In 1965, I went to what was called the worst Bihar famine in India, and I saw starvation, death, people dying of hunger, for the first time. It changed my life. I came back home, told my mother, ‘I’d like to live and work in a village.’ Mother went into a coma.
Jeff Sachs has the Millennium Villages. He spends $2.5 million in one village. It’s an absolutely ridiculous model, because I’ve said that if you gave me $2.5 million, I can train 100 grandmothers, solar electrify 100 villages – 10,000 houses – and save you 100,000 litres of kerosene.
You come for the money, you don’t come to Barefoot College. You come for the work and the challenge, you’ll come to the Barefoot College. That is where we want you to try crazy ideas. Whatever idea you have, come and try it. It doesn’t matter if you fail. Battered, bruised, you start again.
The Barefoot College is supposed to be a sparking off process. People are adopting it and owning it, which is really the story behind the college.
I went to a very elitist, snobbish, expensive education in India, and it almost killed me. I was all set to be a diplomat, teacher, doctor – all laid out.