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Olivia Loo ’24 remembers starting at Connecticut College during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when news about pandemic-related attacks on Asian Americans was ever-present.
She was moved to respond.
“I would describe myself as very solution-oriented. I like to take action and this one struck close to home,” Loo says.
“I thought, ‘Why not work on a children’s book?’ At that time, there was a lot of confusion about how to [talk] to your kids about the pandemic and also, if you’re an Asian American kid, and people are blaming the virus on you, how do you go about explaining that away?”
The idea emerged into a proposal that made Loo one of 129 winners of the 2022 Projects for Peace program. Each winner gets $10,000 “to pursue innovative, community-centered and scalable responses to the world’s most pressing issues.” The projects are nominated by colleges and universities.
Loo’s winning entry is entitled, “Addressing Anti-Asian Racism Perpetuated by the Coronavirus Pandemic Through Children’s Literature Programming.”
“My project is to integrate my self-published children’s book on anti-Asian racism into community-centric programming to facilitate conversations about racial and ethnic identity,” Loo wrote in her proposal.
“The book explores oppressive experiences that Asian American youth commonly encounter in the context of the coronavirus pandemic.” The project, she added, “will promote dialogue and awareness about Asian American issues as a means to reduce conflict, promote social cohesion and contribute to greater public health and wellbeing.”
Loo says approaching pandemic-related racism through a children’s book resonated with her because she realized, after studying anthropology and critical race theory at Conn, that she hadn’t reckoned with microaggressions she’d experienced.
“I had my own awakening about myself,” she says. “I just thought, ‘What would little me want to have read and told to me to get through this?’”
Loo says she will use the grant to finish writing the book, which doesn’t have a working title, but has a young girl as its protagonist. The plan, once the book is complete, is for Loo to give community presentations about it this summer.
Since its founding in 2007, Projects for Peace has funded more than 1950 projects. Projects are nominated by partner colleges and universities, often working from criteria specific to their institution’s priorities. Projects may take place anywhere in the world and may be led by an individual or by a group of students. This summer, Projects for Peace will take place in more than 63 countries and eight U.S. states.
Projects for Peace was founded by Kathryn W. Davis, who celebrated her 100th birthday by supporting 100 Projects for Peace, “to bring about a mind-set of preparing for peace, instead of preparing for war.”