As SAT-7 KIDS walks hand-in-hand with viewers during the coronavirus pandemic, Middle Eastern children in turn are showing great faith and resilience. As shown by recent comments on the live program Chato, spiritual nurturing through a crisis can make all the difference in children’s lives.

Chato is excellent. You can’t imagine how many people watch you here in Yemen,” says one viewer during the 3 April episode. “Mothers watch your program with their children. It is very popular here and creating quite a stir.”

The comment was made during an episode entitled “A Message of Joy”, which discussed how children can spend their time and how they can incorporate devotions. When children from Egypt began to call in live, it was clear that the influence of their faith – which for many includes longstanding encouragement from SAT-7 KIDS – was helping them through.

“I’m not afraid, because Jesus is with me,” says Karas, a young boy from Hurghada. “Coronavirus has helped us to be at home more, to spend more time together and to understand one another better as a family.” Ten-year-old Marianne agrees. “I am happy and not afraid of coronavirus. My family isn’t afraid,” she says.

“I am using this time of lockdown to play with my sister and get closer to her,” adds Josiane. “This time is also helping us get closer to Jesus. We pray more now and read the Bible. I encourage my friends to pray with me,” she continues. Chato viewers are also acting as role models for others. After last week’s episode, two young sisters sent in a video of a special song they had made up, encouraging viewers to stay at home and follow hygiene guidelines.

Youssef Samy Sobhy welcomes a young guest on the set of Chato (photo taken before pandemic)

Chato had just begun a new series when Covid-19 spread through Egypt, where the program is made. Presented by a popular character of the same name, the show offers a rare space for Middle Eastern youth of all backgrounds to discuss their feelings. Each episode welcomes a child guest who shares a real-life issue and receives support from the presenters and experts, while viewers call in to share their own experiences.

“I’m glad and grateful to God for giving us the opportunity to talk to children through the program,” says Youssef Samy Sobhy, who plays Chato. “Children are now closely imitating the positive characters of Chato and Tia. It is a great responsibility, but I’m very happy about it. As a young boy, I wanted to be heard. So, I understand the opportunity the program gives children to be heard and to express themselves freely.”

In the first episode of the new series, the show discussed the dangers Internet pornography poses to children. Twelve-year-old guest Yotham shared how he escaped addiction with the help of his father, Helmy, who appeared with him. “My father supports me all the time and doesn’t freak out when I tell him about my challenges,” Yotham says. Helmy adds, “Fathers must be careful and pay attention to their sons. They must be calm when their sons come to them with such a challenge. We can only help them when we listen, not punish them,” he continues. Together, the pair modelled a healthy way for families to deal with the issue.

Chato continues to air live each week, with a minimal crew and a new timeslot that abides by Egypt’s new curfew time.


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