Looking Back at Year Three of Ahlan Simsim: A Year of Adaptation

Ahlan Simsim
5 min readOct 5, 2021
Jad shares a story with friends in Amman, Jordan. Ryan Donnell/Sesame Workshop

Year three of Ahlan Simsim put our program’s flexibility to the test. In February 2020, we debuted the first season of Ahlan Simsim, a new Sesame show for a rising generation of children across the Middle East and North Africa. At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, we adapted our program implementation models to ensure that children affected by crisis and displacement would continue to receive vital early childhood development services. And as children and caregivers transitioned to at-home learning, we designed and produced special content to help young children make sense of their new reality and transformed our production to deliver new seasons of Ahlan Simsim amid the pandemic.

Earlier this year, we reflected on the year’s lessons and successes in the Ahlan Simsim 2020 Annual Report Executive Summary in English and Arabic. We also marked 10 years since the beginning of the war in Syria, which has displaced at least 12 million people to date, 5 million of whom are children. These children are at the heart of Ahlan Simsim. They and millions of others affected by crisis and conflict continue to face a pandemic that exacerbates existing barriers for the most vulnerable. This has only underscored Ahlan Simsim’s significance and the immense need for greater investment in early childhood interventions in crisis settings.

The onset of the pandemic forced a pause of in-studio production in Jordan, so we found new, creative ways to remotely produce two half-hour specials designed to help children cope with the “new normal.” We further adapted our production model to keep our cast and crew safe as they created new episodes for children across the region to enjoy in forthcoming seasons.

Basma and a friend practice hand washing in Amman, Jordan. Ryan Donnell/Sesame Workshop

We expanded the show’s social-emotional curriculum to reflect the new socially distanced reality for children. In August 2020, season 2 premiered with episodes filled with stories, activities, and strategies to help children identify, express, and manage the big feelings they were experiencing. We continued this approach in developing season 3, incorporating additional social-emotional strategies to help children manage…

Ahlan Simsim

Sesame Workshop and the IRC’s joint humanitarian program, bringing vital early education to refugee and host community children in the Syrian response region.