A $100 million MacArthur Foundation grant will support a massive educational effort designed to help refugee children who have been displaced in the Middle East.
The nonprofit Sesame Workshop, known for the children's education show "Sesame Street," and the humanitarian organization International Rescue Committee were awarded the money following the global 100&Change competition, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation announced Wednesday.
The money will go toward a large-scale, early-childhood education project for children in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria, according to a news release.
“We are compelled to respond to the urgent Syrian refugee crisis by supporting what will be the largest early childhood intervention program ever created in a humanitarian setting,” MacArthur President Julia Stasch said in the release.
The project will bring a version of “Sesame Street” that is expected to help millions of children learn about reading and math, as well as develop social and emotional skills. Content and services, for children and those who care for them, will be available in home visits and through child development centers.
Content for home visits will include storybooks and picture books, guides for caregivers, toys and games, and resources for parents. Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee will also work in community sites, schools and other centers, bringing in books, videos and activities.
“For almost 50 years, Sesame has worked around the world to improve the lives of children and help them to grow smarter, stronger and kinder,” Jeffrey Dunn, president and chief executive of Sesame Workshop, said in the release. “This may be our most important initiative ever and we are humbled by the trust and confidence that has been placed in us.”
Dunn called the Syrian refugee crisis the “humanitarian issue of our time.”
“These children are, arguably, the world’s most vulnerable and by improving their lives we create a more stable and secure world for us all,” he said.
The 100&Change competition was established to solve an important problem, the MacArthur Foundation has said. About 1,900 proposals were submitted, and about 800 evaluated by judges.
“Collectively, these projects identify the opportunity for action to improve long-term prospects for the world’s children,” Cecilia Conrad, MacArthur’s managing director, who leads the competition, said in the release. “They propose feasible and durable solutions to remediate the effects of family and community disruption, the lack of dietary diversity and premature birth. All four projects proved worthy of MacArthur’s support.”