From building schools to royal guest at the Abbey

From building schools to royal guest at the Abbey
Courtesy: Charlotte Road/The Prince's Foundation

A student of one of the Prince’s Foundation’s traditional building skills training programmes at Dumfries House in Scotland, who lived a semi-nomadic life in India helping deprived communities construct schools, toilet blocks and other buildings, is among the chosen few to attend King Charles III’s Coronation at Westminster Abbey this weekend.

Sourabh Phadke, 38, who was born and brought up in the western Indian city of Pune, lived and worked in communities across India for 15 years helping them design and construct buildings using local materials such as mud, stone and bamboo.

Phadke said: “It could be houses, toilets, schools, anything that a community needed. It could be in deprived communities, schools, farmers, or women’s collectives.”

The nature of his work meant he spent many years moving from place to place and living where he was needed.

“I basically lived where I was working. I moved from place to place. The circumstances would differ widely but in some cases we would reach a place and start building, let’s say a toilet in open land where there was no toilet, and we would camp outdoors. It taught me a lot,” he shares.

Having originally trained as an architect, Phadke made the decision to change direction after thinking about possible future careers: “I found it disgusting the way education is preparing us not for joy or satisfaction but turning us into units who are meant to earn money and nothing else so I decided I wanted nothing to do with architecture. But my intention wasn’t to turn my back on architecture, it was to turn my face towards what I love.”

He then worked as a teacher and was part of a group that started a school on the outskirts of Pune in a couple of years, constructing the classrooms from scratch. “That’s when I remembered I’m supposed to be able to design and build so I learned from traditional builders who do it for a living and worked as a hands-on practitioner.”

Phadke later moved to the UK when his wife Persis won a scholarship to do a geography PhD at King’s College in London and joined a traditional building skills programme, a collaboration run by QEST and the Prince’s Foundation, where he expanded his repertoire by training as a stonemason.

While on the course, the budding professional was based for four months at Dumfries House in Ayrshire, the headquarters of the Prince’s Foundation.


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While there, he and his fellow students built a new education pavilion on the estate: “It was an opportunity for me to become a student again and become part of the programme. I was really happy that I got the opportunity. Even though I’d done stone work in the past, I hadn’t trained as a stone mason.”

He went on to receive an Albukhary Foundation Scholarship to do a Masters at the Prince’s Foundation’s School of Traditional Arts, where he now works as a tutor. He has now been invited to the Coronation on May 6.

Gordon Neil, Executive Director of the Prince’s Foundation – founded by Charles as the Prince of Wales, said: “We are so proud of Sourabh's achievements, before he arrived to study with us at Dumfries House, all the way through our traditional craft skills programme, and while at the Prince's Foundation's School of Traditional Arts.


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His selflessness and dedication to study are being greatly rewarded by being a guest of ours at this weekend's Coronation, which is sure to be a special day for our charity founder His Majesty the King as well as Sourabh and his fellow guests.”

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