From the 15th to the 28th of December, Maskbook is in India with an amazing program of 5 workshops and exhibitions in Bengaluru and New Delhi. (Check out the program here, and in the agenda.) Erica, Marguerite and Aditi, members of the Art of Change 21 team, share their experience through their travel diary in which they will share their best moments, talk about upcycling, air pollution, creativity and art in India.

The past few days in the world's most polluted city have been so eye-opening. Here, not only is air pollution visible, it is palpable.

Air pollution levels in Delhi hit an all time high ​in November 2017. On November 8th, pollution surged so high that some monitoring stations reported an Air Quality Index (AQI) of 999, significantly above the upper limit of the worst category, hazardous. An extra-sensitive air quality instrument at the US embassy obtained a reading of 1,010. Since then, the monitoring stations have been recording pollution levels ranging from unhealthy to severe. As we publish this, the AQI in Delhi is in the range 180-295, a range which is unhealthy. People are advised to stay indoors as much as they can and to limit outdoor activity. Despite being in one of the greenest capitals in the world, the view from the city’s many rooftops is not an expanse of greenery, but a gray haze. A day on the road can leave you feeling like you’ve been at the receiving end of an exhaust pipe.

On the day of our workshop with the Indian School​ and Foundation S​chool, December 21st, the air pollution level was at 469. As we arrived at the school on this white, hazy day, we learned ​that the children had a great understanding of air pollution. As we presented Maskbook to the kids, we asked them who had their own anti-pollution mask at home. ​Nearly all ​said they did!

Aditi, Maskbook in India Coordinator, during the Foundation School workshop.

When questioned about their health, once again the answer was a unanimous yes; all of the children were currently experiencing coughs and colds, most likely due to the pollution​. The​ Vice Principal of Indian School, Sukhmeen Kaura Cheema, recounted how many of the children’s wishes for Diwali were less focused on getting gifts and more focused on a desire for less air pollution.

One student, Sameksha, poignantly explained her mask creation. On her mask, she  attached a tube that she likened into a cigarette. Across the mask she wrote ‘’SMOKER?’’. Sameksha, explained that whether they like it or not, it’s as if all children in Delhi are the children of smokers and are subject to toxic air and its consequences.

Sameksha's "No Smoking" mask.

If the children are informed about the stakes and are motivated to act for the environment, it is also due in large part to the great figures within their school leading eco initiatives and projects.

Rukmini Thampi, Social Science teacher at the Indian School, champions the environment and passes on knowledge to students via the Eco Club. As leader of the eco-club she encourages students to carpool and cycle to school but also to act for the environment directly via gardening in the school’s urban farm, through rainwater harvesting, and planting saplings.

Foundation school principal Suzanne Thomas, an Al Gore Climate Reality Leader alum, explained the school’s overall sustainability policy in which ‘’reduce, reuse, recycle’’ is the mantra. The school’s citizenship program places much focus on the environment; the campus has an abundance of air purifying plants and upcycled creations thanks to their close and continued collaboration with Swechha.

The students of Pagdandi school busy making masks during a workshop at the Swechha office.


Erica, Maskbook Project Manager, during the Foundation school workshop.

In all, Maskbook had an amazing week with Swechha. The energy, optimism, determination and creativity of the children from the Pagdandi school and the Indian and Foundation schools were a breath of fresh air in the polluted city.

The Art of Change 21 team on Swechha's terrace in New Delhi.

More info at swechha.in

Look here for more info on the Indian and Foundation schools.

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