The COVID-19 Perspectives Project
By Saif Khan and Tanisha Lahane
UOFT STUDENT AND BR ALUM ASHWINI SELVAKUMARAN SPOKE WITH RR WRITERS, SAIF KHAN AND TANISHA LAHANE ABOUT HER BOOK, “COVID-19 PERSPECTIVES.”
The Royal Register spoke to Ashwini Selvakumaran, a BR Alumni and current student at the University of Toronto, about her project: the COVID-19 Perspectives Project. The project, funded by Ashwini’s University, aimed to curate an e-book encapsulating the effect COVID-19 has marginalized 19 different students across the globe. Ashwini wrote the book and worked with student Aishwarya Patel, who managed design and data collection for the project.
We had a conversation with the author about her experiences speaking to students across the globe, what it means to her, and if there are any plans to carry the project forward. With her father working for the United Nations, Ashwini grew up on the move, living in various countries such as America, Kazakhstan, Malaysia and Yemen during her childhood. She spoke about how she has always loved the richness and diversity of the countries she’s lived in. Along with that, Ashwini has a love for storytelling and writing. These two passions made Ashwini the perfect candidate for pursuing a project such as the Perspectives book.
Check out our conversation with Ashwini below!
RR: Where did the idea come from for the COVID-19 Perspectives Project? Did you have an “Aha!” moment or did the concept for the project come to you at a slower speed?
AS: [I think in general] it's an interesting experience for people (staff, other students, everyone essentially) to be able to [learn] more about how youth in specific are coping with [the pandemic] and coming up with new strategies to combat everything that's been happening right now that acts as a deterrent to us.
RR: It makes sense for you to try to capture a global perspective, since you’ve traveled to so many places. Did those experiences in general inspire you, or was there a specific event [during the pandemic] that drove you to work on the book?
AS: When the pandemic started, I really [began to think] about if other [students] were feeling this sort of shared fear that I had. I think [the pandemic] was a really big event that pushed me to get this book of perspectives and experiences out there to the student community.
RR: What was it like to be able to speak to so many students across the globe? What have you learned from all the different perspectives you’ve gained insight to from the project?
AS: [The experience] was amazing in total, to sum it up. I would say the positivity and the empathy that has been solidified from the pandemic really resonates with the student community [not just domestically], but globally so that's amazing to see and I think it really inspires me even now going forward.
RR: Where do you hope to take the project in the future? On your site it’s mentioned that you hope to grow it further, and we are interested to hear how you folks plan to do that.
AS: [We want to develop a] nonprofit [and] hope to establish a board of directors that is all student-based. That way it's really students who are able to give their insightful perspectives rather than people from other older generations, and we can make the forefront [of the decisions] that students feel are pertinent to the change right now.
AS: [In] the future, it definitely cannot be the two of us anymore. I did all of the writing [of the] story [and my partner Aishwarya did] all the illustrations and it really did take a lot of time. So we want to involve more talent too. It'll be really great to get more student perspectives locally and hopefully across the world to help us [bring] our nonprofit together.
From a young environmentalist in Thailand to a 21 year-old poet and Gospel musician in Sierra-Leon; Ashwini Selvakumaran and her partner Aishwarya Patel have archived the perspectives of remarkable young students across the globe. Learn more about the project at www.covid19perspectives.ca/ and on their Instagram over at @covid19perspectivesproject where you can also look into their nonprofit, A&A: Art for Activism!