INDIA Blog 2 (Jan-Feb)

Many Barefoot College projects + a special birthday

January 30 – Now this is a special day and what a birthday present it is to be here at Barefoot College! (Though I miss my family and later skype with Rick). Today we see the many related sustainability activities (and beyond) at Barefoot. This is getting long, so I make a quick list + you can find out more online:

Upcycle: textile scraps for booklets, jewelry, etc),

Weaving: rags for hand-loom carpets, spinning wool or cotton on am electric loom),

Tailoring for local handprinted cotton clothes)

Nursery for herbs, plants for the kitchen, trees (fed by bottle drip method)

Water office – monitors water quality, RO (Reverse osmosis filters for all drinking water)

B.Barefoot develops + markets products like beeswax cosmetics, organic coffee, honey – and a Shop to sell the merchandise and textiles

Buildings have rain drains to feed underground water tanks. The rain catchment well has dates and rain tally written into its cement walls.

There are offices for: education + outreach (we saw a group of Credit Suisse volunteers – from Bangalore!), – visitor, volunteer + staff organization – public events, donations, relations with NGO – media: radio, video/photo + online media – bank, post office – school: some have been here for decades and the school teaches their children as well as locals.

After dinner Annu asks if I want to join a few of the staff for a small bonfire in the yard behind our room. We are 7 and hang out for a little. Then Sammi starts singing ‘Happy Birthday’ comes out with a cake. I am totally shocked and moved! There is no bakery in a 2-hour radius! She actually found someone who was driving to Jaipur (Manu, the guy with glasses on the photo) and asked him to find a cake. Delicious chocolate mousse – transported on a motorcycle without transport injury!

We hear stories how people decided to come here, Annu found the cities too anonymous and unfriendly, Manu (sp?) our ‘cake buyer’ had a successful accounting career in Mumbai, did not see a purpose in it anymore, came to visit and stayed, leaving his parents and friends wondering. Ashley with a UCLA MBA delayed her consulting job ‘to give back’ and work with non-profits for 6 months.

Selfie-time: We all jump in the picture to beat the self-timer – nice double exposures.

Manu, Ashley, Sammi, Mechthild, Annu and 2 more.

What a wonderful way to end this day + start a new year! Thank you, Sammi!

Last day – The Bazaar opens at 10 and is a culture mix from Botswana yellow mini-dress to Mali regal yellow outfit, from Egyptian and Syrian rice puddings to Mexican Empanadas and Paraguayan crochet. Mixed in are Rajasthani women in bright colors and jewelry, some school children – wide-eyed at the sight of women dancing in jeans and mini dress.

Our last appointment is an interview with the director of the Solar Mama program, Bhagwat Nandan (Guru Ji). He takes us back to the origins when they trained men. They decided to train women instead when they noticed that men used their new skills to leave for a city job. The women though stayed in their village and were reliably improving the lives of their family and community and managed money well. Barefoot started with ‘solar grandmas’ whose grown children gave them time to start a small business. Now there are all ages but they have to be nominated by the local NGOs and often are already promising community leaders.

They also found that communities support women to get the solar skills when they know it is the only way to get electricity. Barefoot College plans to increase training schools in Africa instead of bringing women all the way to India. Aside of the skills, the cultural exchange certainly is an obvious success.

(A related Article:

After hanging out for our (now customary) 5 o’clock ‘Masala chai & chat’ until dinner we pack and confirm our 8am taxi – back to Jaipur and our Bangalore bathroom for the first shower in 5 days.

5 amazing and insightful days seeing so much positive change in women’s lives!

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