"It's amazing how welcoming people are when you arrive with Muppets."

On January 31st, Mindr's Brooklyn community heard from Dr. Abby Bucuvalas, Senior Director of Educational Programs for Sesame Workshop, the creator of world-renowed television program Sesame Street. Abby shared her experiences deploying Big Bird, Elmo, and international muppets for teacher training initiatives in Ghana, community outreach in Nigeria, health programming in Sub-Saharan Africa, and programs supporting meaningful play in low-resource communities in India, Mexico and South Africa, among others.

Big thanks to Abby and Sesame Workshop, and to Brooklyn Label for hosting us so graciously (and baking us scrumptious home-made zucchini and banana bread), Rose & Rex for curating toys for the littles, Little Nomad for the comfy play area, and Sparkle & Conquer for donating a very lucky door prize.


photos by emily barnacle

an insight into muppet development

We had a grant to address Water, Sanitation and Hygiene education (WASH) in India, Nigeria and Bangladesh. And we wanted a little girl Muppet to lead this initiative because we know that girls and women are disproportionately affected by water issues around the world. We didn’t have a global character, a character that was familiar in all three countries. So we created a new character collaboratively with all our teams in Bangladesh, India, Nigeria and the US. Basically, we all had to agree what this Muppet would look like, what color she would be, what her hair would be, how her hair would look relevant across these vastly different countries and communities, and what her name would be… Her name is Raya, and we have been able to use her at this point in 14 countries, which is pretty amazing. If she had been developed for a single country I don’t think that could have happened. Our only domestic character that works that well in that many countries is Elmo.
— Dr. Abby Bucuvalas

The outcome:

Meet Raya, a truly international Muppet.