This profile was prepared when Sri Kumar Vishwanathan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2006.
The New Idea
Kumar’s Roma Coexistence Village offers a fresh approach to housing and poverty reductions in the Czech Republic as responsibility is placed in the hands of the poorest residents. In the city of Ostrava, Kumar is overcoming housing obstacles among poor urban communities while revolutionizing ethnically integrated living. His work prevents poor urban areas from getting trapped in a culture of poverty and apathy, and brings the plight of the Roma to the public’s attention through a broad coalition. Kumar brings stakeholders from all sectors together to design an integrated urban living space. Volunteers, charities, private owners of the houses, and the municipality form small task forces with the Roma inhabitants to build lasting communities that are sustainable. This collective process stimulates cooperation and mutual understanding, shifting mindsets and proving that Roma and non-Roma can coexist and participate together to solve their problems.