The long-running non-profit children's television program has introduced a bright pink Muppet named Lily who has experienced sensitive, topical issues such as hunger and homelessness.
Since 1969, Sesame Street has aimed to help children learn and achieve important milestones while also being brave enough to tackle serious topics that some children face. In 2011, a new Muppet with a pink face and purple nose was introduced to help teach children about an issue that sadly affects many youngsters in the United States and the rest of the world. Lily's storyline involves homelessness. Specifically, her family lost their home and now they must find friends to stay with.
Because one in six children in the U.S. is said to have struggled with hunger issues, Lily too is described as "food-insecure" because her family didn't always have access to consistent meals. According to CNN, Sesame Workshop has launched a homelessness initiative on Wednesday as part of Sesame Workshop's Sesame Street in Communities program. At this time, Lily's homelessness storyline will not appear in the regular episodes but will have its own place in separate videos involved with the initiative.
"When Lily was first launched, she came out as part of the food insecurity initiative," Sherrie Rollins Westin, president of global impact and philanthropy of Sesame Workshop said. "So she's not brand new, but this seemed like a really perfect extension of her story, so that we could use her to help children identify with. With any of our initiatives, our hope is that we're not only reaching the children who can identify with that Muppet but that we're also helping others to have greater empathy and understanding of the issue."
According to the US Administration for Children and Families, around one in 20 children younger than six years of age were exposed to homelessness from 2014 to 2015 and the previous year found that more than 1.3 million homeless children were enrolled in public schools according to the US Department of Education. But because the US Department of Education doesn't cover all children in the nation, the precise number of homeless children in America remains unknown.
Besides serving as a relatable character to children who have experienced homelessness, Lily can also help children who are lucky enough not to have experienced this issue learn about how it is a growing issue in America and hopefully, can help little ones mold their perception of homelessness into one that isn't negative or based on stereotypes. It's previously been a taboo subject when it comes to children as adults have wanted to shield young minds from this sad topic but the good folks at Sesame Street believe that knowledge is power, at any age.
But Lily is hardly the only Muppet who has been created to address serious issues. Last year, a new Sesame Street resident with autism named Julia joined the puppet cast. Julia is described as 4 years old with yellow Muppet skin and a red bob hairstyle. Julia helps families learn how to talk about autism as well as how to support the autism community. The South African version of Sesame Street, Takalani Sesame, has a Muppet named Kami who has HIV. 1 in 7 children in South Africa is said to have had their lives affected by HIV/AIDS in some way and Kami is a helpful character to provide knowledge and hopefully, destigmatize the disease.
Sesame Street. Changing the future of the world, one Muppet at a time.