Sesame Workshop was the recipient of the MacArthur Foundation’s inaugural 100&Change challenge in December 2017 for its collaboration with the International Rescue Committee to create Ahlan Simsim, a show for a rising generation of children affected by conflict and displacement across the Middle East and North Africa. René Celaya of Sesame Workshop and Marianne Stone of International Rescue Committee share lessons learned from Ahlan Simsim's fourth year.
Ahlan Simsim has achieved many milestones and faced new challenges. In its second year, the show produced two new seasons of Ahlan Simsim, an award-winning Arabic-language Sesame [Street] show for children in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Season 3 of Ahlan Simsim debuted in the spring of 2021. By that time, 5.2 million children in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria had watched the show, and with the new season, the show reached 12 million viewers across the wider MENA. The show's fourth season aired in the fall of 2021 and expanded its digital promotion, reaching 16 million views through our YouTube channel. Looking ahead to future seasons, the show began to develop new curricula and characters to deepen diversity and meaningful representation in its program.
In the latest season, Ahlan Simsim created its newest character, Ameera. An eight-year-old Muppet who uses a wheelchair and crutches to get around, Ameera is a natural leader with a great sense of humor and a passion for science and basketball. Ameera was created to share new perspectives and experiences with children in the MENA and around the world and appears in live-action content, animated segments, and Ahlan Simsim direct services materials. Her development dovetails with IRC's work throughout year four and beyond to ensure that programs are inclusive and meet the needs of all children and families, including training staff on disability inclusion, ensuring physical spaces are accessible, and providing activities and materials tailored to the needs of all children.
See the full article on the MacArthur Foundation's website to read the team's reflections and plans for the future in more detail. We look forward to seeing what's in store for Ahlan Simsim!