more than 2.5 million children. Globally 12 million children under age eight have been displaced in the global refugee crisis—and that number is on the rise.
In their press release on the grant, the MacArthur Foundation´s President Julia Stasch said, "We are compelled to respond to the urgent Syrian refugee crisis by supporting what will be the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian setting."
She added: "Less than two percent of the global humanitarian aid budget is dedicated to education, and only a sliver of all education assistance benefits young children. The longer-term goal is to change the system of humanitarian aid to focus more on helping to ensure the future of young children through education."
Each of the project's three components and has been designed in consultation with local child development and curriculum experts, it will help caregivers restore nurturing relationships and give their children the tools they need to overcome the trauma of conflict and displacement.