The LEGO Foundation grants $100 million to Sesame Workshop

Today, the LEGO Foundation announced that it is awarding a $100 million grant to Sesame Workshop to ensure that young children affected by the Rohingya and Syrian crises have opportunities to learn through play and develop the skills needed for the future. Working in partnership with BRAC, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) and New York University’s Global TIES for Children, Sesame Workshop will reach children affected by crises in Bangladesh and the Syrian response region with early childhood and play-based learning opportunities.

The $100 million grant from the LEGO Foundation will benefit some of the world’s most vulnerable children and call attention to the critical importance of learning through play to set them on a path of healthy growth and development. The LEGO Foundation is the first to step up and meet the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation’s call for the bold philanthropy needed to transform the way the humanitarian system serves children affected by crisis in early childhood.

The scale of the global refugee crisis is staggering—today, 68.5 million people are displaced worldwide. Among them are 25 million refugees, half of whom are children. As refugees experience displacement for an average of 10 years, millions of children are spending a significant part of their childhoods without access to adequate early childhood development opportunities. Adverse experiences like displacement can affect young children’s developing brains, with lasting effects on health and wellbeing. Engaging in play-based activities with responsive caregivers can help mitigate the detrimental, long term effects of displacement and trauma, ultimately giving children affected by conflict the skills they need to thrive into adulthood and rebuild their communities.

“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 prioritise 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,” says Thomas Kirk Kristiansen, Chairman of the LEGO Foundation Board and 4th generation owner of the LEGO Group.

Less than 3% of the global humanitarian aid budget is currently dedicated to education with only a small fraction benefitting young children, despite clear evidence that early childhood interventions have immediate and long-term benefits for both children and their communities. The LEGO Foundation is committed to making a difference for children affected by conflict and displacement, to ensure a better tomorrow for all future generations.

“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,” says John Goodwin, CEO of the LEGO Foundation.

Sesame Workshop will use the $100 million grant to implement quality, play-based early childhood interventions, working in partnership with BRAC and IRC.

NYU’s Global TIES for Children has been selected as the independent evaluation partner for the program and will implement an evidence-based research and evaluation program, which will deepen understanding around play-based early childhood interventions in humanitarian contexts.

Sesame Workshop will receive the $100 million grant over a 5-year period, with funds released as established milestones are met.

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