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A Grand Prairie librarian found a way to fight loneliness and social isolation during the pandemic

Jyoti Ahmed sends hand-written letters and drawings to anyone who needs a little encouragement.
Jyoti Ahmed, community outreach coordinator for the Grand Prairie Public Library, sends hand-written cards and drawings to people who need a little encouragement.

By Sarah Bahari

Even before the pandemic, Jyoti Ahmed worried people were losing a sense of connection to each other.

With people forced into further isolation, Ahmed, the community outreach coordinator for the Grand Prairie Public Library, wondered how she could help people feel less alone.

So Ahmed, who is also an artist, started sketching drawings and writing small notes of encouragement for library patrons.

During the pandemic, Jyoti Ahmed began sending hand-drawn cards to people who need some encouragement.

When the library posted her work on Facebook, she began receiving requests from people in Grand Prairie and elsewhere in Texas, but also as far as Kansas, Louisiana and California. Some felt lonely, while others lost someone to COVID-19, were struggling with school or money or simply wanted encouragement.

“It has been very therapeutic,” Ahmed said. “Knowing about people’s struggles and hardships makes me feel more human in a way. It makes me a better person.”

Ahmed, who emigrated from Bangladesh to the United States in 2005, was inspired by her father’s longtime correspondence with a pen pal in a different country. Over the years, she recalled marveling at the letters and birthday cards he received from someone he never met in person.

So far, she has sent about 110 cards, each with an original pen drawing and note.

“I think of the person as a friend,” she said. “I never use photocopies. I want this to remain intimate and personal.”

Ahmed tends to create portraits and botanical prints, which she draws using lines. Each card takes about 45 minutes to complete, and she works on them in her spare time, between classes she teaches or while working her desk shift at the library.

Jyoti Ahmed draws
Jyoti Ahmed draws with pens and tends to create portraits and botanical prints.

Ultimately, she hopes people who receive one of her letters will reach out and connect to someone in their own lives.

“This is my baby. I’m pouring my heart into this,” she said. “I started this and will keep going with a mindset to connect and care for others, regardless of our physical distance.”

To request an encouragement card, email Ahmed at jahmed@gptx.org.

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