fbpx

Meet the Aussie architects building anganwadis in India

A Sydney-based not for profit has been building schools for free in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh since 2007.

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Anganwadis, or rural childcare centres, have existed in India since the ‘70s, but they haven’t always been associated with beauty or comfort. Despite their noble purpose, they can be badly lit, hot, and many times neglected.

For over a decade, a group of Australian architects have been working on changing that notion, one school at a time.

- Advertisement -

“We decided to start with small interventions in Ahmedabad anganwadis, like improving ventilation,” explained Jane Rothschild, co-founder and project director of The Anganwadi Project. “Eventually, we decided to go bigger. We recruited volunteers from Australia and New Zealand to work on a project on-ground in India. For 6 months, from the planning phase to the final result, they really work with the community to understand their needs and deliver their vision.”

AT A GLANCE

  • Sydney’s The Anganwadi Project has been building childcare centres in India since 2007
  • Their projects in Gujarat and Andhra Pradesh successfully combine modernity with sustainability to assist disadvantaged communities
  • Although impacted by the pandemic, they look ahead positively at stronger ties between the two countries

Jane describes an anganwadi, of which there are some 1.3 million nationwide, as more than just a pre-school.

“It’s generally considered an early learning centre and a source of meals for children between two to five years old, but it goes beyond that. It becomes a hub for the women and children of the village,” she told Indian Link.

Children at Bholu 14 anganwadi in Ahmedabad. Photo by: Andrew Weller

The Anganwadi Project grew out of Jane’s chance encounter with a young India-based designer through Architects Without Frontiers. Since 2007, the not-for-profit has become much larger than they could’ve imagined, with around 40 architects contributing till date.

“The reception has been really great. Everyone is thrilled that these anganwadis can be more than just an ordinary concrete building. The colours, open spaces and thoughtful plans around community needs have really sparked joy,” Jane shared.

Indeed, a look at their projects in Ahmedabad, Gujarat and Anantapur, Andhra Pradesh reveal bright, colourful, welcoming spaces that are bound to get creative juices flowing. From well-ventilated bamboo interiors and generous greenery to latticed metalwork and mosaic floors, the new buildings bring a modern aesthetic to rural constructions.

“Each anganwadi costs anywhere between $10,000 to $20,000 to build. Our ethos is to recycle, reuse, and repurpose local materials. Creating mosaics of free broken tiles, taking in old gates and windows, incorporating local art and mudwork, we’re making the most of what is available around us,” Jane elaborated.

Working in collaboration with India-based NGOs Manav Sadhna and the Rural Development Trust (RDT), The Anganwadi Project aims to prove that community-based designs are successful designs.

Changing lives on-ground 

“There’s lots to be gained by closer ties between India and Australia. It’s an amazing country of contrast with big cities alongside traditional, rural areas,” said Sarah Schoffel, board member and architect with The Anganwadi Project.

In 2019, she helped design their first anganwadi in Andhra Pradesh in Bondalawada, Anantpur.

“The anganwadi was given the name Harivillu which means ‘rainbow’ in Telegu. It was chosen by the community,” she told Indian Link with a smile.

Developing Harivillu started with two weeks of pre-design, spending time with the teachers, children, and community to understand their lifestyle and needs. The architects then came back with colourful, graphic plans that would be easy for all stakeholders to understand. By the end of the first month, they were on-site every day (“with a good pair of boots and plenty of water”, Sarah chuckled) to supervise construction.

Years later, she’s still in touch with the Bondalawada community.

“I think we built some very close relationships with the teachers and mothers. For them, it seemed an empowering experience to give inputs on the design of the anganwadi that would directly affect them. I still speak with Lakshmi (one of the teachers) every 10 days or so,” Sarah said fondly. “When we completed the project, some of the children were still in preschool. Now we see them all grown up… it’s certainly a rewarding experience.”

She recalls how the children came from poor, lower caste backgrounds, making the anganwadi a necessary safe space for them to study and socialise without taunts or ridicule.

“As Australians, you might not agree with these structures, but you want to be respectful,” she offered.

READ ALSO: Selling succulents for leprosy relief in India

Children outside Harivillu 2 in Andhra Pradesh. Photo by: Rama Mohan

The way ahead

Last year, the pandemic forced construction to cease and most of the volunteers had to make their way back to Australia. Still, there was a silver lining: they managed to complete the construction of one anganwadi, Harivillu 2, in Ammavaripeta, Andhra Pradesh.

“COVID-19 definitely impacted our work, but we learnt to continue our efforts remotely,” Jane explained. “Our partner organisations also worked during this time on helping migrant workers who had lost their jobs during lockdown.”

Like many of the volunteers, she looks forward to visiting the sites and communities once again when the situation improves.

“I’ve always had a deep love and appreciation for the country. I first travelled to India when I was 25, it’s always felt like my second home. I’m keen to visit again when I can,” she said.

Read more about The Anganwadi Project and how to get involved here.

READ ALSO: Aussie social worker struggles to keep Pune school afloat

Children playing on the mosaic floor of Bholu 16
Children playing on the mosaic floor of Bholu 16

Link up with us!

Indian Link News website: Save our website as a bookmark

Indian Link E-NewsletterSubscribe to our weekly e-newsletter

Indian Link Newspaper: Click here to read our e-paper

Indian Link app: Download our app from Apple’s App Store or Google Play and subscribe to the alerts

Facebookfacebook.com/IndianLinkAustralia

Twitter: @indian_link

Instagram: @indianlink

LinkedIn: linkedin.com/IndianLinkMediaGroup

- Advertisement -
Rhea L Nath
Rhea L Nath is a writer, editor, and content creator based in Sydney. In 2021, she was the winner of the Alan Knight Student Award (NSW Premier's Multicultural Communications Awards)

Related Articles

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

Podcasts

Ep 9: What do young Indians want from love?

0
  Growing up in Indian culture, most of us know that love has never been as popular as marriage. Even in the movies, the main...

Ep 8: Indian links in Indigenous Australian poet Ali Cobby Eckermann’s...

0
  To celebrate NAIDOC week 2020 (between 8-15 November) I spoke to Yakunytjatjara poet Ali Cobby Eckermann about her time in India where she taught...

Ep 7: In the case of Sushant Singh Rajput

0
  The torrid and high-octane Sushant Singh Rajput case has been fodder for Indian people and press for the last few months. The actor’s tragic death...
- Advertisement -

Latest News

REVIEW: Antim – The Final Truth

0
  Director Mahesh Manjrekar's Antim: The Final Truth is a crime drama centred around the circle of fate. Based on the Marathi film Mulshi Pattern,...

The religious discrimination bill will make LGBTIQ+ Australians sick

0
  The Morrison government’s religious discrimination bill was introduced to parliament on Thursday. The bill, now on its third draft, has been a contentious piece of...
ICC T20 WC 2021 delivers record viewership. Pictured here, Indian team captain Virat Kohli with Pakistani team captain Babbar Azam and opener Mohammad Rizwan. Source: IANS

WC 2021: India-Pak match becomes most watched T20I in history

0
  With nearly 10,000 hours of live coverage across TV and digital platforms in 200 countries, the 2021 ICC Men's T20 World Cup delivered a...
jango film

Film Review: Jango

0
  Claimed to be India's first time loop film, Jango is a brave attempt at storytelling. Choosing to make a film knowing fully well that...

REVIEW: Sabhaapathy

0
  Director R. Srinivasa Rao's 'Sabhaapathy' is a light-hearted entertainer that, despite its flaws, just about works. AT A GLANCE Starring: Santhanam, M.S. Baskar, Preeti Verma,...