Sesame Street & the International Rescue Committee are teaming up to educate displaced children in refugee camps
Elmo says "it's important to help people when they need help"
Sesame Street’s Elmo says refugee kids are just like kids everywhere.
“They like to play and learn just like Elmo and all his friends at Sesame street” he said during a Facebook Live interview with CNN on Monday.
The 3 1/2-year-old Sesame street character visited a refugee camp in Jordan back in February, and described the trip as “really wonderful because Elmo got to meet a lot of new friends.”
“Elmo thinks it’s important to know that everybody is the same deep down and that’s very important.”
Elmo also noted some of the differences between kids here and there. “It was really sad because Elmo’s new friends told Elmo that they had to leave their homes because it wasn’t safe for them to stay,” he said. “And that made Elmo really sad and sometimes a bit scared.”
Elmo likened the experience to when Big Bird’s nest was destroyed. “That was really sad at first. But then the whole community came and rebuilt Big Bird’s nest and it was all better.”
“It’s really important to help people when they need help,” he added.
Elmo went to Jordan as part of a pilot program with Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee. The two organizations are partnering to provide preschool education along with educational materials to refugee children across the Middle East.
Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop’s Executive Vice President of Global Impact, explained how the partnership came about.
“Sesame has had a long history at looking at issues from a child’s perspective and given the staggering number of children who are displaced today, we knew this was an area where we really had to try to do something to help and we knew we couldn’t do it alone” she told CNN’s Clarissa Ward.
Westin appeared alongside Elmo and David Miliband, CEO of the IRC.
“Look at us all, we’re all smiling,” Miliband said. “Whenever Elmo is with his friends we smile and that’s the same for the children we serve around the world.”
He went on to explain the global refugee and displacement crisis facing the world.
“25 million refugees, 40 million more people inside their own countries displaced by war and persecution and half of that total is children. These are children who don’t just lose their homes, they lose their childhood really. They lose their chance at education of the kind of nurture and support that many people would take for granted.”
He said projects like the one with Sesame Street give refugee children “a dose of normality.”
“Even in the midst of terrible chaos, I’ve seen in tents that are run by IRC staff around the world in Lebanon, and Jordan, and all across Africa, even in clearings, the dose of normality that says there’s a teacher, there’s a class, there’s some paper, there’s some crayons.”
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Miliband also addressed the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold parts of Donald Trump’s controversial travel ban and the President’s stance on refugees.
“It’s worth saying, perhaps especially today, that this country, the US, receives very few refugees and there’s a lot of fear and loathing being put out. Countries like Jordan, a million refugees. Uganda, where I’ve just been, a million refugees. People there see the refugees as their brothers and sisters, not as terrorists who are coming to get them, and there’s a real lesson in humanity and compassion from countries that are much poorer than us that are doing so much more.”
“It’s a myth that most refugees are in rich countries,” he said. “They’re not. Most refugees, 90% are in poor countries. The Jordanians, the Ugandans, the Lebanese, they really are teaching a lesson of what it’s like to actually reach out and help people.”
Ward asked Elmo about the importance of the project. “Elmo just thinks it’s really important to be kind to people and to treat people the way you would like to be treated,” he said. “Because it’s important to bring joy to everybody.”