Barefoot College’s founder Bunker Roy’s conviction is deeply rooted in Ghandian philosophy. He began the Barefoot College in 1972 with the belief that the solutions to the problems of rural India lay in the villages themselves, not in outside assistance.
Since 2004, the college has had a global reach—currently extending to seventy-five countries and it has also established a campus in Tilonia, India. Its 80,000 square foot facility was designed and built by locals, using traditional techniques and materials.
In one of its most innovative programs, the College trains rural women to be solar engineers. This addresses the issues of rural poverty as well as access to energy. As part of a program with the Indian Government, the College operates an exchange program where uneducated women are selected from rural villages and brought to Tilonia for a six month fellowship. There they study to become master solar engineers. Because many of the women are illiterate, they learn through memorization and color-coded charts. They return home with all the skills necessary to electrify their village with sustainable solar technologies. The woman is then paid a monthly retainer to fix and maintain the solar equipment. As of 2011, more than 300 Barefoot engineers have brought power to more than 13,000 homes across India. A further 6,000 households, in more than 120 villages in 24 countries from Afghanistan to Uganda, have been powered on the same model.