“What’s the best way of communicating in the world today?
Television? No.
Telegraph? No.
Telephone? No.
Tell a woman.”

— Bunker Roy

By definition, development implies an act of change.

However, the current pandemic endangered the traditional flows of humanitarian aid between the developed and developing countries, surfacing an ever existing problem. The usual view of helping by exchanging first necessity goods was also corrupted by the lockdown and the disruption of supply chains. Companies are cutting costs and there aren’t as many supplies to give away as before, and in the unfortunate event of a ONG having to close down, even for a couple of months, the targeted community will go back to needing clothes, food and medicine shortly afterwards as they remain without some self-sustainable, independent way to get those basic products. Consequently, more and more search comes for lasting, self-growing, universally obtainable means, like education, in the hopes of creating a solid ground that can’t be as easily affected by unpredictable world-level crisis such as the present one.

The creation of a physical, usable bridge between the developing and developed worlds was a dream of Sanjit “Bunker” Roy, a young freshly graduate student that decided to make a real lasting change. As one of India’s privileged, Sanjit had a world of opportunities, he could go anywhere and do anything. Instead, he felt that what he really wanted to do was make a change and so he went to one of India’s poorest regions and began transforming it as a single man in a strange place.

One of Sanjit’s most valuable practices was to start small and local. To feed this idea of an impactful project he could not just make huge changes in the local villages of rural India from his perspective of what would benefit the community. As a literate man, he could think for himself, alone, making sole use of his knowledge, but he didn’t. He understood that the key to a measurable transformation was actually speaking with local farmers, children and women, people who could actually explain their needs and dreams.


“Listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world.”

— Bunker Roy

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Surprisingly, he began realizing that, although without education, these people knew whatever they needed to know to sustain an impressive standard of living given the poor resources available. They possessed incredible tools, knowledge and ideas that would never be reached by the institutional, formally educated brain. In fact, “Bunker” Roy talks about an important woman that couldn’t read but worked as a dentist and had under her care more than 7.000 children. Also, a gentleman that couldn’t read, but challenged the vision of educated architects who said it was impossible to build something sustainable out of the dry “unusable” land, and gave instructions on how to build and grow life in that unfavourable environment. These people and their mentality looked past modern age obstacles and defied contemporary reasoning.


“[The Barefoot College is] the only college where the teacher is the learner and the learner is the teacher.”

— Bunker Roy

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With this, Sanjit “Bunker” Roy ended up creating The Barefoot College, a school Built by the poor, for the poor, where they teach groups of women from different, poor villages all around the country how to become solar engineers, innovators and educators. Women who afterwards return to their homes and transform their communities by harvesting solar energy for electricity and becoming teachers to those around them. In these women, Sanjit found a source of real power and lasting, self-sustainable change, so much so that he found best to provide them with all the necessary capacities to transform their realities.


“Our job is to show how it is possible to take an illiterate woman and make her into an engineer in six months and show that she can solar-electrify a village.”

— Bunker Roy

Sanjit knew that giving and installing solar panels himself would have an overwhelming impact in his community, but he chose to go further and gave more than 1,000,000 people in over 96 countries access to clean energy for heating and cooking and clean water to drink.


“We went to Ladakh … and we asked this woman, ‘What was the benefit you had from solar electricity?’ And she thought for a minute and said, ‘It’s the first time I can see my husband’s face in winter.”

— Bunker Roy

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The increased quality of life given to all these different villages and communities exceeds the power of one man and it is only possible because there is a system and a mentality already in people’s souls that goes beyond traditional education and degrees. It comes from the day to day living that a “privileged outsider” would never be able to comprehend. So, it is to people as Sanjit Roy that we have to thank every day. Sometimes it is easier to overlook this idea that we need to go out of our comfort zone to find the strategies and change lives but is necessary to confront ourselves and evaluate if whether we are making use of our knowledge to find impossible solutions.

The human race has the power and knowledge to find impossible solutions

 

If you have time, please visit https://www.barefootcollege.org/about/ and watch https://www.ted.com/talks/bunker_roy_learning_from_a_barefoot_movement?language=zh-TW.


Clara Malta - Clara Malta

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