'Sesame Street' to launch in Northern Ireland

MUMBAI: The American Ireland Fund has forged a partnership with Sesame Workshop to bring an adaptation of Sesame Street to Northern Ireland as a means of promoting the values of tolerance, acceptance and understanding among children.

Working in partnership with Sesame Workshop, the AIF has pledged significant financial support to enable the creation of a localised version of Sesame Street programming which is slated to begin airing in early 2007. The initiative will consist of 26 episodes to broadcast over an 18-month period that promote the values of respect, tolerance and understanding. Elements of the shows will be created in Northern Ireland. In addition to the series, an educational outreach initiative will also be developed for use in schools to reinforce the show‘s important messages to children in the region.

"We are proud to be a prime supporter of this historic initiative aimed at bringing values of tolerance and understanding to the children of Northern Ireland. All children deserve a chance to learn and grow, to understand the world and each other. Shockingly, research has revealed that Northern Ireland children as young as three years old have begun developing sectarian beliefs. The need to counteract this was the impetus for our commitment to this initiative," said AIF vice president Kieran McLoughlin.

Sesame Workshop co-founder and chairman of the executive committee Joan Ganz Cooney said, "We are so pleased with this commitment from the American Ireland Fund which will enable this worthwhile program to move forward. All of us at Sesame Workshop are thrilled to have the opportunity to bring the children of Northern Ireland a program that will encourage mutual respect, understanding and appreciation within their community, which we hope will resonate for many years to come."

The series will encourage children to develop the skills to challenge ignorance, dispel stereotypes and champion diversity. The program will also serve as a valuable resource for children, parents and educators by:

  • Contributing to a "Shared Future" in Northern Ireland.

  • Presenting to children positive images of themselves and others.

  • Imparting the values of mutual respect, understanding and the appreciation of diversity to counter negative stereotypes that attempt to dehumanize the "other."

  • Helping the early childhood community in Northern Ireland achieve its strategic goals.

As with all of the Workshop‘s local adaptations, this program will truly reflect the issues of the region. The program will encourage a shared society in which people make choices that are not bound by historical divisions and where there is respect and tolerance for cultural diversity. Sesame Workshop will partner with local organisations to help bring the program to the youngest audience and develop an education plan focused on topics related to diversity and acceptance: racism, sectarianism, gender, and respecting people with disabilities.

Senior executives from Sesame Workshop traveled to Northern Ireland to meet with representatives of the public and private sectors, including broadcasters, government ministries, and educational organisations to bring this project to fruition. A broadcast partner is expected to be finalised shortly. This project follows on the success of several other Sesame Street initiatives designed to bring educational values to children in over 25 countries around the world including Israel, Palestine, Kosovo and South Africa.

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