Ahlan Simsim means “Welcome Sesame” in Arabic — and we’re thrilled to announce that we’ve chosen Ahlan Simsim as the official name of Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee’s (IRC) humanitarian program in the Syrian response region. Our program, made possible by a generous $100 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation, will reach children and caregivers wherever they are — from classrooms to health clinics to mobile devices — delivering vital early education and nurturing care to those affected by displacement.
Ahlan Simsim reflects the welcoming spirit embedded throughout our program, both through the direct services offered in partnership with the IRC and the all-new local version of Sesame Street that we’re creating with Jordan Pioneers, our production partner in Amman. The Ahlan Simsim television show will premiere in the region this fall and feature brand-new, Arabic-speaking Muppet characters with storylines that both displaced and host community children can relate to.
So what’s in a name? For us, a whole lot of research.
We knew we needed a name that would be meaningful across the various dialects of Arabic spoken in our four target countries — Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Syria — and across the Middle East. We knew we needed a name that children could easily say and understand. And we knew we needed a name that captured the welcoming spirit of our program. So, with all this in mind, we consulted with Arabic linguists, media advisers, IRC colleagues, and families from both displaced and host communities across the region. Enthusiastic feedback from all these sources indicated that Ahlan Simsim hit the mark.
Next, we worked with designers in the region to create a logo based on the classic Sesame Street sign. Our designers created a unique Arabic typeface to match the playful essence of our program. This logo will be a visual symbol that unites all the aspects of our initiative, from the Ahlan Simsim television show to our new direct services materials, including storybooks, posters, play mats, and more.
We’re excited to have a new name and logo. But Ahlan Simsim is much more than that. “Welcome Sesame” is a powerful reminder of what we’ve set out to do: give all children, from displaced and host communities alike, the opportunity to grow smarter, stronger, and kinder — and build a better future together. It’s an ambitious goal, but one that’s worthy of the challenge.
Choosing a name is just one small step, and there are many more to come. So stay tuned, and ahlan — welcome — to the story of our program.
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Sherrie Westin is the President of Global Impact and Philanthropy at Sesame Workshop. This article was originally posted on her Medium page.