AIF Instagram Live Series: Our Community Rising to the Challenges of COVID-19

In March of 2020, AIF—along with countless other organizations, businesses, and people—was dramatically affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The majority of the 2019-20 AIF Clinton Fellowship cohort returned to the United States, nearly three months short of completing the full ten months of service. However, the Fellowship journey did not end there, rather Fellows, Alumni, and AIF staff joined together to help raise money for those affected by the virus through a series of Instagram Live chats.

A flyer for the AIF Instagram Live series featuring Mohit Raj.
Fellows, Alumni, and AIF staff joined together to lead Instagram Live chats to raise money for COVID-19 relief.

From topics such as disaster relief to education, eight AIF-affiliated young leaders led engaging and insightful discussions through one of the most widespread social media platforms of the decade. Through Instagram Live, chats about how our community has risen to the challenges posed by COVID-19 were brought to the hands of users around the world, who submitted their own comments and questions to keep the lively discussion thriving.

We heard from Mohit Raj, former AIF Clinton Fellow from the class of 2013-14 and current AIF Fellowship partner through his non-profit TYCIA Foundation, on how COVID-19 has impacted the migrant communities which TYCIA works with. He discussed how the lockdown, even though a powerful tool in preventing the spread of the disease, left millions of migrant workers unemployed and stranded in cities, with no way of returning home to their villages. Mohit also spoke about his experience of hosting 2019-20 Fellow Jessica Standifer, and her support of TYCIA’s COVID-19 relief efforts after her evacuation back to the US in March.

We heard from Swathi Sekar, AIF Clinton Fellow from the class of 2013-14, about her previous work with the CDC and her research on chronic disease for her PhD at Emory University. Swathi guided us through the risks that patients with chronic illness face in light of COVID-19, and how more research is needed about the impact on this group. She also discussed the challenge of health inequity, with predominantly lower-income groups and communities of color in the U.S. suffering from chronic diseases due to lack of access to quality healthcare, which places them in even greater danger if infected with COVID-19.

We heard from Crysty Skevington, former AIF Clinton Fellow from the class of 2015-16, who shared with us learnings about disaster response in India from her time as a Fellow and how this is informing her current work conducting COVID-19 reflief work with the Red Cross in Houston, Texas. Living in a city that was devastated by Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and continues to recover, Crysty also opened our eyes to the fact that disaster relief can last decades, given the long-term effects on communities that go well beyond immediate relief. She reaffirmed the importance of long-term, post-disaster relief and rehabilitation when dealing with COVID-19.

We heard from Ashika Kalra, former Chapter Lead of AIF New York Young Professionals and founder of  the Vidya Project, on how young volunteers are supporting the COVID-19 response in India and on the pandemic’s impact on education in India and West Africa. She also shared lessons from the Vidya Project, which has relied on a virtual mentorship and action-oriented curriculum model since inception to connect thousands of students from India and West Africa with one another.

We heard from Jane Hammaker, AIF Clinton Fellow from the class of 2019-20, who discussed how the current pandemic is catalyzing a change in education in the rural Ormanjhi district in Jharkhand.

We heard from Pallavi Deshpande, AIF Clinton Fellow from the class of 2019-20, who explored how the virus has impacted education for the visually impaired through her Fellowship project with Vision-Aid.

We heard from Ayushi Parashar, AIF Clinton Fellow from the class of 2019-20, share about her research on domestic violence in the current COVID-19 crisis and climate.

We heard from Srisruthi Ramesh, AIF Clinton Fellow from the class of 2019-20, on how gender equity and women’s health, especially for women with disabilities, are being affected by the pandemic.

A screenshot from Sri's Instagram Live discussion.
Srisruthi Ramesh, AIF Clinton Fellow class of 2019-20 chats with AIF staff member Kanan Gole.

Make sure to follow the AIF Clinton Fellowship program on Instagram to catch future Instagram Live chats!

Born and raised in Colorado, Trent is a 4th-year student at the University of Chicago, majoring in Global Studies and Economics. He's interested in international diplomacy, cultural exchange, and understanding how cooperation and friendship between people and countries can lead to benefits in many different ways. During the 2020 Summer, he worked as an intern for the AIF Clinton Fellowship Program through the University of Chicago's Jeff Metcalf Internship Program. Before joining AIF, he interned with a nonprofit organization in Hong Kong to strengthen U.S.-China ties, and with the U.S. Department of the Interior, working on education and health policy for Native Americans. After graduation, he's planning to pursue a career in foreign service.

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