Tonia Casarin, Brazil ’19, founder of Fireworks Education, is helping children and caregivers around the world confront the trauma caused by two crisis: the Syrian conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.
While on fellowship in the U.S., Casarin met with representatives from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind the beloved children’s program “Sesame Street.” Since that initial meeting, she has worked with Sesame Workshop and the International Rescue Committee (IRC) to develop curriculum for 52 episodes of “Ahlan Simsim,” a television program that teaches children to understand and manage their emotions. The Arabic and Kurdish-language program airs in Jordan, Lebanon, Iraq and Syria.
With children accounting for more than half of the 12 million people displaced by the Syrian conflict, there is a desperate need for coping skills to understand and manage emotions. Using Casarin’s curriculum, the IRC trains volunteers from local communities to teach parents how to use play as part of early learning. Learning essential social and emotional skills, along with reading and math skills, helps children control their emotions and resolve conflict. It also helps them persevere through times of crisis.
With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sesame Workshop once again contacted Casarin to help children and caregivers understand and manage their emotions. Casarin is developing digital content for Caring for Each Other, a new Sesame Street platform that helps families cope with the health crisis. Casarin sees this platform as an opportunity to reach a broader audience and help children in crisis all over the globe. Sesame Workshop plans to make her content available the United States, Latin America, Europe, India and South Africa.
An author of ten books, including the bestselling children’s title “I Have Monsters in My Tummy,” Casarin’s one meeting with Sesame Workshop during her Eisenhower Fellowship has become an ongoing partnership. “I love to see the little things I do have a big impact,” says Casarin.