The Centre of Resilience was conceived of and built to respond to the needs of the people, land and water of Bihar.
In 2017-18 we built the Bihar House, a model for resilient housing, from the ground up, with a team of hired local workers and teams of volunteers. Many of these same workers are part of the Centre's team. They are now hired hands, continuing the construction of the Centre, as well as learners in the Resilient Livelihood Program, where they are learning the basics of social enterprise and upcycling design to be able to launch their own enterprises and contribute to the needs of their own communities.
The Centre was born in January, 2020. We know the community, the needs, and we've mapped out the work we plan on doing in the years to come.
The programming we are doing now are prototypes for our future work, which we will scale up when we have several years of evaluation to make sure our work is effectively addressing needs, and creating lasting change.
But we’re already running full-time.
This year’s flooding, which displaced some 10 million people in Bihar, and the ongoing Covid 19 pandemic, have kicked us into full gear
and we are carrying out programming at far larger scales than we had initially planned. This has led us to partner with other regional initiatives, build our global networks of support, and see the full potential of the impact of a Centre for grassroots, community led, direct action in the state of Bihar.
The Centre was cofounded by Prashant Kumar, Indian social artist, waste-upcycler and activist; and Ben Reid-Howells, Canadian community organiser and international educator.
Read more about our founding directors...
Prashant studied mechanical engineering in Pune, India. He soon discovered his creative ability to transform waste into useful solutions, leading him to cofound a social enterprise upcycling firm, “Rebirth” working towards eco-conscious design practices. Between 2012-2016, Prashant took on large scale projects in India, making a name for himself as an upcycling artist, employing 100+ workers, and transforming the way businesses and clients perceived waste. He was commissioned by diverse sectors to create large scale upcycled art installations: projects that required his combined skills in mechanical engineering, creative conceptualisation, team management and all-round grit and resourcefulness when met with complex challenges that align with his passions.
Seeing the potential to bring his work to Bihar where unemployment, economic instability, pollution and climate change exacerbate vicious cycles of poverty and ecological destruction, Prashant planned to shut down his workshops in Pune and relocate to Bihar.
Ben is an international educator and community organiser with a degree in Interdisciplinary Sustainability and a background as a trainer, wilderness guide and alternative educational program designer. At Mahindra United World College of India, Ben co-coordinated the service-learning department, the Peace & Justice project-based learning stream, and founded the Mindfulness Program and Uniting for Peace Youth Festival (2017). In Lesvos, Greece, Ben founded Mosaik Community Support Centre's "Next Step Program" for refugee and migrants. He has worked with youth, teachers, community groups and government officials in community-led processes, project design and peace-work in Canada, Guatemala, India, Nepal, Kyrgyzstan, Greece and Scotland.
Son of Scottish and English immigrants Ben identifies with both colonised and coloniser and strives to connect community initiatives across Turtle Island (Canada-USA-México) and beyond to co-create resilient, shared futures.
THE BIRTH OF THE CENTRE OF RESILIENCE
The creation of the Centre of Resilience began with the "Bihar Project", June 2017 - March 2018, the third project in a 3 year transnational project-series led by Prashant and Ben, from India to Scotland: The Vasudhaiva Ride.
Prashant had long envisioned returning to Bihar to create a skills training centre, thus addressing issues of unemployment and barriers to livelihood for Bihar's poorest working people.
The Bihar Project began as a small-scope project in a local school, but shortly after our arrival, disaster struck and changed our plans entirely.
Floods took the lives of more than 500 people in Bihar, the outcome of climate change combined with unplanned urban sprawl and a lack of proper public wellbeing programs. We put our journey on hold and began planning what would become the longest and largest scale project of the Vasudhaiva Ride.
Through the “Bihar Project” we sought to create not only a model for resilient, affordable housing: a house that could withstand flooding and earthquakes as well as grow its own food, treat its own water, harness renewable energies and be made of a combination of waste, natural and conventional building materials. It was also Prashant's chance to create the basis for a future skills-training centre.
This became the seed of the Centre of Resilience.
During the Bihar Project we worked with personal savings, donations from a growing global community of support and government loans. We faced market shortages, extreme weather conditions, the effects of India’s recent national demonetization, and many other challenges that you can only expect in a place like Arrah, Bihar.
But with the support of Prashant’s family, our global network and many passionate Biharis who were inspired to support our vision, we completed the Stage 1 of the creation of the Centre of Resilience.
In the two years that followed the Bihar Project, we carried out international projects, building our global networks and refining the concept of the Centre of Resilience.
We are now in Stage 2 of the creation of this living vision of resilience in a land that is at once extremely at-risk, and also rich beyond words in its soil, native cultures and knowledge, and potential for sustainability and social, ecological regeneration.
We are still operating on a shoe-string budget, with a diverse team of volunteers and local paid workers. We crowd-source support, and are currently researching grants and building the Centre's social enterprise model for self-reliant revenue creation. We welcome collaboration and support in many forms, and at time of writing, our team is only just forming.
Vasudhaiva Ride | One World One Family | India - Scotland | Project driven motorcycle journey
A Story of Solidarity in Lesvos. Vasudhaiva Ride.
Nepal Project: Building a Playground and Economic Independence in Kagati Village
Prashant and I met in January, 2015, while Prashant was co-hosting a Khoj International Artist Workshop in Pune, and I was serving at Mahindra United World College.
In January 2017, we set out on motorcycles, to carry out a series of projects from India to Scotland, seeking to grow our own experience, and demonstrate the power of community-led direct action to bring about positive change. For 30 months and 30,000 miles, we worked with grassroots community initiatives to build capacity and resilience, and shared the stories in more than twenty countries. This project series was called the Vasudhaiva Ride.
In our projects, Prashant led the design and construction of hybrid self-reliant housing, upcycled playgrounds, emergency heating units, and carried out multiple training programs with local workers as well as international volunteers and interns. Ben created the networks of activists, artists, supporters, media and project-partners as we went, led train-the-trainer programs and built the capacities of NGOS, educators and fellow community organisers.
The projects of the Vasudhaiva Ride received critical acclaim from the Global Ecovillage Network as well as media, universities, engineering colleges and architectural firms worldwide. All of this work was made possible thanks to the many communities and volunteers we had the privilege of working alongside with.
Power to community action!
Click to see more on the projects of the Vasudhaiva Ride.
Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam - Sansrkit.
The whole world is one family.