A visit to Jaipur would not be complete without visiting The Barefoot College, less than two hour’s drive away in the village of Tilonia. The College was founded by Bunker Roy – named by the Guardian as one of the 50 environmentalists who could save the planet and as one of the 100 most influential people in the world by TIME magazine.
In 1965 a young post graduate student, Sanjit “Bunker” Roy volunteered to spend the summer working with famine affected people in Palamu District Bihar, now Jharkhand, one of the poorest of India’s states. His urban elitist upbringing had distanced him from poverty and destitution. This experience changed him, and formed the determination to fight poverty and inequality. It became his mission.
After conducting a survey of water supplies in 100 drought prone areas, Roy established the Social Work and Research Centre in 1972. Its mission soon changed from a focus on water and irrigation to empowerment and sustainability. The programs focused on siting water pumps near villages and training the local population to maintain them without dependence on outside mechanics, providing training as paramedics for local medical treatment, and on solar power to decrease dependence and time spent on kerosene lighting.
Night Schools were begun that allowed students who worked to support their families during the day to still receive training. The organisation has utilised a system of training the trainers to bring skills training to villages.
“Barefoot College is a non-governmental organisation that has been providing basic services and solutions to problems in rural communities for more than 40 years, with the objective of making them self-sufficient and sustainable. These ‘Barefoot solutions’ can be broadly categorised into the delivery of Solar Electrification, Clean Water, Education, Livelihood Development, and Activism. With a geographic focus on the Least Developed Countries (LDCs), we believe strongly in Empowering Women as agents of sustainable change.”
Barefoot College, Tilonia, Rajasthan
Our visit takes us on a tour of the college to see the solar electrification projects, water harvesting and purification systems, craft workshops and gallery, education programs and many other activities. We may also meet with Barefoot women solar engineers.
Take a look at the TED TALKS video below with founder Bunker Roy to learn about this amazing grass-roots college.
Photo credits: Barefoot College