Barefoot Colleges

Bunker Roy
The first Barefoot College was built in 1986 by 12 illiterate architects for $1.50/sq ft in Tilonia, Rajasthan.  Anyone with an advanced degree or formal education is barred admission.  The idea for Barefoot Colleges was hatched when Bunker Roy left one of the best schools in India and headed to a small village in India.  His experiences there quickly led him to drop his plans to become a diplomat.  

A Barefoot College Student
Barefoot Colleges create a way for illiterate villagers to come together, determine their own curriculum, and teach each other what they want to learn.  There are night classes for children, allowing them to tend flocks and attend to other chores during the day.  One of Roy's main interests is training grandmothers; they go back to their own villages and solar electrify them, then train other women in nearby villages to work with solar electricity as well.  As he puts it, "Men just want a degree and a chance to leave the village.  They're untrainable.  But women will learn and teach other women."

His TED talk was lovely, and Roy ends with a great quote from Gandhi-ji:  "First they ignore you.  Then they laugh at you.  Then they fight you.  And then you win."  Here's to one man who listens, focuses on the actual needs of the people he's working with, and in the process makes a big difference in the world.  Thanks to Jared for sending along the TED talk.