In 2020, AIF quickly pivoted to address the critical situation in India and the United States. In India, AIF leveraged its programs’ infrastructure on health, education, and livelihoods via its wide network to address the needs of the nation with ventilators, PPE, and other interventions in order to save the lives of vulnerable Indians from COVID-19. Read the report here.

In 2021, India recorded the world’s highest daily tally of 314,835 COVID-19 infections on April 22nd, as this second wave sent many more into a fragile health care system, critically short of hospital beds and oxygen. Working with our partners, hospitals, and governments, AIF has launched a three-pronged Phase 2 Emergency Response Strategy to address this crisis. Here is an overview.

The American India Foundation is committed to improving the lives of India’s underprivileged, with a special focus on women, children, and youth. AIF does this through high impact interventions in education, health, and livelihoods, because poverty is multidimensional. AIF’s unique value proposition is its broad engagement between communities, civil society, and expertise, thereby building a lasting bridge between the United States and India. With offices in New York and California, twelve chapters across the U.S., and India operations headquartered in Delhi NCR, AIF has impacted 6.7 million lives across 26 states of India.

School Libraries as Dynamic Learning Spaces

Jamsheena’s Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust. 

“Without libraries what do we have? We have no past and no future.” – Ray Bradbury

It is around 45 degrees Celsius in Kanchipuram. April was the cruelest month with its hot wind, yet our team tried hard to set up and update new books in the library. Children were doing amazing work. They carefully turned the broken pages in archival section. In between, they got lost in the fantasy world of books. Looking at the pictures, getting excited and talking about those performances and past days of theatre. When I was walking though libraries, I was so happy to see our children talking about their past – all history loving buffs. Yes, they read the past through oral and written histories and discuss about it. They weave the future through writing, translating and documenting their stories.

Cataloging and classification.

Libraries are the hearts and brains of schools. We have a library day on every weekend. On Saturdays, I ask the students to come inside the library, I sit with them and listen to their stories. They tell stories from their beautiful villages. They connect it with what they study in classes. I still remember how much they cried watching the movie ‘Hachiko’ on a weekend. Libraries are the space of explorations. Children who are going through various undiagnosed learning disorders feel it as a place to be themselves. They use their own techniques to read, write and learn new things.

Sometimes what they want is just colors and papers. They paint their emotions with deep colors without any structure. Just to liberate their innocent souls. Family is an institution that challenges the life of children in many ways. We may think they don’t think beyond dolls and snack packs. We are wrong – they are concerned about broken family relationships, whatever happening there reflects in their mental health and behaviour. Sometimes children are not interested to share those things. Children do choose not to talk and be silent. They have their own ways of expression. Other than sharing through words, they find it comfortable with umpteen colors. They don’t need to search for right words to express all the time. Library is a space for those who want to be in the world of silence. A space where silence is normalized and don’t force to share and speak up.

Take a book and read!

Library is a space for them to live and experience various discourses. When they read, they connect their emotions and thoughts with other stories, other characters. These shared stories and shared histories help them to pursue their own version of a world view. Libraries make children responsible and feel school as a second home. In our school at Kattaikkuttu Gurukulam, being students as artists, they read interestingly about various theatres and myths. Especially epics like Ramayana and Mahabharata.

We don’t want children to have mono-dimensional viewpoints. They go through various perspectives, compare, contrast, criticize and interpret with different colors. Through the performances, they make their theatre kattaikkuttu contemporary in nature. What made me so interested about them is their balance between reality and fantasy. When they read fantasy stories of Ice-Cream Island or Alice in Wonderland, they never get stuck there. Instead, they live and talk about harsh realities in their villages. They don’t escape or run away. They face it with all their strength. Once they go back home, they share these stories with the children who missed the chance to read or write in schools. Thousands of books are waiting to welcome them for the coming academic year. Libraries are the greatest invention and investment of human civilization for humanity.

Jamsheena was born and brought up in India at the outskirts of Kerala. She completed her Masters in English Language and Literature from the University of Kerala. Her academic experience has refined her skills in culture and gender studies and English language teaching. Jamsheena’s areas of interest are education, women empowerment and gender issues.

Jamsheena's Fellowship is made possible by the Rural India Supporting Trust.

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