With 18 pre-schools built since 2006, The Anganwadi Project has excelled at bringing new community-based and climate resilient design models to some of India’s poorest and forgotten communities.
Founded by former director of Architects Without Borders Jane Rothschild and Designer Jodie Fried, TAP began with the idea of making anganwadis safer and beautiful spaces for children and local residents to gather in.
According to Rothschild, current state-designed structures are dark, concrete and very utilitarian.
Anganwadis are part of a nationwide system developed by the Indian government in 1975 to alleviate children malnutrition.
In traditional centers, meals are provided daily but often once per day in an overcrowded, hot and cramped environment.
“One of the biggest things of our work is that it is a community-based design, volunteers spend a lot of time speaking to teachers, students, searching local recycle materials and local artisans so people who help can feel more part it,” Rothschild said.
India is the second largest population in the world with more than 1 billion people, 800 million of them living still subsisting on less than $2 dollars per day, according to UNDP statistics.
Soaring temperatures linked to high levels of pollution, changing rainfall patterns and droughts are negatively impacting agriculture, safe water access and food security.
Other climate change major health impacts in the country include health concerns such as malaria and child stunting which, according to the World Bank, is projected to increase by 35 % in 2050.
TAP has taken in consideration these climate projections to make sure the new anganwadis designs were climate resilient.
According to Rothschild, the centers based in northwestern Gujarat and southern Andhra Pradesh have created their own microclimates with good air flows and trees planted around to help cool the infrastructure.
So far, about 35 volunteer architects and designers from different parts of the world have trained in Australia with TAP to travel to India to work and oversee these projects.
Involving the community in these new models have been key for long lasting success and women empowerment has been a positive side effect of this commitment.
Architect Sarah Schoffel said most of the community members are women, teachers and mothers of children and these projects have brought them something many of them have never known: hope.
“For some of these communities, no one has ever payed that much attention to them. At the beginning, they are overwhelmed for a while but then they feel this amazing kind of joy around the project. We invite the community to do something physically as well like mosaic patterns, paintings. There is this pride that comes from it and it creates a sense of community ownership”, Schoffel said.
The Australian-based nonprofit association has positively impacted over 500 children since each pre-school can host up to 30 students.
However, TAP centers have provided a chance for older siblings, teachers and women to get educated and learn more about domestic violence, contraception, menstruation and maternal health and care.
Rothschild recognizes this type of work can be confused with the humanitarian sector trends of arriving to countries in parachute kind of missions to provide band aid solutions which is why she said TAP is invested in India and will continue to do so for the following years.
For the future, TAP is considering connecting with people and organizations in other countries to start sharing the process in India and seek ways to replicate the model in contexts where there is a need for safe and beautiful spaces that ultimately help bring communities together.
You can learn more about TAP here: https://www.anganwadiproject.com/
Photos Credits: The Anganwadi Project, Andrew Weller, Roberto Rodríguez
Ashwin’s story: A child’s experience from The Anganwadi Project on Vimeo.