3 Days. 8 visitors from Credit Suisse India. An eye-opening experience for volunteers and Barefoot staff alike.
When Credit Suisse planned to visit Barefoot College’s main campus in Tilonia, Rajasthan, they made arrangements with few expectations. What transpired during their 3-day visit was truly moving for both parties. Our 8 guests requested a short yet comprehensive immersion into a number of our campus departments through scheduled volunteering projects. They assisted our staff with professional insight- and sometimes, with bare hands.
…in my mind, I was thinking, this is going to be another CSR experience like the many I have had in the past. I wasn’t prepared for what lay ahead of me.
Barefoot’s departments are far-reaching in their cumulative social initiatives- it’s always a complex explanation to share with new guests. Thus, a schedule for orientation was established where our Credit Suisse volunteers would receive thorough glimpses into our keystone campus projects while also interacting more deeply with team members. They were introduced first to some of our long-term and local staff, such as Gupta ji and Ramniwas ji, whose wise and experienced outlook is frequently relied upon to help move along more recent projects.
Taking the Time to Walk Barefoot with us…
Departments including BBarefoot, Kabad Se Jugaad, Hatheli Sansthan and the Nursery were then delved into, with their array of community, rurally-driven efforts. Many of the departments are supported by young, passionate staff and long-term volunteers who have dedicated their time to building resilient, competent models that utilize and support rural communities. The Credit Suisse volunteers offered their mentorship and expertise about strategizing and marketing assets to department heads while gaining their own insight about successfully running rural initiatives that can be expanded and replicated globally.
If you were to tell me that it is possible to make scientists out of tribal men and women, I would believe that today, now that I have witnessed first-hand, what has happened at Barefoot College. Mr. Roy has not only ensured that women step out of their confinement, become confident individuals who make a living for themselves, earning respect but also eradicated deep-rooted inhuman practices such as untouchability and caste systems.
The success of the local programs to empower and educate rural women was swiftly identified by them, as they witnessed the capability of women belonging to Tilonia itself to work and to think critically on an array of projects. When the volunteers assisted the Solar Cooker department, for instance, they met with the three local women who are responsible for the construction of cookers, confidently introducing visitors to their process. They connected with Sanskruti, Solar Cooker consultant, on marketing strategies to boost the fruitfulness of the enterprise.
Other volunteers spent time strategizing with Ojasvita of Hatheli Sansthan, assisting with marketing and branding insights that could boost revenue and support additional artisans for their brilliant and skillful handicrafts. Others paid a visit to the digital literacy classes that our Solar Sakhis were participating in, exchanging stories and sharing words of wisdom about technology. As the Sakhis graduate from their training and rejoin their communities, it’s crucial that they each remember that they hold valuable potential that can ripple into strengthened feminine power, thus empowering their entire regions. Critical thinking and the use of tools such as smartphones can greatly benefit rural women, and the Credit Suisse volunteers helped to explain the benefits.
How has a Rural Empowerment Initiative Thrived for so Long?
During the end of their visit, the volunteers had a meet and greet with Barefoot’s founder, Bunker Roy. They discussed with him their impressions of the campus, the generosity and accommodating nature of the staff both old and new, and the myriad projects that have given the organization such its special reputation. They explained to Bunker their joy and feeling of fulfillment in the act of social work with genuinely kind individuals. Bunker Roy shared some of his insights and his own thought processes from previous years that led him into the line of work that built the organization into its unique and effectively scaled structure still running today.
What does it take to keep a 47+-year-old social service functioning? The answer could be more about simplicity and un-learning than one might assume. Sometimes simply listening and caring about one-another shines more brilliantly than our credentials or creeds. Despite differences between individuals, we can still come together to grow, take care and build on collective solidarity that speaks to anyone who’s willing to listen carefully. If Barefoot is exemplary of any one thing, we hope it’s that peace and austerity are evergreen solutions to some of the largest challenges of the day.
The Feeling was Mutual!
Just as impressed as the Credit Suisse guests were, the Barefoot team was grateful for the time and dedication that was given to them. Professional advice and patient insights were much appreciated by our departments, who attest to the generosity of the volunteers. Their willingness to dive deep into some of Barefoot’s key initiatives helped our staff to feel valuable, legitimate and respected for their efforts to continue supporting rural initiatives. The interactions felt fruitful and the connections real.
Barefoot College would like to give a large and cordial THANK YOU! to the Credit Suisse volunteers for piloting this project with us, and please do visit us again. Your presence will resonate for a long time.
For more information on our outstanding partnerships, click here.