LEGO awards $100m to Sesame Workshop to support refugees

Bringing laughter, learning, and play to Syrian refugee children at Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan.

The LEGO Foundation has announced that it is awarding a $100 million grant to Sesame Workshop to help children affected by the Rohingya and Syrian crises learn through play.

Sesame Workshop will work in partnership with BRAC, the International Rescue Committee (IRC), and New York University’s Global TIES for Children.

68.5 million people are displaced worldwide. Among them are 25 million refugees, half of whom are children. Millions of children don’t have access to adequate early childhood development opportunities.

Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, Chairman of the LEGO Foundation Board and 4th generation owner of the LEGO Group, said: “This partnership marks the first step of the LEGO Foundation’s commitment to work within the humanitarian field to support children’s holistic development that incorporates learning through play. We hope to inspire other funders, humanitarian actors, world leaders, and governments to act and urgently prioritize support for play-based early childhood development for children in humanitarian crises—a vastly overlooked but vital component in the progress of humanitarian aid. We hope that young children impacted by these crises will have opportunities to benefit from learning through play and also develop the skills needed for them to thrive in the future.”

John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation, said: “Research shows that not only is play vital for children’s psychological, emotional and cognitive health, and development, but it also hones the resilience they need to overcome adversity and build their futures. Early adverse experiences negatively affect the development of brain architecture, which provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health. By providing play-based learning to children in crisis, we can help mitigate the detrimental, long term effects of displacement and trauma, ultimately giving a generation of refugee children a path forward.”

Sesame Workshopwill scale up BRAC’s network of Humanitarian Play Labs – which give pre-school children age relevant and culturally appropriate play materials, a play-based curriculum, and safe spaces for guided play.

New Sesame content will be created to foster engagement between children and their caregivers. Content will include videos, storybooks, games and puzzles.

Sesame Workshop will also create videos focused on play to be shared in refugee and host communities. The content will mostly use animated and nonverbal formats, so that it can be used regardless of language.

Image courtesy Ryan Heffernan/Sesame Workshop