Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee | 100&Change: The Finalists Live Presentation

Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee | 100&Change: The Finalists Live Presentation


On truly critical challenges of our time. Educating children displaced by war and hatred. Cultivating more nutritious and sustainable staple crops to solve hidden hunger in Africa. Developing and sharing technology to save the lives of newborns. And supporting families so they can stay together instead of depending on orphanages. The statistics around all of these issues can be staggering. The stories heart wrenching. But today you’ll also hear about something different. Not only the scope of the problem but also the solutions at scale. Help keep the conversation going online. This is a place where you don’t have to turn your phones off. You can actually use the hashtag 100 and change. You can ask questions about the presentations. The teams will answer them online as well. And this afternoon you’ll have an opportunity for an up close experiential look at each project in more intimate breakout sessions. So let’s start. What do you get when you take an institution with almost 50 years of experience in early childhood development. One that reaches 183 million children around the world. And match it with one of the most well-known and most successful humanitarian service organizations. Of course I’m referring to Sesame the world’s most recognized Street and the International Rescue Committee. What you get is the ability to deliver educational content directly to children and families. In areas of conflict and crisis specifically to the millions of children and families in this Syrian response region. Ladies and gentlemen our first finalist. Please welcome from the International Rescue Committee David Miliband. And from Sesame Workshop Sherry Westin.Can you tell me how to get..how to get to… sunny days…. Sesame Street it makes us all think of joy, laughter, learning, as the song says Sunny days. Today we want to persuade you to bring laughter and learning to the most vulnerable children in the world. Refugee children who have known bombing not schools soldiers not teachers treacherous journeys not secure foundations around the world. Sixty five million people have been displaced from their homes by war and persecution More than any time since World War II. Half of those people are children. That means the last year every six seconds another child was forced to flee from war. Honestly talk about big global problem. Now we know that the average refugee family are displaced from their homes for 10 years. Yet the learning and development of young children under the age of eight. It’s bottom of the pile when it comes to the operation of the aid system. Aid is good at keeping people alive it helps them thrive it helps them survive but it doesn’t give them the tools to thrive. And that is what we are absolutely determined to deliver at the moment. It’s incredible really. Two percent of the global aid budget goes on education. And a sliver of that 2 percent goes to the children under the age of eight who we are targeting. That’s not just a big global problem. It’s a disgrace and our message today to all of you is simple. It’s in our hands. It’s in our power to turn it around. I’ve just been to Jordan I met two brothers Arif and Gazi. Arif 15 and Gazi just two years old. Their parents perished during the war in Syria. So they’re being raised by their uncle in Jordan in the as Azraq refugee camp now 15 year old Arif He’s got resources to draw on. He went to primary school in Syria before the war began. And he talked to me about his pride and joy. This artwork that he puts his heart and soul into the pictures. All soldiers of children with tears are absolutely heart rending. But he was confident and articulate. However two year old Gazi was striking for a different reason not because he came forward but because of the way he held back. Remember he’s only known war and displacement. I sat in the tent that is their home with the kids from both families. Arif and Gazi’s family and the uncle’s family. We sat on the floor but Gazi the two year old he sat outside the main circle with his back against the wall of the tent. He was silent still of withdrawn. He wasn’t really like any two year old I’ve ever known. And when I spoke to the uncle he was amazing really. I mean the courage and the fortitude he didn’t complain about anything in Azraq camp except one thing. It was one thing he asked for. He said he gets no support in bringing up two year old Gazi There is no preschool and the school that is there for the 6 and 7 year olds. He just shook his head and he said it’s not good enough. He was truly frightened about the future for that generation of children. And I could see this man was doing everything he could but I knew in my heart he was right to worry. The greatest danger for children like Gazi and millions of young children like him is something called toxic stress. Stress so prolonged and extreme that it triggers a flood of hormones that impair the way the brain develops. But here’s the thing about the latest brain science it shows us the danger of toxic stress. It also shows the solution. Intervene early when the children are young. That’s when their brains are developing at an absolutely extraordinary rate. Any of you with children or grandchildren will have seen that yourselves. Influenced the development at a young age and you set them on a positive path for life. Delay and the costs are huge for them and for that society. We’ve designed a program for the Middle East because it is the epicenter of the global refugee crisis. In Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq, and inside Syria there are a thousand IRC staff working that today inside Syria as well. We can reach literally millions of children. What’s more we’re absolutely clear about the imperative of creating a model of early intervention that can be used for refugee children all around the world. So the high quality investment in early childhood development becomes the norm in humanitarian emergencies not the exception. Now it’s possible to conceive such a plan and be sure that we can deliver it because two extraordinary organizations have come together. The International Rescue Committee and Sesame Workshop. I’m sure most of you here know Sesame Street but you may not be aware of the depth and breadth of our work. Today we reach children in 160 countries making us one of the largest educators in the world. And we have a long history of addressing some of the most challenging issues facing children. Whether that’s HIV and AIDS in South Africa or lack of opportunities for girls in places like Afghanistan. Or the growing number of children diagnosed with autism right here at home. We create relevant content stories characters all designed to meet the unique needs of children. So it’s not surprising given the staggering number of children today who have been forced to flee their homes. Leaving behind their schools everything they’ve known that we felt we had a responsibility to help. But we also knew we couldn’t do it alone. We need an organization that understood the plight of refugees as well as we understand the needs of young children. And that’s what led us to our partnership with the IRC the organization that has done more to help refugees than just about any other. The IRC is providing life changing services to over 26 million people in 40 countries and they share our commitment to evidence based education and rigorous research. So by combining the IRC roots in refugee communities with sesame proven educational content together we will create the largest early childhood intervention in the history of humanitarian response. We call it Sesame Seeds. So through the power of media sesame seeds will reach nine point four million children and millions of caregivers. In Iraq Jordan Lebanon and Syria will create an all new Sesame Street in Arabic and Iraqi Kurdish teaching the academic basics. Literacy numeracy but also the social emotional skills that children need to thrive. Also by working with 12000 home visitors 6000 facilitators we’ll reach one point five million of the most vulnerable children through home visits learning centers community programs all designed to help caregivers restore nurturing relationships and give children the tools they need to overcome the trauma of war. So we’d like to take you to Lebanon to give you a glimpse of this work on the ground. Our early childhood development
program begins in the home. Whether it’s a shelter, a
crowded home, a tent, it doesn’t matter. the most important thing is that the children need to be with their parents. The first givers with whom they will build trusting relationships and learn new things in order for them to be able to build knowledge on the long run. We give them activities to promote reading learning the alphabet counting a lot of languages.We empower the parents with skills to support their child’s development. They can play with them using objects that they can find in their homes says the man. We show them how to communicate with their children frequently in a way that promotes praise. Most of the parents that I work with when we first meet they describe their role as shelter provider, food provider as the one who’s making sure that their children survive. Yet with time they start engaging with their children and they will say I used to do this in Syria. But I was not able to do with any more with my kids. Thank you for helping me.It always makes you smile out of many times I see that video. The key to measurable impact is to reach children wherever they are.
And I mean measurable impact on literacy numeracy Social and Emotional Learning. We’re going to teach them in their homes and in their communities in health centres and preschools on their mobile phones and through television. And we’ve gained commitments from all the other major NGOs in the region and government agencies across the region including ministries. In Jordan Lebanon and Iraq to help deliver and implement the plan high quality as you saw in the video. There are three elements to the plan. First Sesame Seeds home is going to train and deploy 12000 home visitors in the kind of places the I just visited in Jordan. This is the frontline in the battle against toxic stress. These home visitors are going to demonstrate to parents games and activities that help strengthen the working memory of the kids. Help improve their social and emotional skills their ability to express themselves helped nurture them through the trauma that they’ve been through. And then to reinforce what’s done face to face we’re able to send videos and reminders to the parents so that can give mobile phones to reinforce what’s learned face to face. Second Sesame Seed Center is going to transform health clinics Child Protection offices community centers preschools into genuine and inspiring centers of learning. The missing element in all those places at the moment is lack of educational content of high quality and lack of trained staff. Sesame Seeds is going to tackle both of those two problems. Child care centres will become engaging and interactive places of learning toys games lesson plans a multimedia library instead of being the exception. We’re going to make them the norm. Here is the vision for sesame seed center three hours a day of focused instruction delivered by 6000 trained facilitators meeting the Early Childhood needs of the most vulnerable children in the region. Finally Sesame Seeds mass media is going to use the power of television and digital technology to change lives. I was surprised about this. Over 90 percent of the households in the Middle East have got access to a TV that includes the refugee families the family visit in Jordan better TV in that tent Nearly 80 percent of the families in the Middle East have gone to mobile phone. Over the course of five years. We’re committed to producing more than 200 new episodes of local Sesame Street in the process. We’re going to be able to give nine million children a friend on Sesame Street. So the plan has got breadth through the TV and then the digital technology. But it’s also got depth through the impersonal services because of that we can break out of the traditional barriers that have prevented humanitarian programs ever going to scale. Think about this. The top forty five early childhood development experts in the world published an analysis in The Lancet showing the early childhood programs deliver a return of 17 dollars for every dollar that you invest that turns 100 million dollars into nearly two billion dollars. We wanted to check those statistics for our program. So we commissioned an independent cost benefit analysis from the leading center of cost benefit analysis and education at Columbia University to assess the return on sesame seeds. They confirm that even with the most conservative estimates we can expect to return better than the 17 to 1 ratio in the Lancet analysis. One reason we can do that is that we’ve kept our costs right down. For the five years of intensive support through the home visitors and the sesame seed centers. The cost per child is only 32 dollars across the lifetime of the program. The mass media work. It’s five dollars per child across the five years of the program. Now here’s the point that I want to get across to you as well. Our program isn’t only costed. It’s tested is tested against the most rigorous research the most rigorous impact evaluations and the latest brain science. You may guess but I’m not a brain scientist. That is true. So don’t take my word for it about the research or the science. Listen to Dr. Hiro Yoshikawa a leading expert in early childhood development. He’s going to tell you a little bit more about the science and the evidence behind our program. Children living in conflict and displacement of the type we’re talking about suffer what we call toxic stress which is cumulative chronic adversity that has lifelong consequences toxic stress affects the body’s fight or flight mechanisms. When those are activated essentially constantly it actually over activates the body’s defense systems and that results in damage to biological systems and the capacity to learn. And absorb learning and enrichment from the environment toxic stress actually damages the brain’s ability to make those millions of neuronal connections. What all children need in these early years is nurturing care a comforting routine. And the opportunities to learn through play. Nurturing care is the responsive interactions that caregivers teachers parents can provide so that children are nurtured in all the parts of their day and throughout the first few years of life service servent return interactions are the moment to moment responses to an infant’s communications and cues. Brain architecture is built through those serve and return interactions. All children also need comforting routine so we can think of being tucked in every night of a teacher knowing your name. Every day in preschool children need the opportunity to learn through play. The opportunities for playful interaction from others and from programs is something these children have been missing. If you miss early childhood you’ve really missed a prime opportunity to set a child on the right trajectory. As you heard from Dr. Yoshikawa of the early years in life offer a unique window. A moment in time when we can help these children. A moment we will not be able to recapture. So for almost 50 years Sesame Street has been reaching children during those critical early years because we know that’s when we can have the greatest impact and the greatest return on investment. And the evidence to support this spans decades and multiple countries. There have been over a thousand studies on the impact of Sesame Street but perhaps most relevant is a 15 country meta analysis that studied our international work from. Bangladesh to South Africa and showed that watching these local versions of Sesame Street consistently produced higher outcomes cognitive and social learning. That were comparable to that of a traditional preschool only at cost and a fraction sorry only a scale that’s really important and a fraction of the cost and those results are even greater. For the most disadvantaged children. So today I want to highlight three areas that will lead to impact with sesame seeds. First it’s creating content in local countries. Second engaging adults as well as children. And third of course the power of our muppets. So first by working with local educators Ministries of Education artists writers researchers we create local versions of Sesame Street that are tailored to meet the new unique needs of children in country. Their language their culture and these productions. They reflect childrens own realities with local characters they can identify with. So I’ll give you an example. In Afghanistan a country where only a third of girls are in school. We created Bachi Simpson which means Sesame Garden in Dari and Pashto. We created the first local Afghan Muppet a little girl named Zahri and it’s important to know that one of our key curricular goals is gender equity. So Zari as you can see she proudly wears her school uniform. She loves to go to school and she is modeling for girls and boys. The importance of going to school and the research shows that little African boys who watch test 30 percent higher on attitudes of gender equity and it gets even better. We’ve also heard time and again from fathers who cite Bachi Simpson as the reason they’ve changed their minds about permitting their daughters to go to school. That’s the power of media and Muppet’s. To not only reach children many of whom have no other access to quality early education but also to change attitudes and behaviors in a non-threatening way. Planting the seeds for societal change. Second with Sesame appeal to adults. It’s worth noting that in Afghanistan we’re reaching close to 4 million children and 70 percent of those children watch with a parent or caregiver and that’s by design. Since Sesame Street’s inception our founders and creators set out to engage adults as well as children. That’s why they included celebrities and musicians and parodies and humor because they believed that the learning would be deeper. If an adult was watching with the child and of course now we have the science to prove it. But this adult appeal is a key factor in Sesame seeds because our content will become a catalyst to promote that critical adult child engagement. And third are not so secret weapon our Muppets in children the world over are deeply connect with these muppets. They formed special bonds helping them feel less alone but also making them more receptive to the lessons they’re seeing and hearing. So with sesame seeds we will introduce new local Muppets with stories that children can relate to. Perhaps a Muppet that had to leave their home or lives in a tent and becomes best friends with their new neighbor. And since the majority of refugee families actually do not live in refugee camps but in neighborhoods and host communities sesame seeds will reach refugee children side by side with their new neighbors. Their new Muppet friends will model respect and understanding and inclusion of differences such as gender and disability. Always from a child’s perspective. So behind me that’s Tonton. She’s from Jordan. We visited the refugee camp and saw a tree together and I got to watch children light up in delight meeting her.Tonton!. I’m so glad you made it she. Sherrieeeeeee. I’m so glad you’re here. So glad to be here. You visited me and my friends in Jordan. Now I visit you and your friends. I think think you have a lot of friends Sherrie. Well I did meet a fair amount of new friends this morning. Since you been did been to Jordan I made some new friends too. Guess what Miss Sherrie. What? I have I knew best friend. Her name is Aman. She’s 4, like Tonton, good and she’s from Syria and we like to sing and we count like this.Very good. But sometimes she gets sad. Because she had to leave her home in Syria yes and she gets nightmares. Tonton tries to make her feel better. Well she’s so lucky to have you as a friend Tonton. I can’t wait for you to meet her. Well I can’t wait either. But you know what? I think that you’re showing children that you don’t have to be from the same place to be friends and that’s a really wonderful lesson. Yes me Sherry but I can’t wait to meet her. And you know what? I can’t wait. To tell all my friends. About meeting all of you. Miss Sherrie’s friends.. Thank you for being here. So our vision is for Sesame Seeds to be a model for humanitarian response around the globe not just for Tontons friends in the Middle East but for refugee children wherever they may be. For every displaced child to have what those of us here take for granted. The laughter and learning that Sesame brings. Sesame Seeds can give these children the tools they need to thrive. And if not what’s to happen to two year old Gazi or the millions of children just like him. How can they be expected to reach their full potential or have the skills they need to rebuild their societies. And what does that mean for the future of the region. And for the rest of the world That is the right question isn’t it. It goes to the heart of this competition and its founding idea. Because when we first heard about a hundred million dollar prize we thought it was a challenge to do things differently not an invitation to do more of the same. It was a call to disrupt things not to defend them and I went to organizations were born of disruption. We were born we were created to challenge comfortable thinking in the 1930s. Albert Einstein a refugee in New York was tortured by the thought that he was safe. While the extermination of European Jewry European Jews was being planned and executed in occupied Europe. He created the International Rescue Committee to address their plight. In the 1960s Joan Ganz Cooney and the Carnegie Corporation saw the burning injustice that was the fuel of the civil rights movement here in the United States. They vowed to create Sesame Street something that would use the power of television to ensure that the most disadvantaged children in America got the chance to arrive at school ready to learn. Today the challenge is different. It’s the global refugee crisis the world closing its doors on refugees child refugees getting the worst deal of all. Although the question or the challenge is different. The issue for us all of us is the same. The issue is just like Einstein just like guns and guns Cuney. Do we address the problem, or do we turn our backs on it? The refugee crisis isn’t just a trial for the refugees. It’s a test of all of us and here’s the biggest point that we want to leave you with today. This is a test that we can pass. Don’t believe the fatalists who will tell you that the refugee crisis is insoluble. In our power in the plan that we’ve described to you today is the charms and the responsibility to change the lives of a generation. We know that early intervention is the best intervention. We know that combining digital technology and in person services mass reach and face to face contact is the recipe for high impact in a social program. And we know to that when you deliver returns on investment of the scale that I’ve described today when you build a model with an evidence base of the kind we’ve described today we will have donors beating down the door to scale and sustain the program. I deferred to no one in my belief in the power of governments to make a difference to be a force for good around the world. But I know this. I know when governments need someone else to lead. Now it’s such a time. This is such an issue and that is our opportunity to plant a flag around which global opinion can rally a flag of innovation a flag of compassion. A flag of creativity a flag of humanity. It’s there waiting for us. The largest humanitarian the largest early childhood development intervention in a humanitarian setting ever. The refugee children there waiting for us. We cannot we must not let them down. Thank you very much indeed. Thank you to the Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee. And of course to Tonton who I think stole the show. You all give us hope that children whatever their circumstance can have what they so deserve the opportunity to learn grow and thrive. Ladies and Gentleman we’re just getting started we’re going to take a short break and then we’re going to hear from our second Worldchanging finalist. Stay with us.

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