Shurabi and Swathi Anphalagan are dedicated health advocates as aspiring medical professionals.
The twin sisters, who just completed their first year in medical sciences at Western, are also authors who promote healthy living and diversity through their passion project, a series of children’s books called Twin Tales.
During the pandemic, the sisters volunteered at a vaccine clinic in their Brampton, Ont., community where COVID-19 was spreading quickly.
“We saw how the lives of children drastically changed,” said Swathi. “It also allowed us to witness the importance of translating scientific research and knowledge into a creative communication tool to support children as well as adults.”
They took their book-publishing idea to the Bright Ideas Pitch competition, sponsored by Access Innovation, and received $1,000, plus support to get their project off the ground.
To date, they have written, illustrated, designed and self-published four books focused on health and inclusion.
The pandemic inspired two books: Mom, Dad! Please Get the Vaccine, a story to educate children and promote vaccination against COVID-19; and Ahana Got a Vaccine!, which teaches children about the importance of vaccinations and addresses potential fear of needles.
Diversity is also important in their stories. During the twins’ virtual presentations, students showed a keen interest in books focused on diversity and acceptance.
“Coming from a cultural minority we wanted to make it a priority to include characters from a wide range of backgrounds in our stories,” said Shurabi.
Students in one class knew a classmate with albinism and wanted to know more about this medical condition.
The result was I am Beautiful, to help encourage kids with skin conditions such as vitiligo, albinism, alopecia and acne, and to emphasize others’ acceptance for children with these conditions.
“We found that having stories about acceptance and inclusivity is popular because when children see someone, for example, with disabilities, they can apply this to their actual lives more effectively,” said Swathi.
Their book, The Race for Change, brings attention to community accessibility by providing representation for children with disabilities.
There is also a philanthropic aspect to their project. They donated books to three classes at a school in Scarborough, Ont., and to the school library. A portion of their $1,000 winnings from the pitch competition was used to print their books to donate to schools in Sri Lanka.
“Coming from Sri Lankan ethnic origin, we attribute a large part of our character, moral compass and passion to our ethnic community and being involved with this community,” said Shurabi. “We wanted to contribute back to this community that helped shape our passions and skills. So when we published these stories, we wanted to donate them to a community that we truly resonate with, and we also hope to encourage them to follow their passions and all avenues, such as art or health care.”
Though Twin Tales began before they attended Western, both sisters are pleased with how well they have been received by the university community.
“Our project was welcomed by our fellow students when we were featured in the Voices of Western podcast, where we spoke about our journey as children’s book authors and our initiative,” said Swathi.
“We appreciate the Western community’s support. It has definitely played a role in how we were able to move it forward,” added Shurabi.
The sisters plan to continue publishing books in this series and are brainstorming future story ideas, including neurodiversity and issues around mental health. They also plan to continue their classroom presentations and donation drives.
Their books are available through their website and on Amazon worldwide.