The Barefoot College happened to be near our next destination, Ajmer. As we’d recently seen a very inspiring TED talk by founder Bunker Roy, we decided to visit and see for ourselves the great work done by this NGO, training remote village lay-people in skills traditionally reserved for university graduates.
Our contact, Miss Bata Bhurji who grew up in the village and runs courses as well as making documentaries about the community, took us to see their facilities. Every year they run two workshops for women who fly in from small villages in countries as far away as Mali, Afghanistan, Sudan & South America. These women leave their own communities, children and families for six months to learn about making Solar Home Lighting systems, from scratch. Most have never left their village let alone their country before. Once they have mastered these skills, they return home, and await a shipment of donated solar equipment, which they install for their remote communities.
We were blown away by the determination of these women who have to overcome so many barriers in order to learn this new skill and bring power and light to their villages, something we take for granted in our society. The whole process looked so complicated to me, so technical, and yet I have a school education many of these women don’t. The Barefoot Village has admirably created an opportunity for these women to improve the lives of their people, and empowers them too in such a positive way. The ladies were all very excited as in less than five days they were set to return home and were understandably looking forward to going. Paloma received plenty of cuddles from the Sudanese ladies who were all missing their little ones. In another part of the Village, Indian women were making huge solar powered discs for stoves which villagers in very distant parts of the county use. From the very first stages of cutting, welding and bending metal rods, to cutting and placing hundreds of mirrors at the precise angle, these was a strange beauty in these objects as well as a very worthwhile function.
We left inspired, reminding ourselves that knowledge should never be the exclusive domain of the wealthy and privileged, but provided especially to those who may benefit from it most.