Home#IamBrandBiharThis Bihari and his Canadian friend are on their bike ride from India to Scotland with the vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam Nabhaneel Tiwary #IamBrandBihar, Bihar, Travel Two men, and a dog riding on their bikes in journey to change the world they pass by, it seems like beautiful plot for a classic southern Hollywood movie. But, for your surprise a Bihari, and his Canadian friend from last fifteen months are taking their Vasudhaiva ride with the vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Kumar Prashant, who originally belongs to Bihar, is an upcucling artist, champion racer, animal activist and increasingly, a builder of self-reliant homes. Ben Reid-Howells from Canada who is an educator and community organizer with a Combined Honours degree in Sustainability from Dalhousie University, Canada, they both met at a Pune artist residency and decided to leave everything and travel by motorcycle from India to Scotland—one motherland to another—to carry out a series of projects for peace, sustainability and wellbeing: the Vasudhaiva Ride. Since last 15 months they have covered 12,000km across India, sleeping, eating and doing mechanical fixes “jugaad” as Ben calls it, and they have involved youth, local community and international teams of volunteers and professionals in villages, community groups and schools, collaborating and spreading the vision of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam: One world, one family. “We stay mostly in villages as we travel and our work focuses in skills for social service and developing affordable methods of upcycling and resilient design: to holistically strengthen at-risk communities in rural and lesser developed India,” said Ben Reid-Howells in a conversation with PatnaBeats. Talking to PatnaBeats Prashant said, “Our mission is to connect people and organisations across borders to exchange resources, build local capacity and share stories and hope, thus strengthening global efforts to overcome pertinent issues.” Since starting out from Khubavali Village, Maharashtra on January 15th 2017, they have completed three projects in education, affordable housing and now sustainable development in Bihar. “Our first project was with Sai Baba Path government school in the Jijamata Nagar slum community of Bombay. There we worked with students and the local teaching team to provide methods for effective education to create socially engaged students. Our second project aimed to redefine affordable housing, and we brought together local villagers and an international team of volunteers to build a model home for 1 Lakh INR, in rural Rajasthan,” said Ben Reid-Howells to PatnaBeats. Talking about the Vasudhaiva Ride the travelling duo said, “Though we are not an NGO nor affiliated with any one organization, we are not alone in this work and journey. Local, national and global organisations, community groups, colleges and hostels have sent interns, volunteers, social entrepreneurs and more to support and share this work.” All About Bihar Project of Vasudhaiva ride After their first two projects in India, they were invited to work in Goa, Karnataka and Maharashtra. However according to Ben, Prashant had always intended to return to his native Bihar and bring his work to this state that so needed innovation. Prashant suggested doing a project in Bihar to lay the groundwork for a lifelong endeavour of bringing his work in upcycling and eco-design, and thus opportunities for more sustainable livelihood to the region. The Bihar Project is the third and last project of the India Leg of the Vasudhaiva Ride. Bihar Project was born to create a prototype for self-reliant housing, a house made of a combination of upcycled waste, natural materials and weather-proof construction materials, and a house that grows its own food, treats its own waste water and sources renewable energies. Taking about the recitations from the locals, Ben said, “At first local community expressed doubt, Prashant himself also being aware of the challenges of working in Arrah, Bihar. But we shared the plan and vision and Prashant’s family came on board to help fund the project. We assembled a team and in June, 2017 set to work.” In the nine months they have employed more than 100 local workers, revived multiple forms of sustainable construction, carried out community sessions with more than 2000 youth and teachers across Bihar and brought together a team of local Biharis, Indian nationals and more than 40 internationals: living simply and working together in Arrah, Bihar. “Our volunteers have worked hard through the monsoon, heat and winter of Bihar and have all left wearing the Bihari gumcha: our way of welcoming them to this global family that for these nine months, has had its roots in Arrah, Bhojpur.” Ben added. The Bihar Project has been their largest endeavor yet, aiming to address issues of unemployment, unsustainable development, lack of urban planning and resulting issues of health, hygiene, social wellbeing and environmental degradation. The product of this nine month project stands in a field backside Ara Station between middle class housing and a government canal lined with slum dwellings: the project has brought both these communities together. The house itself boasts a significantly reduced square foot costing, features an in-house water treatment system, rooftop urban garden and thousands of units of waste incorporated as building materials and design, including glass bottles, thela cart wheels, scrap metal, tyres and more. While the upstairs floor serves as a living space for Prashant’s family who funded most of the project, the downstairs space will be the first upcycling workshop to begin Prashant’s long term endeavour to introduce upcycling business to Bihar. Under his guidance, more than 40 Bihari workers have already begun to learn upcycling techniques, serving as the pilot program for the skills development in the years ahead, once Prashant returns to Bihar upon completing the Vasudhaiva Ride in 2019. “On February 3-4th the Opening Weekend of the Bihar Project took place, in which more than 900 people attended, demonstrating the strong community buy-in of this project to redefine housing in one of India’s fastest growing states. We received offers from architects and builders to replicate the model, marking the project a success. Greenpeace India and several Bihari organisations were present to demonstrate their long-term support,” said Ben. He further added, “We look back on the success of this project and recognize that it has only been possible with the unshakeable support of the local community here in Bihar. We see that, though Bihar is often described as a backwards state, it is in fact a place of great opportunity, resilience and strong community.” With the Bihar Project finished, they will now leave India to continue the Vasudhaiva Ride. “On March 11th, 2018, we will ride from Patna, Bihar, to Nepal and from there into Tibet, China, Central Asia and Europe where our 2018 Focus Project will take place, bringing their skills, team and energy to current humanitarian issues and efforts to provide relief.” They are now preparing to leave India for the international leg of the Vasudhaiva Ride. The first project of the international leg is to create an upcycled, outdoor learning area in a government school in rural Nepal and providing trainings to the Himalayan Climate Initiative (HCI) and multiple other Nepali NGOs in the education sector. For the projects ahead they are calling together teams of volunteers, interns and professionals from around the world to be of service to complex issues in collaboration with leading on-the-ground projects and organisations. After completing the ride to Scotland, Prashant will return to continue the work in Bihar and begin workshops and more programs in Arrah and elsewhere in Bihar. For more information on the Bihar Project and the Vasudhaiva Ride, you can log on to www.vasudhaivaride.com or email at: [email protected], or connect them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/vasudhaivaride or follow them on www.instagram.com/vasudhaivaride. To support the work and journey of the Vasudhaiva Ride, contact us at the information below, or send support on PayTM at 9764328226. Do you like the article? Or have an interesting story to share? Please write to us at [email protected], or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter. Quote of the day: When dealing with people remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion. – Dale Carnegie.