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Charity Turns ‘Barefoot’ Grandmothers into Solar Energy Experts in Six Months

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Some people pay dearly for a degree in solar engineering, but one charity is making ‘barefoot’ grandmothers into life-changing solar energy experts in a matter of months.

A global enterprise, with its start in India, Barefoot College takes elderly women, which many cultures cast aside as useless, relegating them to nursing homes and clinics, and instead, teaches them how to ‘electrify’ entire villages using only solar power.

Some of these women can’t even read, but they can build solar panels, and install solar lighting in some places that have been dark for decades due to the lack of infrastructure.

With the UN estimating that more than 1.5 billion people still live without electricity, the barefoot grandmothers have their work cut out for them.

The founder of the organization, ‘Bunker’ Roy, also believes in energy sovereignty, taking electricity away from a centralized, mega company, and putting it back into the hands of small villages and individual, empowered people.

Women from the Congo, Rwanda, and other impoverished nations have traveled to India to learn at the Barefoot College, convincing even their wary husbands, to invest in them and their communities.

To overcome language barriers, classes are taught mostly in sign-language with color-coded circuit boards. So far the college has trained 150 grandmothers from over 28 countries, and provided solar power to more than 10,000 homes that would have otherwise gone without.

Roy intends for the college in India to spark interest in other nations, in hopes of similar ‘barefoot’ solar colleges being built based on his model.

His model protects against the use of polluting fossil fuels, while protecting against energy company price spikes, and even ‘grid’ compromises that have even shut down New York City before.

There would be no need for such a huge investment in seeking out ‘terrorists’ who want to shut down our grid, if programs like these were more commonly implemented. As the New York times once reported, “windowless rooms from here to California, nearly 10,000 electrical engineers, cybersecurity specialists, utility executives and F.B.I. agents furiously grappled over 48 hours with an unseen “enemy” who tried to turn out the lights across America.”

India is shining brightly, and so are other nations – all because of solar and some grandmothers’ willingness to learn something new.

References:

http://www.barefootcollege.org/solutions/solar-electrification/

http://www.cnn.com/2011/TECH/innovation/01/24/barefoot.college.india/

http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/solar-power-technologies-and-policies.html#.VlTiuXszek0

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/us/coast-to-coast-simulating-onslaught-against-power-grid.html?_r=0

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