Barefoot College- A Way Of Empowering People Out Of Poverty.

At the end of each year, you can read the published numbers and statistics about the poverty around the world.

I read that last year, despite the fact that generous people, charitable organizations, and philanthropists around the world have donated almost a billion dollars to feed and support the poor, the numbers of poor people around the world did not decrease AT ALL.

Which means that sending money or grain to help feed the poor- simply does NOT work.

Even assuming that the donated money did filter through to the poor, despite corruption, it is still like feeding a person a meal for a day, versus teaching him how to fish, so he can feed HIMSELF every day.

There are good programs around the world that empower poor people and teach them how to step out of poverty on their own.

My partner and I donated to a program of “Micro-Loans”, which offers small loans to poor people so they can start their own businesses.

These poor uneducated women, with many kids, who could not get a laborer’s job, took these loans and bought chickens to start chicken and egg farms, or started growing grains to make and sell chapattis. Some also bought a water buffalo or a few goats, and started a business of selling milk or milk products like yogurt or cottage cheese that they made themselves.

They were given the money as a loan, and not as a donation, on purpose.
The money was loaned to them so they can learn how to handle money, how to be responsible and to return a loan, how to save money, and how to budget their earnings.

It was also done as an empowering tool.
If the money that they got was a loan, that implies that they were not charity cases, but simply business people who needed a loan to start their own business.

Today I wish to share another project that is run by a most wonderful man who I think you should know about.

His name is Bunker Roy, and he is a disciple of Mahatma Gandhi.

His approach was that if you put aside education certificates, prestige and pride, and simply focus on teaching the SKILLS and the KNOWLEDGE, you can educate ANYONE, even illiterate old people.

The Barefoot College has successfully educated poor people to become professionals like mechanics, solar engineers, artisans, weavers, parabolic solar cooker engineers, FM radio operators and fabricators, dentists, school teachers, water drillers, hand pump mechanics, architects, designers, masons, communicators, water testers, phone operators, blacksmiths, carpenters, computer instructors, midwives and accountants.

Through Roy Bunker’s vision, the Barefoot College has educated the poor (people who live on less than $1 per day), physically challenged people, illiterate people, poor single mothers, housewives with no prospect of a job, elderly grandmothers, impoverished farmers, daily wage laborers and small shopkeepers, who represent the profile of rural people from poor agricultural communities.

Since its inception in 1972 in Rajasthan, India, the college has created a working way of helping to LIFT people over the poverty line with dignity and self respect.

The dream was to establish a rural college in India that was built by AND exclusively for the poor, but by now they have extended their work to Afghanistan and Africa as well.

These are excerpts taken from their own website:

“Only technologies that can be understood and controlled by a rural community have been introduced to improve the quality of life of the poor.

The Barefoot College has demystified sophisticated technologies so rural men and women, who can barely read and write can understand how to build, service and use it.

The College believes that even uneducated poor have the right to use technologies to improve their life and skills.

Barefoot College is a Centre for learning, with a difference:

A centre of learning and unlearning
Where the teacher is the learner and the learner a teacher.

Where everyone is expected to keep an open mind, try new and crazy ideas, make mistakes and try again.

Where even those who have no degrees are welcome to come, work and learn.

Where those are accepted who are not eligible for even the lowest government jobs.

Where tremendous value is placed on the dignity of labour, of sharing and on those who are willing to work with their hands.

Where no certificates, degrees or diplomas are given.

What the College has effectively demonstrated is how sustainable the combination of traditional knowledge (barefoot) and demystified modern skills can be, when the tools are in the hands of those who are considered ‘very ordinary’ and are written off by urban society.”

Watch the man himself speak about it:

3 Comments on “Barefoot College- A Way Of Empowering People Out Of Poverty.”

  1. Agreed, Tali. I have given this alot of thought. I think..having spent many years helping and elsewhere..that most programs do not empower people to help themselves.It is difficult to help people at all, really, when one doesn’t live with them day in and day out and doesn’t see the issues they face and the constraints that they face culturallly and economically. Many times I have tried to help only realizing half way thru that I wasn’t helping at all.
    But there are times I have helped a great deal; and most of thsoe times involuve bringing information, skills, or materials which can be copied and used for more people. I think the worst thing people can do is make poor and needy, disadvantaged and disabled, etc people dependent on the idea of the “western rescuer” . It’s also determental to the person who thinks they are doing the rescuing. For example, my last journey to India was successful because I didnt bring my own ideas of what they people I was visiting needed but instead asked them…and I brought a limited number of therapy things which were are copied. Now there is no need to bring more of those things: they are able to make copies in fiberglass, fabric, and foam that they have access to in their own community.
    And I love love love the idea of the barefoot college! How wonderous! I watche dthe video and I love it; I’m sharing it at once. It’s groundbreaking and revoltionary, but, moreover it is so obvious, isnt it? How strange no one thought of it before.
    But I also think there are many people on the planet who have no voice and who no one cares for; in particular the plight of special needs children and adults in institutional care in quite grim. There many not be a way to microlend to them at this time; most of them need interaction and therapy. I have been to places where such people were taught to make handicrafts and make a contribution, but it’s quite rare. Most get so little interaction that they are unable to be mobile.
    I think the three things that can be done pre=emptively in regards to this situation are: provide income alternatives and education for women, particularly women in areas where they are far from medical care and isolated; provide free birth control, vaccinations, and basic healthcare to women and children; and encourage organizations like the Hesperian Foundation(look them up; lovely work).
    There is much work to be done in the area of dealing with cultural taboos aroudn the disabled as well; many cultures see it as shaming to have a special needs person in their family. People spend their entire lives in institutions or locked away and not having a decent quality of life. So much work to be done in this regard, and attitudes change when economic status changes, so I really agree with your take on making economically viable choices available to people. The higher their economic status, the more able the culture and society will open it’s mind to inclusion.
    While I agree that giving money and grain doesnt always lead to the desired goal, I just want to put it out there that I hope people continue to visit institutionalized people around the world. Even when I dont agree with the organization that is housing them, I cant express the joy and sheer delight on someones face when a stranger visits them, holds their hand, and loves them, even if its only for an afternoon. Sharing love is a very important aspect of helping others. It’s the most important one, sometimes.:)
    I don’t know why I became so impassionaed on thsi subject; I guess it was seeing other human beings is dire and grim situations with no hope. It was quite leveling for me.
    Anyway, sharing this link of yours. Really quite brilliant.
    Sending best wishes for a joyful new year to you and Jules; Pepe asked me to marry him New Years Eve and I said YES!..So life is good. I’m working like crazy and enjoying domestic bliss. kisses. Thanks for being on the planet. You make my world better. xx amy gigi

    • Thank you so much my dear Amy for this most wonderful and reflective comment.

      I FULLY agree with you in pointing out the areas in which help and love can go such a long way…
      And I am SO happy that you added them here.

      I am sorry it took so long to respond, my blog houst site put your amazingly wise comment in the spam, and I just found it.

      Thank you, thank you, thank you for pointing all this out.

      And the news about your upcoming marriage is absolutely WON- DER- FUN – FULL…

      I am so happy for you, and I can’t wait for Jules to wake up, so I can tell him the good news.

      Pepe is one lucky guy and I wish you both a wonderful life together.
      I know you would be happy, because you deserve it and because you are on the right path for joy…

      With friendship and much love,

  2. Pingback: Rebels With Impact | Living History

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