There are all sorts of silences. There are the comfortable ones, where you’re meandering along in the car with your best friend, each of you content in your own thoughts. There’s the silence of concentration, when all flows inward. And there’s the savoring silence, when you’re in the moment and observation is all—watching that sunset, that child running across the grass—and a single word would be one too many.
And then there’s the silence I inhabited for years, the edgy, uncomfortable silence that comes from unsaid words, unshed thoughts. When talk feels risky, then silence is the coward’s choice. Saying what I felt was, most times, simply not an option I considered; it was a kind of emotional bungee jumping that terrified me […Continue reading here]
The Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan was started by an Indian man named Bunker Roy. The organization is essentially a college that teaches women from all over the world (but primarily “developing” countries) how to be solar engineers.
That’s right. Solar engineers.
Classes are attended by local women and women from Peru, Fiji, Rwanda, Nepal, Belize, Ethiopia, Bhutan, and more who are illiterate or semi-literate. Most of them are from rural and poverty-stricken areas. The school does not take attendance, have exams, demand their students speak English or have prior education, and does not ask for fees. These women learn how to make solar panels and bulbs, how to plug them into an electrical grid, and how to provide clean renewable energy to their entire village. They then take this knowledge back to their hometowns in distant countries.
How are they taught without a common language? Everything technical is color coded. The women learn important words “LED, wire cutter, copper, connection, etc.” They communicate through common sense and the desire to learn. The college accepts anyone and everyone, mothers, lower castes (still an ongoing problem in India), older women, young women, women who have never attended school, married women.
Since 2004, the College has taught at least 250 women from 41 different low-industrial countries to be solar engineers. 5 out of their 8 engineer professors are women. 35 out of 200 workers are physically disabled. The BC is currently powering both their own facility, homes in nearby villages and towns, and their former students are powering homes all across the world from wisdom and materials imported from the BC. Their local villages pay their salary.
Roy did try to teach both men and women, but they didn’t stay in the harsh conditions or wanted jobs that paid more (as the BC doesn’t hand out “official” diplomas or degrees). Eventually, the college became largely female. "Why not invest in women, older women, mature women, gutsy women who have roots in the village?" Roy said.
I cannot emphasize how amazing this organization is. The Barefoot College is a safe and accepting place for anyone who wants to learn about clean and renewable energy. It encourages women’s empowerment, helps them out of poverty, and provides solar energy to places where the prices of kerosene and batteries are excessively high.