This week we’re changing it up a bit and focusing on a brilliantly simple innovative service that has been changing the world for nearly 40 years! Barefoot College is a revolutionary approach to education teaching the poorest women (and men) in remote rural areas of the world to become trained engineers, doctors and architects. Their tagline “Train a grandmother, change the world” reflects their mission and their principals are simple:
- Knowledge, skills, and wisdom found in villages should be used for its development before getting skills from outside
- Sophisticated technology should be in the hands and control of the poor communities so that they are not dependent or exploited
- There is a difference between literacy and education
- Women are equal and critical to success
Founded by one of the “most influential people in the world,” Bunker Roy, the very foundation of the volunteer-based college is built by and for the poor. Students learn skills in program areas such as Solar, Water, Education, Healthcare, and Craft and then work as school teachers, doctors, midwives, solar engineers, architects, artisans, computer instructors, and accountants in their villages, just to name a few.
The admission process is determined by the community via a committee meeting in her village, and the selection process is “one that is organic” says Megan Fallone, Senior Advisor to Barefoot College. Once a community’s need has been determined based on Barefoot College’s criteria (e.g., being inaccessible, non-electrified, remote) a participant is nominated by her village, agrees to leave, and gets trained on campus in Rajasthan, India or Kontaline, Sierra Leone. After a six month schooling in her discipline, the graduate returns back to her village with the goal of “paying-it-forward” and teaching her community to become self-reliant, sustainable and autonomous using the skills acquired during training.
The impact on the village is incredible, but it also has a global impact. In particular, introducing solar electrification saves lives and improves the environment for everyone. According to energy facts compiled by the World Bank, 20% of the world’s population is still without power. Additionally 2.8 billion people rely on solid fuels such as wood, charcoal, coal and manure for cooking and heating. The smoke and fumes from the above methods kill approximately 1.5 million people from respiratory diseases and damages our environment. So when a power-stricken community becomes solar electrified by the village engineer, it’s now part of the solution instead of the problem.
As best described on their website,
“Barefoot College has proved that both illiterate and semi-literate men and women can fabricate, install, use, repair, and maintain sophisticated solar units through basic knowledge share and hands-on practical training. It has harnessed solar energy not only to provide light but also to create employment for the unemployable, to boost income for the poor, to save the environment by reducing carbon emission and not cutting trees, and most importantly, to provide self-reliant solutions within village communities.”
Check out the incredible impact Barefoot College has had on a global scale by the numbers:
450,000 Rural areas now have light
500,000 Liters of kerosene saved
64 Countries with Solar Engineers
750 Women Solar Engineers
13.02 Reduction of carbon emissions into the environment
99,000,000 Liters of drinking water available by Rain Water Harvesting
2,800,000 School children accessing drinking water
400 Rural water engineers employed by Barefoot Water
909 Villages access rainwater in 8 countries!
75,000 Total children in attendance in night school since 1975
14,000 Total number of Barefoot teachers in government schools
50,000 Total number of craft items sold in 2012
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