Washington Life Magazine
Washington Life Magazine

Sesame Mosaic Education: A Two Way Street

Mosaic Foundation's Gala Launches Sesame Street Foundation Partnership

H.M. Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Guest of Honor

At first blush, it may seem that Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit organization behind Sesame Street, and the Mosaic Foundation, an organization founded in 1998 by the spouses of the Arab ambassadors to the U.S., would have little in common. Most people, after all, know Sesame Street as the American children's educational program but have no idea of its global impact.

Sesame Workshop has taken its mission of harnessing the educational power of media to help children reach their highest potential far beyond the borders of the United States. Since its debut here in 1969, Sesame Street has grown into the longest street in the world, reaching children in 120 countries across the globe.

Sesame Workshop also has a long history in the Arab World. In 1979, we created our first production in Arabic with Iftah Ya Simsim in Kuwait. Currently, the Workshop also has Egyptian, Jordanian and Palestinian coproductions.

In creating our international co-productions, we collaborate with local educators, child development experts, artists, writers and producers to develop content and curricula that not only teach literacy, but also address the specific needs of the children of that country. In Egypt, for instance, Alam Simsim places a particular emphasis on girls' education. On South Africa's Takalani Sesame, an HIVpositive Muppet named Kami is helping to reduce the stigma of AIDS and break the culture of silence.

I first learned of the Mosaic Foundation from Kathy Bushkin of the United Nations Foundation, a past recipient of Mosaic's annual grant. Not long after that, I had the opportunity to witness its important work first-hand, when Rima Al-Sabah and Susan Blumenthal invited me to attend the foundation's annual gala. I was struck by their mission to help improve the lives of women and children and to foster a better understanding of the Arab world in the United States. Two years later, thanks to the enthusiastic support of Princess Haifa Al-Faisal, Luma Kawar, and Nermin Fahmy, we at Sesame Workshop are deeply honored to be the latest recipient of a Mosaic Foundation grant. Thanks to this generosity we are working to create Sesame Mosaic, a groundbreaking new educational television program and multi-media initiative to educate young Arab children and build an appreciation for the cultural diversity within the Arab world. In addition, we will create programming about Arab children and culture to be distributed in the United States. As a result, whether children live in Detroit or Dubai, they will have an opportunity to gain understanding and respect for differences and similarities between themselves and children of different cultures.

The Mosaic Foundation's May 9th gala will fund our exciting project, Sesame Mosaic, reaching over 40 million preschool children in the Arab world. The evening's entertainment will include a performance of Zade Dirani, a Jordanian pianist, along with the International Youth Orchestra. I'm thrilled that Khokha will be coming all the way from Alam Simsim in Egypt to be with us as well, reminding us that friends really do come in all colors, shapes and sizes … and together they can create a beautiful mosaic.

Sherrie Rollins Westin with Elmo

Nermin Fahmy


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