Over 70 million people have been displaced or made refugees due to conflicts around the world that put them in peril. Approximately half of those impacted are kids, according to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). Specifically looking at one of the biggest crises today, five million Syrian children have been affected by the brutal Syrian Civil War.
Many of these kids have seen their family members murdered before their eyes, and have seen the kind of violence that kids shouldn’t have to witness. A way to reintegrate these children and create a safe space for them to blossom is absolutely vital. Enter “Ahlan Simsim,” or “Welcome Sesame,” an Arabic language equivalent to “Sesame Street.”
“Ahlan Simsim” is a collaboration between IRC and the Sesame Workshop which is set to premiere in February 2020, and will target children aged between 3 and 8.
The show itself will have two protagonists: Jad, a young boy Muppet who is a refugee kid, and Basma, a female Muppet who becomes Jad’s first friend when he moves to the neighborhood.
Jad and Basma will be joined by other beloved, original Sesame Street characters such as Elmo, Grover, and the Cookie Monster. When interviewed, the partners of this uplifting venture hope that “Ahlan Simsim” will help to “heal the scars of war” by creating “lasting solutions for children.” In short, in addition to teaching kids their ABC’s, “Ahlan Simsim” intends to show them good coping mechanisms. Kids will learn techniques such as counting to five to calm down and “belly breathing.”
In designing the premise of “Ahlan Simsim,” therapists, psychologists, and writers were asked to give their insight in order for the producers to give kids a show that will help them. This team did their research, and came together with a compilation of skills that those rebuilding their lives will need in order to enhance and enrich their lives.
I believe that with so many Syrian refugee kids having to relocate or go through traumatic experiences, this well-researched and sorely-needed show will hopefully teach them the right skills to help cope with the trauma they’ve experienced.
The positive effects of this show are two fold. First of all, it might offer a safe space for refugee kids to adapt to their new surroundings. After all, shows similar to this are often cited as the building blocks for young minds. I believe that with so many Syrian refugee kids having to relocate or go through traumatic experiences, this well-researched and sorely-needed show will hopefully teach them the right skills to help cope with the trauma they’ve experienced. Additionally, on the other side of the fence, it will no doubt be an eye-opening experience for those kids who haven’t experienced the trauma of war and being a refugee. Perhaps those who have only known comfort will become aware of the fact that there may be more than meets the eye where their newest playmates are concerned, and that empathy and patience is non-negotiable because you never know what someone has been through.
Overall, this show is a step in the right direction. In fact, I hope one day there’s a similar show with similar values for teenagers to watch. In the meanwhile, a new generation will be watching “Ahlan Simsim” tailored to the global refugee crisis. It’s about time a show like this is produced.
The Canada-based former refugee creator of this show, a man named Mohammad Al Jamous said, “…the content is going to be helpful for the families and the kids in a way that will enhance their knowledge and their life and social skills.”
According to the IRC President and CEO, less that “2% of all humanitarian aid and funding goes on education, even though half of the world’s refugees are kids.” With the production of “Ahlan Simsim,” let’s hope this small investment in education kids on how to cope with trauma will prove massively therapeutic and educational.