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In 2012, India’s Barefoot College will be 40 years old. Essentially, it’s been a social enterprise before the language became popular. Working in different arenas including crafts, communication, wasteland development, water, education, women’s issues, health care and solar energy, this non-governmental organization creatives initiatives through people who are considered “Barefoot Professionals” and train poor rural communities. Self-sufficiency and sustainability are the goals.
On its website, Barefoot College lists the diverse professionals that are related to the NGO: “Rural men and women irrespective of age, who are barely literate or not at all, and have no hope of getting even the lowest government job, are being trained to work as day and night school teachers, doctors, midwives, dentists, health workers, balsevikas, solar engineers, solar cooker engineers, water drillers, hand pump mechanics, architects, artisans, designers, masons, communicators, water testers, phone operators, blacksmiths, carpenters, computer instructors, accountants and kabaad-se-jugaad professionals.”
Instead of taking a stance that borders on hand-outs—like many charities and social enterprises alike do—this initiative is a proactive one. It’s no surprise that Mahatma Gandhi’s ideas serve as an inspiration for the inner-workings of this innovative organization. Barefoot College shows that even those who have been literally and figuratively considered “social waste” have the passion and ability to do remarkable things. Community self-reliance through both learning and teaching is why Barefoot College is considered such a beacon in both the non-profit and social entrepreneurship worlds.