A visit to Barefoot College- Tilonia, India

Barefoot College (registered as the Social Work and Research Center) was founded by Bunker Roy in 1971 in Tilonia, a small village 350km southwest of Dehli, India. The college follows the lifestyle of Ghandi and it is built by the poor, for the poor and managed by the poor. The college empowers the rural poor by assisting them to develop their capacities and skills so they can serve their own communities better which enhance their self confidence and self reliance. The college trains rural people who are illiterate or semiliterate to become barefoot educators, doctors, teachers, water engineers, solar engineers, architects, designers, hand pump mechanics and accountants to serve their communities while generating income. The college runs pre-schools and night schools that are taught by barefoot teachers. They have also been replicating its approach not only throughout India where 20 colleges have been established in 13 states but also around the world! Pictures of the visit.

Mr. Laxman Singh who has been working with the college for 20 years showed us around. In the older part of the campus where the activities were initiated in 1972, we visited the ladies assembling solar cooker stoves, children and women practicing in the internet learning room, the crafts center, and the living and training facilities for barefoot solar engineers. There is a 6-month training program for overseas rural women. Although it was Sunday morning we saw ladies from Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia assembling solar lamps. These ladies go back to their respective countries after 6 months to electrify their villages. The new large campus that incorporates a hospital, administrative offices, meeting facilities, and the crafts shop was designed and built entirely by barefoot architects from 1986 and it was completed in 1989. We met Bhanwar Jat an illiterate farmer from Tilonia who was overseeing this whole project. Barefoot College is fully solar-electrified and all the roofs of the buildings in the campus are connected to collect rainwater in a huge 400,000- liter underground tank. This roof top rainwater harvesting system is a representative case of applying the traditional knowhow (as rural people have been harvesting rain water for centuries) and developing it as a viable and low cost way to provide drinking water and sanitation to rural communities.

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