“Built by the poor, for the poor” or that is how they call it. But this institution is rich in history, richer in serving and the richest in intentions. The Barefoot College is what it is popularly known as with the original name being ‘Social Work and Research Centre’ (SWRC). This institution was just an idea in its initial stages when put forth as a philanthropic initiative. But as of now, the little spark of idea has enlarged into a renaissance that plays a vital role in the uplift of the living standards of rural people, both young and old, of over 80 countries.
The Social Work and Research Centre was registered in 1972 under ‘Friends of Tilonia Inc.’ by Sanjit Bunker Roy, a social activist and a former National Squash player. The current premises of the Barefoot College still bears the trace of how it was four decades ago. It is located in the district of Tilonia, Rajasthan. The campus itself was the masterwork of students, built on a vast piece of land that extends to nearly 8 acres. The campus is facilitated by shabby floors and dirty corridors, ‘for the poor children to feel comfortable’. Another notable feature of this institution is that it stays strong without even caring about the non-availability of chairs as not even a single chair is being availed.
In fact, Mr. Roy initially came forward to establish an institution with a mission of supplying water and helping in irrigating at least 100 drought prone areas. But his mission transformed into a phenomenal vision in the course of time. His focus was further channelized towards working for the villages to attain a state of self-sufficiency providing sustainability. This urge in him drove the institution thus far which is now renovating the fields of water harvesting, solar power generating and health in order to inspire education, skill development and women empowerment, especially in rural areas. This man in a mission, with the help of global volunteers started to handpick students of different genders and age from around 1300 villages of different nations to deliver their practice with a purpose.
The Barefoot College has also introduced night schools for the boys and girls who have to shoulder family responsibilities and work in the day time. The students are trained in setting water pumps and maintaining them without relying upon any external sources, designing and repairing solar powered electronic devices and empowering into paramedics to treat local medical emergencies. Even though the college does not provide any academic certificates of merit, they introduce the mantled technologies to uneducated and semi-literate classes making them able enough to operate and manage the solar-powered, water-oriented and other daily life gadgets.
This untiring 40 year efforts of The Barefoot College to unleash the mysteries behind various day-to-day instruments have elevated the living standards of millions of people across the globe – physically, mentally and economically as well. Also, the institution has been bestowed with various honours and laurels like Indira Gandhi Environment Award by The Ministry of Environment and Forest, Government of India in 1998, Ashden Award in 2003 and Clinton Global Citizen Award in 2013 – all for its magnificent service for Rural Development. The College is also involved in various partnership programs with numerous nations of Africa and Fiji islands among others.