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Sesame Workshop and Johnson & Johnson Team Up to Bring Critical Health Lessons to South Africa’s Eas

Categories: COMPANY NEWS , Health
Muppet Global Health Ambassador Raya Makes South African Debut In New Resources for Vulnerable Children

18 August, 2016 –East London, South Africa, and New York – Sesame Workshop, the non-profit educational organization behind South Africa’s Takalani Sesame, and Johnson & Johnson today released new multimedia resources for children and caregivers in South Africa’s Eastern Cape, focusing on critical health issues such as nutrition and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene).

Raya and Neno of Takalani Sesame with Michelle Williams of Johnson & Johnson celebrating the
launch of new educational WASH resources for children and families in South Africa's Eastern


With the region’s high mortality rate of children under age five (93 per 1,000 live births)[1] largely attributed to ailments including respiratory infections, diarrhea, and malnutrition, these digital and print materials concentrate on preventive health practices, addressing a public health crisis in an age-appropriate, engaging way. Featuring the beloved Muppets from Takalani Sesame, including Raya, Sesame’s first global health ambassador Muppet, the resources will reach at least 90,000 children and 6,000 caregivers in English, IsiXhosa and Afrikaans.

This Sesame Workshop and Johnson & Johnson initiative also provides interactive seminars and training conducted by local WASH experts for teachers and facilitators who interact daily with Eastern Cape children, as well as facilitator guides and a video with background information on WASH themes and additional classroom activities. All of the content features Raya, a bright, green six-year-old girl Muppet who is already helping children in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria, and Zambia. Raya makes her South African debut alongside popular Takalani Sesame friends Neno, Kami, Zuzu, and Zikwe, who have been engaging and entertaining South African children since 2000.

Takalani  Sesame is beloved by families across South Africa and our educational content and endearing Muppets have been a powerful force for change for more than 16 years,” said Sherrie Westin, EVP Global Impact and Philanthropy, Sesame Workshop. “We are thrilled to join forces with Johnson & Johnson to use Sesame content to bring these important health lessons to children who need them most.”

Neno and Raya of Takalani Sesame celebrating the launch of new educational resources for
children and caregivers in the Eastern Cape with Johnson & Johnson, Department of Basic
Education, Department of Environmental Health BCMM, Sanlam, SABC Education, and


Michelle Williams, Site Director for Johnson & Johnson’s East London Manufacturing Plant, explains why Johnson & Johnson put their support behind this program – “Our longstanding commitment to families, especially women & children, is what drives our decisions around our community impact work.   We strongly believe in the power of health education through traditional and non-traditional (mobile) channels as a way of empowering families to stay healthy and safe.”

The resources include:

  • A Healthy Play App – preloaded on Android phones and distributed to early childhood development centers and classrooms, the app includes fun, character-based “healthy habits” games and activities, with versions tailored to different learning environments (indoor, outdoor, varying numbers of children, etc.). The app will also be available for free at the Google Play Store, and all of its content found on takalanisesame.co.za/healthyplay. [The Android phones are also preloaded with Takalani Sesame public service announcements, live-action films and animated videos, allowing Sesame content to reach and teach more children in a variety of ways.]
  • Healthy Play Print Content – including a booklet with print versions of 30 Healthy Play app activities, a wall poster featuring WASH behaviors, and a large “story pond” play mat that encourages children to actively participate and build their own stories about healthy WASH practices.
  • WASH Kits – distributed in custom bags sewn in the Eastern Cape, the kits include six big books for facilitators to use with children and six little books for children’s personal use, all featuring Raya and her Takalani pal, Neno, demonstrating healthy WASH behaviors like: always using a latrine, always wearing sandals or other footwear to the latrine and washing hands with soap afterwards, always drinking clean water from a clean container, and keeping your environment clean.

Neno and Raya of Takalani Sesame celebrating the launch of new educational resources with Hope
School children at Johnson & Johnson in East London


These new resources build off the success of Takalani Sesame community-engagement materials that have been deployed throughout the Eastern Cape promoting literacy, mathematics and other cognitive skills for over two years. Funding for the initial phase of Sesame Workshop’s Eastern Cape initiative was generously provided by the Mai Family Foundation.

[1] UNICEF and SA Office of the Presidency (2009). Situation Analysis of Children in South Africa


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