Sesame Street has created new Rohingya muppets. The muppets, twins named Noor and Aziz, are a part of Sesame Street's new early education program for refugee children in a Rohingya refugee camp in Bangladesh.
"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," said Sherrie Westin, President of Social Impact, Sesame Workshop in a statement Wednesday.
Noor is a 6-year-old Rohingya girl growing up in a refugee camp with her twin brother Aziz. Both of the muppets are passionate about learning, but have unique characteristics like questioning and imagination that set them apart. Noor and Aziz, like other refugee children at the camp, lean on their families, and each other, for "support, laughter, and finding new ways to play."
The two new muppets, along with recognizable fan favorite characters like Elmo and Elmo's dad, Louie, will be shown to Rohingya children in short video clips as part of Sesame Workshop's new education outreach program. The nonprofit organization behind everyone's favorite show Sesame Street, Sesame Workshop has developed video segments focused on the education topics of "social-emotional learning, math, science, and health and safety."
This news comes as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect small underserved communities around the world. The Cox Bazaar camp, where Sesame Workshop will debut the new program, is estimated to have over 700,000 Rohingya children currently living there, most of whom have suffered extremely traumatic events. The virus has canceled most educational in-person services, something the Sesame Workshop hopes the new muppets and video programs will help.
"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," added Westin.
The Rohingya, a Muslim minority, were the targets of an "ethnic cleansing" by the Myanmar government in 2017, which has left at least 6,790 dead. Forced to flee, the Rohingya flooded into refugee camps in Bangladesh, India and Thailand.
According to Sesame Workshop, the creation of the two muppets is an effort to have Rohingya children see characters that look like them, and then respond better to both education and emotional resources. Their work is part of two $100 million grants from the MacArthur Foundation and the Lego foundation to help Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee build an education program designed to help children growing up in refugee camps.
"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.