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ReThink's garden and office, flanked by a logo sign stating "Be The Change."

Women in Community Development: Shikha Bhattacharyya

The Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority highlights Shikha Bhattacharyya, Executive Director of reTHink, Inc. as a leader in community development. Learn more about Shikha and reTHink, Inc.

Editor's Note: This story was originally published by the Indiana Housing & Community Development Authority (IHCDA) in the spring 2023 issue of IHCDA...the Magazine. We are proud to partner with the IHCDA on the CreatINg Places program, building vibrant communities across the State of Indiana.

Shikha Bhattacharyya is the Executive Director of reTHink, Inc. reTHink is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2015 in Terre Haute, Indiana "with the goal of creating a cleaner, greener Wabash Valley." They have programs in upcycling plastic, zero waste education, composting, and also have several community garden spaces.

Shikha Bhattacharyya, the Executive Director of reTHink, Inc. a 501(c)(3) nonprofit founded in 2015 in Terre Haute, Indiana
Shikha Bhattacharyya, the Executive Director of reTHink, Inc.

Their 2021 CreatINg Places project, Community Rocks Vegetable Garden, raised $5,000. They recently launched a second crowdfunding campaign, the Peace Garden, through the program.

What was your first job in the community development industry?

It wasn't my job. I just started a non-profit organization with the idea of community gardening. Sustainability was big on my mind. Environmental sustainability in gardening is one way to do it.

When we moved here, I chose to stay home because I had kids and there were no jobs available. I kept hearing [in Terre Haute], 'there is so much poverty, there's so much hunger.' Here, I see that there's so much land available. So, I was like, 'why don't we put gardens on these lots then?'

A woman stands in front of a mural in the Community Rocks Vegetable Garden of turnips and carrots and stands in front to look as though holding the vegetables.
The Community Rocks Vegetable Garden

Right now, reTHink has three community gardens in one neighborhood, and one community garden outside our building, zero waste store, and our plastic upcycling space.

reTHink gardens and all our projects are about education and empowerment. That you can do this and don't have to depend on others to donate food. If you have a little piece of land, you can put some seeds, water them, and see your own tomatoes and zucchinis grow.

I work on the idea that if you give a man a fish, you feed them for a day. You teach them to fish, you feed them for a lifetime. It's about the idea and the empowerment that comes from doing.

My vision for any community I live in is for it to be cleaner, greener, and healthier.

Cleaner: by reducing waster and by recycling more, by composting.

Greener: we want to have more green spaces because trees give us air.

Healthier: if we eat healthy food, take care of the environment and each other, and use plastic-free products, we will be healthier.

What advice do you have for someone looking to lead their community?

I don't know if you can lead the community by being a leader. You have to be a servant and serve the community. You become a leader by serving and by putting yourself out.

Advice that pertains to my work is that you have to always fundraise. You're giving an opportunity to be a part of something and make a difference. That has really shifted by perspective on when I fundraise and how I ask people.

A lot of people come here, and we do have a lot of community support. I wish that more people who can make a difference would take the time to come visit, if everybody came and not see reTHink as just an organization. It can't be just me and not just for the environment. It's for us.

What is a little-known fact about you?

I don't think people would know that I used to be an anxious, stressed out, and depressed person, especially after I came to this country. I came with an idea that, 'oh, I'm going to be a world-famous scientist.' My picture didn't work out the way I had hoped for. I was really suffering from depression and anxiety. Until one day I said, 'you know, I did not aachieve my dreams in the way that I wanted to. So, what is that I can do for others?'

A volunteer working on the Community Rocks Vegetable Garden
A volunteer working on the Community Rocks Vegetable Garden