Rohingya Muppets Join the Sesame Street Family

Noor and Aziz, twin 6-year-olds, speak the same language as the displaced children.

Jan 16, 2021

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Rohingya Muppets Join the Sesame Street Family | Noor and Aziz, twin 6-year-olds, speak the same language as the displaced children.

The iconic children’s educational program Sesame Street has been teaching preschoolers important lessons about counting, letters as well as talking about social issues like diversity, blended families, autism, and homelessness since 1969.

The show has been watched by 95 percent of US preschoolers and over 150 other countries in very many languages. Now, Sesame Workshop – the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street – is unveiling its first Rohingya-language educational media as part of its Play to Learn Humanitarian Workshop to help families affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis in Bangladesh according to a press release from the workshop.

The show will feature twin 6-year-old Muppets Noor and Aziz. Noor Yasmin, is a Rohingya girl who loves to play and learn. She likes to make up new rules for the games she plays and knows how to use play to understand the world. Her twin Aziz is a natural born storyteller who loves to make up and act-out stories about kings, queens, and animals. The twins and their family live in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp.

“Noor and Aziz are at the heart of our efforts to bring early education and learning through play to children and caregivers affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis, who have been impacted tremendously by the dual crises of displacement and the COVID-19 pandemic,”  Sherrie Westin, President of Social Impact, Sesame Workshop said in the press release.

“These are two very special Sesame Muppets—for most Rohingya children, Noor and Aziz will be the very first characters in media who look and sound like them. Rooted in the rich Rohingya culture and informed by extensive research and input from Rohingya families, Noor and Aziz will bring the transformative power of playful learning to families at a time when it’s needed more than ever before,” said Westin.

The Rohingya refugees are displaced from Myanmar where they have been persecuted for decades according to Fast Company. In 2017, hundreds of thousands of people fled when there was a surge in attacks. The survivors, who have suffered personal trauma are living in overcrowded refugee camps.

The coronavirus pandemic has caused additional hardship to the refugee families because it has suspended in-person services and the children have no access to early education, according to the press release. Play to Learn, which is a partnership between the Sesame Workshop, BRAC, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and New York University’s Global TIES for Children and backed by a grant from the LEGO Foundation. Earlier in 2020, a new Arabic version – Ahlan SimSim – of Sesame Street began running in Jordan and Lebanon for children displaced from the war in Syria.

The segments of the new show will feature the twins who will engage in a learning activity around the playful experiences (joyful, meaningful, iterative, engaging, and socially interactive) that help children learn and have been so successfully used in  Sesame Street programming.

“Learning through play also helps children to develop the holistic skills, including creativity and social-emotional skills, which are vital to survive and thrive in this rapidly changing world,” Sarah Bouchie, Chief Impact Officer at the LEGO Foundation said in the press release.

One of the segments deals with helping children learn how to cope with anxiety, according to Fast Company. In the story, one of the children is afraid of the dark, and is helped by the other characters who teach the frightened child to calm down by breathing with his belly.
“By promoting that engagement, you are really giving them more opportunity to build resilience, and to overcome the negative impact of the trauma and stress they’ve experienced,” Westin told Fast Company.

The program will also produce story books and other materials that can be accessed by children who do not have access to smartphones or computers. Material will also be produced for facilitators. Sesame Workshop is helping children around the world, learn, laugh, sing, and thrive.

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BONNIE RIVA RAS, EDITOR & WRITER
Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.