February 27, 2012

Celebrating What We Wear

Today we’re thrilled feature an interview with Maya Ajmera, the founder of The Global Fund for Children and co-author of What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World , a children’s book that uncovers significance and connections through global clothing.  A portion of the proceeds from each book sale supports The Global Fund for Children’s grantmaking program.

children's book

What inspired you to write a book about children’s clothing?

As a child of South Asian descent growing up in the US, I loved when we had dress up day at school. I would dress up in a Salwar Kameez from India—a long tunic with pants underneath. It was very colorful and fun, but it was also very different from the really nice Easter dresses that the other girls were wearing. Growing up in the South at that time, I didn’t know a lot of children who were different culturally. This book hits home for me—it explores and celebrates those differences.

school house children in Cambodia

Kindergarten students at the Self Help Community Center in Cambodia show off their new school uniforms.

How does the book relate to your work with The Global Fund for Children?

Throughout the world we support children in various circumstances, and even if the children are poor, they always have something nice to wear set aside. It could be a good pair of shoes, or a nice top, a school uniform—but it’s something that a child or family holds onto very dearly, often for celebrations.

I think about our work with indigenous groups in Guatemala and their traditional woven clothing. Or the Self Help Community Centre in Cambodia; these children are extremely poor, but they have brightly colored uniforms that they love—those uniforms mean a lot, and those colors mean a lot. It’s about dignity and identity.

Guatemalan Girl

This young Guatemalan girl wears a dress traditional to the indigenous Ixil Maya. A beneficiary of GFC grantee partner Asociación para el Desarrollo Integral y Multidisciplinario APPEDIBIMI, she is also featured on the back cover of What We Wear: Dressing Up Around the World.

What do you hope children will get out of reading this book?

I hope children will recognize the many things they have in common in how they dress up. But I hope they also notice and enjoy the many differences in color and style. Everything from sports uniforms to beadwork to face paint—it’s all dressing up and it’s all fun.

What’s up next for Global Fund for Children Books?

We’re finishing up a book about global health called Healthy Kids. It explores the things all children need to be safe and healthy. And part of being healthy is the clothing you wear—clothing in many ways is about identity, but it also provides protection and helps you stay healthy!

Be sure to enter the “What We Wear” photo contest by submitting a photo of your child in their favorite outfit to globalfundforchildren@gmail.com for your chance to win a copy of the “What we Wear” book and a $100 Tea gift certificate. Find the official entry rules here: http://bit.ly/AAa1XB.