To most people, education, reading and writing all go hand in hand. Barefoot College, a nonprofit college that helps women in India build solar panels for their community, defies this notion.
SU students perform at Optimism Brewery.
On March 2, Optimism Brewery was filled with people ready to help support Barefoot College and those from Seattle University pioneering the event. It involved a guest speaker, an art exhibit, two musical performances by Griffin Leemon and Fluencie, raffles and silent auctions. Raeanna Pittman and Caitlin Mitchell, two freshmen at Seattle U, orchestrated the event to raise money so that they could go to India and actively help with it themselves.
“It’s called a college for the poor and it’s all about women and sustainability. As an engineering student, you don’t see that too often. We have an obligation to use sustainable building materials and build sustainability,” Pittman said. “Women are also a minority in that field, so it’s cool to see a school that’s put both of those together in a country that doesn’t support women’s knowledge and learning anyway.”
The night began with a speech from Kim Corrigan, who worked in India back in 2009 for a week in K-12 education and solving global issues. She advocates and shares information concerning Barefoot College even though she has not formed a formal connection with them yet.
“For that whole week, I basically thought that literacy and learning writing and knowing how to read were the first steps to being educated,” Corrigan said. “And then I ended up going to the Barefoot College and it ended up turning it on its head.”
The people at Barefoot College have no common language and do not know how to read or write. However, they have already started providing electricity to the part of the community with their solar panels.
According to Corrigan, there are a lot of ways we can be educated; it has to do with caring about the community, using our skills for the common good and acknowledging and respecting the wisdom of elders and of the poor. Instead of looking at things from a point of scarcity, they look at things from a point of abundance.
SU student performs at Optimism Brewery.
This is not Mitchell’s first time performing service work and traveling abroad. In her junior year of high school, she traveled to Guatemala with an organization called Avivara to help support education systems in Guatemalan cities.
“The overall goal was to raise money to send to Barefoot College. We wanted to spread awareness about this cause, because we believe in the change that the college is making. We also are in the process of creating a partnership between Seattle University and Barefoot College,” Mitchell said. “Our next step is to have Bunker Roy, the president from Barefoot College, come speak at Seattle University to explain the college, why he decided to found it, and the incredible effect it has had on the community.”
Pittman had heard about Barefoot College a couple years ago, but was unsure how to get involved until she came to Seattle U and spoke with some professors on campus.
“We would be their first college that they’ve ever partnered with,” Pitman said. “They just started their nonprofit here in the U.S. They mostly work with companies and not colleges, so it would be really great to have that support behind them.”
Mitchell and Pittman were extremely happy about their event and thought it went incredibly well. The venue loved it and are excited to put it on again in the coming years. They plan to send students to India around spring of 2018, as well as make this event a recurring thing.
“After we take a weekend to breathe, relax and celebrate the fact that the two of us were able to successfully plan this event, we are moving forward with our proposal to Barefoot College and Seattle University about a partnership,” Mitchell said. “We hope to send students to India as early as next spring, and of course we will begin planning the event for next year! It is our hope that this event will continue even after our four years at Seattle U are over.”
Their goal for the future is to allow students, both in the engineering program and beyond, to travel to India to help build projects with the money they raise.
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