This is the story of two young men, Prashant Kumar from India and Ben Reid-Howells from Canada, who left their career paths to pursue something clearly unprofitable, vastly complex and problematically intangible.
Prashant was an upcoming artist who dropped out of engineering college to create useful art from waste and went on to redesign over twenty locales across Pune. A lover of animals, creation, and adventure, Prashant has always pushed himself to take on bigger projects, including Pune’s largest public installation and building an entire animal shelter from waste.
Ben is a sea kayak guide and educator, who lived and volunteered at United World College in Pune for two years, designing programs of experiential, service-based learning in an international college that seek to make education a force for peace and a sustainable future.
The Dawn of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam
‘The Whole World is One Family’ – that is the tagline of this amazing community that brings together artists, activists, teachers, and parents from around the world in a common narrative of union despite differences and works towards a better future. This came about in 2015 when Ben and Prashant decided to leave their work, homes, and life as they knew it to travel by land to Scotland, doing projects for peace, sustainable living, and community well-being. They both decided that they needed to do something about the problems in the world around them since nobody else would.
So Ben and Prashant got on their motorcycles and traveled slowly, engaging with local communities through a mix of pre-planned and emergent projects: in art, education and a radically diverse array of other fields.
As we travel, we compile these different ways people are working towards positive change in their community and share these resources with the other movers and shakers we collaborate with along the way, creating a transnational community who can then connect and exchange ideas, resources and hope. No one is in this alone!”
The Challenges Behind Creating a Community Beyond Borders of Movers and Shakers
Ben and Prashant were neither rich nor retired to do this journey easily. Nor did they have the backing of any corporation of NGO. They were young, working people when they decided to start this change-creating commute. Add to that the blow of demonetization.
A lot of people told us to wait, to raise all the funds we would need and then start. But we decided to follow our gut and just start.”
Now they have the support of the community and even if it means having to live life simply, it felt right to Ben and Prashant since they were doing the work they had set out to do.
This Was More Than Just a Joy Ride
Prashant and Ben knew from the start that this wasn’t about riding motorcycles around the world but was about exploring the notion of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam in today’s context.
We saw our community losing hope in the world, and we decided to do something to highlight all the incredible, good work that is happening around us. We all need hope.”
The Journey So Far
Their first project was in Jijamata Nagar, a slum community in Bombay where one government was working to bring high-quality education to an otherwise neglected community of youth. They worked with Educo, the program that is revolutionizing education in Sai Baba Path Public School. They also ran a teachers’ training program with the teachers, exploring ways of teaching that help students become critical thinkers, active members of their community and compassionate global citizens. And they did workshops with students on peace, ecosystems and up cycling.
In Rajasthan, they spent a month with international volunteers and local workers to create a home for Lakh 1 INR: a mud house made of glass bottles and cow dung.
Currently, they’re in Bihar, Prashant’s home state, building a model for self-reliant housing. They’re working with social entrepreneurs from Bihar, artists, and professionals from across India, and international travelers who want to contribute to something meaningful. Ben and Prashant hope to give a model for housing that cleans its own water, harnesses renewable energy, grows its own food and can change the path of Arrah to one of green growth and resilient communities.
But They’re Only Just Getting Started…
For Ben and Prashant, this ride is a series of trials and explorations in how people—ordinary people just like them – can contribute to a better future in the world around them. When this journey ends, that’s when they’ll both really dig into some long-term work.
Ben plans on returning to Canada to work alongside communities to transition to sustainable livelihood and Prashant will return to Bihar where the current work of the Bihar Project will become a community skills training center for future generations of Biharis.
Prashant shares some words of wisdom for other upcoming social entrepreneurs – “Always underestimate things. If you don’t underestimate big scale, you’ll never work big scale.”
Always underestimate things. If you don’t underestimate big scale, you’ll never work big scale.”
He adds to this – “The world needs us to engage. There’s a huge amount of suffering and unjust, unsustainable systems that need innovative ideas, committed people and bold action. Since deciding to do the Vasudhaiva Ride, we’ve learned the power of following your nose (and your heart) and doing what you really love and what really matters. If you make your life’s passions into your life’s work, and if this work is serving people around you, you’ll never run out of motivation and you’ll find support in the communities around you. It might mean living more simply, but there’s a deep content that you just don’t find. And the world needs positive change.”
We applaud Ben and Prashant for their inspiring and bold efforts that act as a positive catalyst in our social and economic community that desperately needs to undergo a radical change for the better. For more details or contributions please visit Vasudhaivaride.ketto.org