It could be argued that nobody is more universally beloved by young children than loveable, furry monster Elmo. And that love extends way beyond Sesame Street, which was evident on Elmo’s recent trip to Jordan to visit with Syrian refugees.
“We got to visit a school, and read books, and meet lots of new friends!” says Elmo. And Elmo’s new friends were equally thrilled to meet him. “There was nothing better than seeing children light up when they met Elmo,” says Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy at Sesame Workshop, who accompanied Elmo on the trip.
Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) were recently awarded the MacArthur Foundation’s 100&Change grant for their proposal to bring early education to refugee children. Their goal is to develop a program, similar to some run by Sesame in the United States, says Westin, that will partner with direct service providers to reach caregivers and give them the tools and strategies to build resilience in these displaced children.
“What a child needs to overcome stress and trauma is the same whether it’s in the Middle East or here at home,” says Westin. “What’s so important is that nurturing care and an engagement with a caring adult. Believe it or not, that’s where Sesame comes in so beautifully, because we are engaging to adults as well as children — and we are less intimidating.”