The Advocates

Sarah Smith and Sherrie Westin

Senior Director, International Rescue Committee and Executive Vice President, Sesame Workshop/Los Angeles and Bronxville, New York

For promoting equality with puppets.

Sarah Smith and Sherrie Westin

The Muppets are embarking on humanitarian missions. This spring, Sherrie Westin, executive vice president of global impact and philanthropy for the Sesame Workshop, and Sarah Smith, a director at the International Rescue Committee, announced a collaboration to develop educational programs for refugee children. Sesame Street content will be adapted and distributed through mobile devices, TV, radio, and other means to children in displaced and resettled communities. The workshop also introduced the first Afghan Muppet, Zari, a 6-year-old girl who wants to be a doctor in a country where most women and girls don’t have access to formal education. “Debuting a confident, inquisitive, and sweet Afghan girl character is a perfect opportunity….[W]e aim to help all children in Afghanistan grow smarter, stronger, and kinder,” Westin told PBS. (Photos courtesy of Sarah Smith and Sherrie Westin)

Zari dons different outfits inspired by Afghanistan’s many ethnic groups, wears a hijab with her school uniform, and speaks Dari and Pashto.

Before their current roles, Westin served in politics, including in George H.W. Bush’s White House as assistant to the president for public liaison and intergovernmental affairs, and Smith was a preschool and elementary school teacher.