Sesame Street's Big Bird Returns to China

Posted December 15, 2010

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(Beijing, CHINA, December 14, 2010) The world’s most beloved eight feet tall bird returned to Beijing today to celebrate the launch of a new outreach initiative.  Sesame Street’s Big Bird joined senior executives from Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit educational organization behind Sesame Street; China Youth Development Foundation (CYDF), best known for launching the “Project Hope” program to help provide underprivileged children with access to education throughout China; and MSD, a global healthcare leader, as they announced the production and distribution of emergency response and preparedness content for children and their families in China. 

“A flood came through Sesame Street and destroyed my nest,” Big Bird explained.  “It was really scary.  But the good thing is that it didn’t hurt any of my friends and they all helped me make a new home.  Today I found out about what other things we could do to keep safe and how we can help each other when something like that happens.  Gosh, I can’t wait to tell all my friends what I learned!”

Providing tools to address the needs of children in the aftermath of a natural disaster and supporting the development of Hope Primary Schools in poverty-stricken rural areas, the partners will deliver educational materials, featuring Big Bird and his friends, in two phases free of charge. 

In the first phase, the partners will focus on emergency response—adapting and distributing a kit of materials that contain games, activity sheets, a caregiver’s guide, and children’s activity book available March 2011.  The kit will be designed for group use, as well as for individual children and caregivers.  In the aftermath of a crisis or disaster, children’s school time is often disrupted and they may feel a sense of displacement and trauma.  In such circumstances, the activities can provide children of all ages with a sense of stability, safety, and normalcy that may otherwise be lacking from their lives.  The partners have worked closely with CYDF in evaluating the materials to ensure they are appropriate and effective for Chinese children and their communities.  One thousand kits will be distributed to classrooms, which will reach approximately 40,000 children in provinces such as Qinghai, Gansu, Sichuan, and Guangxi.

For the second phase on emergency preparedness, the partners will distribute a kit containing: a DVD with songs and activities to help children learn about getting ready for emergencies with their families (including knowing your first and last name, knowing your parents’ names, and preparing an emergency kit together); a parent/caregiver magazine that involves the family in creating an emergency plan and reaching out to the community; and a children’s activity book that invites children to engage in various activities as they learn with characters about how families prepare for emergencies, available September 2011.

Seventy-five thousand kits will be distributed to individual families in 15 provinces that have been severely impacted by or are prone to crises such as Yunnan, Guizhou, Jiangxi, and Henan.  Additionally, these kits will be given to children in the 125 kindergartens in Shanghai that currently have special Sesame Street reading corners, areas where Sesame Street videos and posters are available.

“For over 40 years, Sesame Workshop has been providing children with educational lessons, laughter through memorable characters and messages of healing,” said Gary E. Knell, President and CEO, Sesame Workshop.  “Children and their families residing in disaster areas are going through a difficult time, and they need the comfort, normalcy, and knowledge that our content can provide.  We are honored to collaborate with CYDF, the prestigious philanthropic institution in China.  Together, with MSD, a global leader in healthcare, we are supporting early childhood development and addressing critical educational needs for children.”

Secretary-General Tu said that this cooperative project with Sesame Workshop is another major initiative of CYDF to reinforce the development of “Project Hope” and to expand international partnership. “The mission of Project Hope has always been to provide access to reading to every child from rural family. While we have already seen significant impact from the implementation of Project Hope, we are continuing our focus on the comprehensive education and healthy growth of students in Hope Primary Schools. In particular, for students in areas hit by earthquake or other natural disasters, they will need to know how to deal with emergencies and they will need to accumulate knowledge and form habit to better respond to emergencies. With the active support of MSD this time, we are distributing, to some disaster area and other provinces, sets of pamphlets and DVDs covering ‘How to prepare an emergency plan’, ‘help each other in emergencies’ and ‘educational cards’. Tens of thousands of kids in rural area will benefit from this program. At the same time, it is our belief that this cooperative project will be a basis for further and more extensive cooperation in future between CYDF and Sesame Workshop, MSD, as well as other US companies that are with compassion.”

Michel Vounatsos, Senior Vice President of Merck and President of MSD China said, “MSD is committed to working with Chinese authorities and partners to improve people’s health and quality of life. Children are the future of the world. We are doing everything to let them grow up happy and healthy and live a better life. Working together with Sesame Workshop and China Youth Development Foundation, MSD is delighted to see that we can help Chinese parents and children to confront natural disaster through enhancing education about emergency response.”

Sesame Street first appeared in China in 1983 with Big Bird in China, a one-hour special produced with CCTV.  It debuted to great acclaim.  Other locally produced Sesame-branded programs soon followed.

Farrin Jay
Sesame Workshop
3rd Floor
1 Lincoln Plaza
New York, NY 10023