Play Safe with Sisimpur
03 September 2018
Bangladeshi children’s injury prevention knowledge has improved significantly, thanks to the 30-month Play Safe with Sisimpur educational project funded by the AO AO Strategy Fund (AOSF) and carried out with educational children’s programming leader Sesame Workshop.
With the ambitious aim of improving the knowledge, attitudes, and behaviors related to accident and injury prevention strategies and reducing preventable traumatic childhood injuries in Bangladesh, Play Safe with Sisimpur was among the first projects proposed after the AO Strategy Fund was launched in 2013.
“I knew the AO Strategy Fund was being launched and had already encouraged AO Trauma Board members to be thinking about ideas for a project,” said Dr Claude Martin jr., project leader for Play Safe with Sisimpur. Then the idea hit Martin during his daily run.
“I was out running and thinking about what kind of project I would apply for. I grew up with Sesame Street, and I knew that Sesame Workshop was involved in health-related projects in low-income countries. So why not do something in terms of preventing musculoskeletal injuries in poor countries?” he recalled. “I had no idea how much it would cost and hadn’t spoken to Sesame Workshop but I thought such a project could make an impact.”
A natural partner
Sesame Workshop, based in New York City (US), is one of the world’s foremost leaders in children’s education and the non-profit behind the renowned Sesame Street television (TV) series. With almost 50 years of experience, Sesame Workshop provides educational resources through TV, community engagement, digital platforms and more, making it a natural partner for Play Safe with Sisimpur. Sisimpur is the Bangladeshi version of Sesame Street.
Two years in development, the project became a reality in April 2016, when AO Foundation and Sesame Workshop leaders took part in a signing ceremony at Sesame Workshop headquarters in New York City (US).
While many in higher-income countries take safety for granted and have the resources to teach injury prevention to their children, Martin said that’s often not the case in low- and middle-income countries, where children face a vast range of situations that can threaten their safety.
“These include everything from not knowing how to safely cross roads or swim, to open fires, live wires, and falls from trees,” he said. “Bangladesh is a land of water, a country of monsoons; fertility rates are quite high and families are large. Many of the educational opportunities we take for granted in developed countries to keep our children safe and secure are not available in Bangladesh. So, it seemed to me that there really was an opportunity for the AO Foundation to make a meaningful impact with this project.”
Sesame Workshop Vice President of International Projects Danny Labin agrees.
“Play Safe with Sisimpur taught skills that children—and the adults in their lives—can actually implement in their daily lives,” he said, adding that the project goes right to the heart of the non-profit’s mission. “Helping children acquire knowledge is not only at the core of what we try to do, but it can affect changes that save lives. When the Play Safe with Sisimpur project came our way, it was right in the sweet spot of not only what we do, but what we do best.”
Impressive array of achievements
During its 2017 rollout, the AO Strategy Fund project achieved the following:
- Ten new Muppet segments
- Ten live action films
- One public service announcement
- Introduced Play Safe with Sisimpur into Season 10 of Sisimpur, the Bangladesh co-production
- Developed printed materials such as storybooks and games in two schools and two communities
- Trained 4,500 volunteers to be kid and adult mentors
- Trained 219 first responders on injury prevention
- Trained 336 teachers on use of print and digital materials in their classrooms
- Taught co-curricular classes in 56 schools in the Raipura region of Bangladesh
Sesame Workshop Bangladesh and the Village Education Resource Center (VERC) in Bangladesh worked in the schools to create Play Safe with Sisimpur murals, based on the content and messages from the curriculum. The murals stand as reminders to the children of the messages and lessons learned during the intervention. VERC conducted school events which engaged children, parents, teachers, and local government offices. Children participated in group activities, played games, and interacted with their favorite Sisimpur characters.
In May 2018, in partnership with the Centre for Injury Prevention and Research (CIPRB), Bangladesh, Play Safe with Sisimpur content was distributed to 1,800 of CIPRB’s Anchal centers, allowing the content to reach a new audience, mostly mothers and children who attend the centers. CIPRB estimates that the materials are reaching 45,000 children through their centers.
The impact of those deliverables was demonstrated by an evaluation conducted in a last phase of the project. Analysis showed that injury prevention knowledge improved significantly in both children and adult mentees as a result of Play Safe with Sisimpur in the areas of playing safe, road traffic injuries, falls, and animal injuries.
In fact, the overall reported incidence of unintentional injuries decreased, indicating that changes in behavior had taken place. And there are opportunities for Play Safe with Sisimpur to continue, Martin said. “Play Safe with Sisimpur continues to be aired on television and the classes live on with local funding,” he explained.
‘The possibilities are endless’
Labin said Sesame Workshop would welcome the opportunity to continue working with the AO, particularly in Bangladesh. “What can we do with the great content and the learnings from it? The possibilities are endless. For example, we could scale up the project in Bangladesh to extend the reach and create more content, or we could leverage the existing content in a different region,” he said. Sesame Workshop has also explored the possibility of producing a peer-reviewed publication to contribute to the discourse on childhood injury prevention. “We would not have been able to carry out this project without support from the AO Strategy Fund. We have created a template that can be exported to other low-income countries where Sesame Workshop has an interest and a foothold, and there are proposals on the table to build on this project in Bangladesh, Ghana, and Ethiopia,” Martin said.