Families living in a refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh are receiving critically needed early education resources. Sesame Workshop unveiled its first Rohingya Muppets as part of its Play to Learn Humanitarian Program. The new characters, Noor and Aziz, are 6-year-old twins that love to learn and play using their creativity and imagination.

The new Muppet characters will be featured in groundbreaking Rohingya-language educational media as part of the Play to Learn program in partnership with BRAC, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and New York University’s Global TIES for Children. Made possible by the LEGO Foundation this program aims to support children and families affected by the Rohingya Refugee crisis. The Cox Baxar refugee camp is home to more than 800,000 Rohingya refugees who fled conflict in neighboring Myanmar. More than half are children. 

Muppets

“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,” said Sherrie Westin, President of Social Impact, Sesame Workshop. “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.”

Noor and Aziz

Noor Yasmin, known as Noor for short, is a 6-year-old Rohingya girl who loves to learn and play.  She lives in the Cox’s Bazar refugee camp with her twin brother, Aziz, and their family. Noor loves to make up fun and funny new rules for the games she plays with her friends and family. She is deeply curious about how the world works and uses play to help her understand her world. Her passion for asking questions and finding answers often inspires her and Aziz to try new ways of playing (and learning). She’s a confident girl who believes that there is no problem too big for her to try to solve. 

Aziz, Noor’s brother, is a playful 6-year-old Rohingya boy. Aziz is a natural performer and storyteller; he loves to use his imagination to create and act out stories about kings, queens, and animals. His creativity sometimes distracts him from accomplishing a task, but Noor and friends help him focus. He enjoys assisting others with tasks like household chores and values the importance of helping his family and friends. He relies on his sister for support, laughter – and finding new ways to play.

Elmo

The two new characters, along with familiar Sesame Street friends like Elmo and Elmo’s dad, Louie, will be featured in new video segments on social-emotional learning, math, science, and health and safety. In every segment, the duo will engage in a learning activity centered around the five characteristics of playful experiences that help children learn best—experiences that are joyful, meaningful, actively engaging, iterative, and socially interactive. In partnership with BRAC, video segments will be shared through BRAC’s Humanitarian Play Labs and additional direct services. Facilitator trainings, storybooks, and printed educational resources will accompany the new video segments and be integrated into BRAC and IRC’s direct services in the coming year.

“Investing in learning through play is even more crucial now, where thousands of children affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis, now face the additional unforeseen challenges posed by the global pandemic. Noor and Aziz not only share similar experiences with many of the children who find themselves in this crisis, they will also help these young children to overcome trauma and stress, and build resilience, while engaging in fun play-based learning activities,” said Sarah Bouchie, Chief Impact Officer at the LEGO Foundation. “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.”

Grover

In addition to supporting families affected by the Rohingya refugee crisis, both in displaced and Bangladeshi host communities, Play to Learn is also reaching children affected by the Syrian refugee crisis in Jordan and Lebanon as part of Sesame Workshop and the IRC’s Ahlan Simsim program. In both Bangladesh and the Middle East, Play to Learn combines educational media with direct services reaching families in their homes, community centers, and play spaces to infuse children’s daily lives with playful learning opportunities that are essential to their healthy development and empower them to become creative, engaged, lifelong learners. By designing program approaches and educational content that can be adapted for different contexts around the world, Play to Learn is laying the foundation to transform how the world supports children in humanitarian crises, wherever they may be, for generations to come.

—Jennifer Swartvagher

All photos courtesy of Sesame Workshop

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