Categories: Energy

Who The students? Illiterate grandmothers from non-electrified villages around the world, training to become Solar Engineers.

How do they learn? Incredibly, because none of the Mamas can read or speak a common language, all teaching is done through symbols, photographs, sign language and repeated practice for six months. Barefoot College demands that a lack of formal education should not stop these women from unleashing their true potential!

Lucy Ndip, Solar Mama from Cameroon has 8 children and completed 6th grade schooling.

My first visit to the Solar Training Centre was an awe-inspiring one. Greeted by a cacophony of noise, the Solar Mamas rang out Welcomes in ten different languages – “Hola!” “Namaste!” “Maayong Buntag!” “Bonjour!”, “Habari!”-. Their ambition filled the room with an air that gave me strength.

Solar Trainer, Gordhan evaluates the soldered circuit board put together by Solar Mama Zenaida from the Philippines

The concept works great practically, now let’s see if the academics can make it work theoretically.

– His Holiness the IVX Dalai Lama visited in 2012


Togolese Solar Mamas return home and stand outside a clinic which they are about to solar electrify. (Photojournalist: Lar Bolands)
Solar Mama, Mialo Tassi on her way to erect Solar Panels for a small village home in Agome Sevah, Togo. (Photojournalist: Lar Bolands)

Since its inception in 2008, graduates of the Solar Engineering programme have electrified 1015 villages in 68 countries, changing the lives of 500,000 villagers. Using the practical skills gained at Barefoot, the Solar Mamas can light homes, schools and hospitals, and will maintain and repair lamps and panels for up to five years. However, the Solar Mama’s journey does not end solely with the acquisition of practical skills and techniques.

Togolese Solar Mama Class of 2014 (Photojournalist: Lar Bolands)

While on campus the women absorb each other’s diversity, grow in confidence and realize their potential as leaders within their own communities. When returning home they spread the necessity of female empowerment, the harnessing of traditional knowledge and rural techniques, and the goal of equal education for all.

Togolese Solar Mamas successfully install Solar System making their village clinic off-grid.  (Photojournalist: Lar Bolands)

Perhaps the most important aspect of the Barefoot College programme is not only that women learn to electrify their villages. But that the Solar Mamas who graduate become shining beacons of lights themselves, going on to further inspire and empower a new generation of women with no limitations.

Togolese Solar Mamas teach women from other villages how to become Solar Engineers, spreading light both spiritually & physically. (Photojournalist: Lar Bolands)

As a new visitor to Barefoot College, I am overwhelmed and inspired by the determination of each of the Solar Mamas. By taking the astounding step to leave their communities and learn a completely new trade, they prove that it is not certificates, grades or job titles that count. Instead, what truly matters is having the courage to make a change, create new solutions, and affect the world positively.

Learn More About The Barefoot College Team & Create More Autonomous Villages Around the Rural World

via ValhallaMovement

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