The amazing school where grandmothers go to learn to save the world.

The generation powering the developing world isn't the one you think.

Barefoot College is an NGO that is training a new generation of female solar engineers to fuel the rural developing world with renewable energy.

“I think you don't have to look for solutions outside. Look for solutions within. And listen to the people on the ground. They have all the solutions in the world," said Bunker Roy, the founder of Barefoot College in his 2011 TED Talk.


Image by Laura Cleary/Flickr.

Barefoot College does not issue degrees, preferring to teach its students practical knowledge instead.

The unique school in Tilonia, India, opened its doors in 1972. In the past 40 years, it has trained more than 6,000 women from around the world in "barefoot solutions" to problems they face back home, like how to power villages through solar power, create water purification systems, build FM radios, engineer parabolic solar-powered cookstoves, and become midwives, dentists, and teachers.

At the moment, Barefoot College's most successful program focuses on teaching women to become solar engineers. Launched in 1990, it has exceeded all expectations.

By the end of 2015, women from all 43 of the world's least-developed countries will have trained as solar engineers. Their knowledge and skill power an estimated 45,000 rural homes worldwide.

Students at Barefoot College have a few things in common.

1. All of them are women from small, rural communities where electricity is hard — if not impossible — to come by.

The Barefoot model gives them the skills to power their homes and villages with renewables, in exchange for a small monthly fee based on how much they would have spent on candles, kerosene, and wood. This fee really is small — most of these women get by on less than $1 per day.

2. They're likely illiterate or semi-literate.

At most schools, this would be a huge barrier to learning anything — but not at Barefoot College. Here trainees learn from graduates and other teachers — many with the same literacy limitations. Instead of teaching each other to read instructions, they develop skills by following mimed instructions (sometimes delivered via puppet), learning to recognize component parts by shape or color, and through regular practice.

3. Many of the graduates of Barefoot College are grandmothers.

The school makes a point of prioritizing training for “women who are single mothers, middle-aged, divorced, physically challenged or illiterate because they need the employment opportunity and income the most."

Image by Gaganjit Singh/Flickr.

It just goes to show how giving women tools and knowledge can change both their lives and their communities for the better.

After six months of training, the women leave with the skills to build and maintain solar energy systems, and to manage a solar workshop in their own community. As a teacher who worked with Barefoot College writes, the change in their confidence is astounding:

"Their transformation has been astonishing. Transformed into Solar Engineers, but beyond that, into joyous and confident women. Women who worked and laughed and bossed about other women from 7 countries they had never heard of or known existed, in languages they did not speak. I hardly recognize their faces today, so much younger and alive than when they arrived."

Learn more about Barefoot College on their website or on their YouTube channel.

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On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

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via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

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Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

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One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

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Culture