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Why I Walk Barefoot – An Unordinary School Empowering Women To Power The World

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In a quiet classroom forty empty chairs await their students. A blackboard, dusty with chalk, takes up one wall; directly opposite a world map flutters in the dry desert breeze from an open window. Sunlight streams in from the doorframe, as the students begin to take their places around a long trestle table.

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This is not your everyday classroom. And these are not your everyday students.

This is The Barefoot College, an NGO which aims to empower rural communities to become sustainable and self-sufficient by creating Rural Solar Engineers.

Solar Engineering Class of 2015 / 11 countries, 36 women.

The Purpose

To return home and illuminate their own villages!

1.6 Billion people in the world do not have access to light at night. (Photojournalist: Lar Bolands)

Without renewable energy the poorest populations must plunder limited resources to provide a single flame of light for their families. Many nights, they are left in the dark without the ability to capitalize on hours after sunset. This means that because most developing regions work during the day, adults and children alike lose out on opportunities at night for education, recreation or development.

Village Chief has given his blessings to these four Togolese Mamas who will return in 6 months to solar electrify the community. (Photojournalist: Lar Bolands)

Most of the women in class concentrate on their work for the day (today they’re soldering circuit boards) but on my visit Lucy, from Cameroon, smiles and leans forward to shake my hand. Sitting at the head of the table nearby is Maria, a Solar Mama from Bolivia. Her story is one of pure inspiration – she travelled alone for 2000 miles on her first trip away from her family of ten children and two grandchildren. Now she shares a dorm with two Ecuadorian Mamas, Patricia & Estella, who look up to her as their own mother figure – “We could not do this without her” they say.

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Patricia, Maria & Estella (Left to Right)

The notion that grandmothers, with no prior engineering skills (and very limited formal education), can electrify whole villages seems, at first, untenable. But after five minutes in this diverse classroom I can’t imagine a more simple and compelling idea. Barefoot College gives these women the opportunity to escape the dogmas of their previous societies and live more freely. Allowing them the space and time to find their true potential.

“Anyone, regardless of gender, caste or age, can become empowered to learn new skills.” – Gordhan, Solar Trainer

The Method

“Learning by doing. Doing by learning.” – The Barefoot College Way

From South Sudan to Myanmar, Togo to Panama, from 68 different countries around the world “Solar Mamas” (as they are affectionately known) have been chosen by their communities, given their first passport and leave their homes and families behind for the first time in their lives to begin a transformative journey in rural Rajasthan, India, where the Barefoot College Campus is based.

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 fills the room with an air that gives me strength.

http://valhallamovement.com/blog/2014/11/27/walk-barefoot/

“The concept works great practically, now lets see if the academics can make it work theoretically.” – His Holiness the IVX Dalai Lama, visited in 2012

The Proof

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.

Join The Barefoot College Team, Create More Autonomous Villages Around the Rural World


<Lar Bolands documentation was funded by the Simon Cumbers Media Fund & Irish Aid>

<Article written by Amy Quinn>

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Prince Harry: “I Will Not Be Bullied Into Playing A Game That Killed My Mom”

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Last week Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle announced that they would be stepping down from their royal duties, and ultimately their life as royals.

  • Reflect On:

    Why do so many view powerful figures like the Royal's as gods? Is it time to end this type of perception?

Last week Prince Harry and Meaghan Markle announced that they would be stepping down from their royal duties, and ultimately their life as royals. This is pretty huge news. In regards to what prompted this decision there is certainly a lot we could speculate over, perhaps they want to distance themselves from the royal family because of the recent scandal involving Uncle Prince Andrew and the allegations against him being involved in child sex trafficking, maybe they simply want to get out of the public eye, or perhaps they see how the monarchy has already started to crumble and want to get out while they can.

Whatever the reason may be, it certainly seems to validate the massive shift in consciousness that is currently taking place on our planet and perhaps throughout the entire Universe. Some people have already been calling for the abolishment of the British monarchy after the Queen passes away, as many feel this system is very archaic in this day and age.

On The Surface

It was reported that the Queen had no idea of Harry and Meaghan’s decision before it was announced, and inside sources have told reporters that the “monarchy has never been seen in such a bad state.” (source)

Longtime friend of Prince Harry, JJ Chalmers, made an insightful comment during an interview on BBC’s The One on January 10th, stating that he feels Harry likely made this decision in order to “protect his family” and was simply attempting to put his family first and do what was right for them. The details regarding what Harry might be wanting to “protect his family” from weren’t disclosed.

A video that has gained a lot of popularity on social media over the past week or so, being retweeted over 70,000 times since being posted on January 8th, is an interview of Harry himself discussing the need to protect his family.

In another clip from that same interview we can clearly hear Harry saying that, “I will not be bullied into playing the same game that killed my mom.”

How’s The Queen Taking The News?

This past Monday, January 13th a meeting took place to address Harry’s decision. According to CNN.com,

The highly unusual meeting was called after the couple’s bombshell announcement last week that they wished to step back from their roles as senior members of the royal family. The Queen was joined at the summit by Prince Charles, Prince William and Prince Harry, while Meghan was due to have dialed in from Canada.

After a crisis meeting of senior royals at the Queen’s Sandringham estate north of London, the Queen said she had agreed that Prince Harry and Meghan could split their time between the UK and Canada but that “complex matters” would have to be resolved. The monarch said she had ordered final plans to be drawn up in the next few days.

In a statement after the meeting, the Queen said the family would have preferred the couple to “remain full-time working members of the royal family,” but that they “respect and understand” Prince Harry and Meghan’s “wish to live a more independent life.”

The Queen said the family had “very constructive discussions on the future of my grandson and his family” during the meeting, adding that they are “entirely supportive of Harry and Meghan’s desire to create a new life as a young family.”

There were “complex matters for my family to resolve,” and no final agreement had been reached, particularly over Harry and Meghan’s desire to become “financially independent.”

“There is some more work to be done, but I have asked for final decisions to be reached in the coming days,” the Queen said in the statement.

Going A Bit Deeper

When we look at what happened to “the game that killed William and Harry’s mum,” she was harassed relentlessly by the media, and ultimately ended in a fatal car crash. However, there is a lot of controversy behind this official story. Many believe that Princess Diana was against the monarchy in some ways and was attempting to break free from it’s clutches and even potentially expose some of their secrets, and thus believe that her death was no accident, but rather that she was silenced by being taken out by the Royal family.

Are Harry and Meaghan stepping away because they refuse to continue to be harassed by paparazzi, or are they making a bold statement and declaring their values by taking a stance that shows that they no longer wish to be affiliated with or support the Royal family? Could this signify the beginning of the end for the British monarchy? Only time will tell.

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The US Navy Says Sharing UFO Footage & Documents Could ‘Cause Grave Damage to National Security’

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The US Navy recently released a statement claiming that more disclosure regarding a 2004 UFO incident in the form of video footage and documentation would be a big threat to national security.

  • Reflect On:

    The mainstream media has long used false information, or real information, and shaped the narrative to suit a particular agenda that serves the interests of their funders. Are we seeing the same thing here?

There is perhaps no other topic that used to be considered a ‘conspiracy theory’ that’s now taken extremely seriously within the mainstream, like the topic of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), also sometimes referred to Unidentified Ariel Phenomenon (UAP’s). This is in large part due to the fact that official, declassified documents and footage have been released from a number of intelligence agencies and military organizations, on a global scale. Furthermore, all of it’s complimented by statements from high ranking military personnel, ex-astronauts, and many more.

An incident that really blew this subject open in the United States occurred in 2004, where several Navy pilots that were stationed aboard the USS Nimitz encountered a “Tic-Tac-Shaped” UFO. To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science (TTSA) headed by Tom Delonge alongside several ex-high ranking intelligence personnell, like Christopher Mellon who served 30 years in the federal government and was Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Intelligence from 1997  to 2002, obtained the video from the United States Navy, which the Navy later verified was real.  He has published detailed articles for outlets like The Hill as well as The Washington Post emphasizing the reality and seriousness of this subject. He is one of several to do so

Here’s one of the videos of the object, here’s another, and here’s one more of other instances that they’ve obtained.

The 2004 incident was beamed by the New York times, and high ranking people, like Louis Elizondo who headed a an “Ariel Threat Identification Program” at the Pentagon (he’s also part of the TTSA) stated that he believed these objects are extraterrestrial. He also made the point to emphasize that we should not get caught up in this particular 2004 incident, as there are many. He told VICE that “people should not be surprised by the revelation that other videos exist and at greater length.”

More news has come out regarding the 2004 incident, at it’s in response to a recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that was filed for more video footage and documents regarding the incident. The footage and documents that were released of the incident don’t show the entire video, and don’t make up all of the documents. A spokesperson from the Navy’s Office of Intelligence (ONI) confirmed that the agency posses at least one classified video pertaining to this incident.

According to an ONI  spokesperson, sharing the information with the public “would cause exceptionally grave damage to the National Security of the United States.”

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The ONI also admitted to possessing at least one video of unknown length, classified as “secret” by the Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR). ONI didn’t reveal whether this footage is the same 1-minute video that was leaked online in 2007 and widely released by The New York Times in 2017. However, in November 2019, several naval officers who witnessed the incident aboard the Nimitz told Popular Mechanics that they had seen a much longer video of the encounter that was between 8 and 10 minutes long. These original recordings were promptly collected and erased by “unknown individuals” who arrived on the ship by helicopter shortly after the incident, one officer said. (source)

In the 2004 incident, the object in question was performing maneuvers and flying at speeds that no known air craft on Earth can perform.

Grave Damage To National Security?? Seriously??

One thing that seems to rub me the wrong way about mainstream UFO disclosure is what seems to be a constant ‘threat narrative.’ This is a phenomenon that dates back hundreds, if not thousands of years. Cases have ben documented for a very, very long time. If there was some sort of ‘extraterrestrial threat’ or a threat to national security by these objects, wouldn’t some type of ‘event’ have already taken place by now?

Based on my research, and the research of many other UFO researchers around the world, the majority of documented UFO incidents around the world have shown no sign of a threat. Sure, they may be intrusive, but there these objects have not behaved in any way that has been indicative of threat. That being said, this does not mean that footage of these objets performing in a way that represents a threat doesn’t exist, but based on what we have now, 99.99 percent of these cases, in my opinion, do not display behaviour that is at all indicative of a threat.

In fact, not only do these objects not display characteristics of hostility, they are documented performing predominantly evasive manures, making multiple efforts to avoid our air-craft. For example, Canadian defense minister Paul Hellyer said that these objects commonly take “corrective measures to avoid our aircraft,” and that our military tends to “shoot first and ask questions after.” (source)  Don’t forget four star General Nathan Twinning, who stated in a declassified intelligence document decades ago that,

“The phenomenon is something real and not visionary or fictitious. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and motion which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly air-craft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically, or remotely.” (source)

With all of this being said, it’s understandable how, from our current level of consciousness that these objects would be seen as a threat, especially from a military and intelligence perspective. For example, when a UFO is tracked on radar, military air-craft are usually sent out to take a closer look. There are many documented cases that show electronic systems within the military jet go down, they don’t work.  For example, here’s an interesting case from Iran via a declassified NSA document:

As the F-4 approached a range of 25 nautical miles it lost all instrumentation and communications. When the F-4 turned away from the object and apparently was no longer a threat to it, the aircraft regained all instrumentation and communications. Another brightly lighted object came out of the original object. The second object headed straight toward the F4.

 UFOs in close proximity to nuclear missile facilities have also been associated with the complete shut-down and deactivation of nuclear missiles. So that’s interesting.

The issue is, is the threat narrative being pushed by the mainstream for some sort of ulterior motive, the same way we’ve seen the mainstream push the war on terror ? Are we being lied to again? To be honest, it’s hard to believe anything that comes from mainstream media these days, and many people have lost their trust in these networks. Truth is not synonymous with mainstream media, so what makes the UFO topic any different? Are they trying to control the narrative?

What’s curious to me is why all of a sudden do a select group of people get to publish serious pieces on the subject in mainstream media outlets while a number of ‘credible’ people as well as UFO researchers have been doing this for years, yet continue to go largely ignored by the mainstream media? These are all important questions to ask?

I go deeper in an article I recently published, which you can read below if you’re interested:

Do UFOs Represent Some Sort of Threat? Or Is This Just Government Propaganda? 

The Takeaway

This is a subject that’s full of truth, but also full of disinformation. At the end of the day, it’s curious as to why mainstream media has control over the narrative and never addresses incidents and facts that’ve been uncovered by academics and researchers for decades. And why now? This is a topic that truly leaves no aspect of humanity untouched, it has large implications, especially for human consciousness. That being said, we have a lot of work to do down here on planet Earth to get our ‘stuff’ together, but this topic is no doubt always interesting to explore, and can assist one in expanding their consciousness.

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Scientists Share Facts About Vaccines At World Health Organization Conference For Vaccine Safety

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Many scientists presented facts about vaccines and vaccine safety at the recent Global Health Vaccine Safety summit hosted by the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.

  • Reflect On:

    Why are so many people fighting against each other? Why are there "pro-vax" and "anti-vax" groups? Are these terms not useless? Do they prevent us from having discussions that need to be had and moving forward appropriately?

According to organizations like the American Medical Association as well as the World Health Organization, vaccine hesitancy among people, parents, and, as mentioned by scientists at the World Health Organization’s recent Global Vaccine Safety Summit, health professionals and scientists continues to increase. This is no secret, as vaccines have become a very popular topic over the past few years alone. In fact, the World Health Organization has listed vaccine hesitancy as one of the biggest threats to global health security.

The issue of vaccine hesitancy is no secret, for example, one study (of many) published in the journal EbioMedicine outlines this point, stating in the introduction:

Over the past two decades several vaccine controversies have emerged in various countries, including France, inducing worries about severe adverse effects and eroding confidence in health authorities, experts, and science (Larson et al., 2011). These two dimensions are at the core of the vaccine hesitancy (VH) observed in the general population. VH is defined as delay in acceptance of vaccination, or refusal, or even acceptance with doubts about its safety and benefits, with all these behaviors and attitudes varying according to context, vaccine, and personal profile, despite the availability of vaccine services (Group, 2014,Larson et al., 2014Dubé et al., 2013). VH presents a challenge to physicians who must address their patients’ concerns about vaccines and ensure satisfactory vaccination coverage.

At the conference, this fact was emphasized by Professor Heidi Larson, a Professor of Anthropology and the Risk and Decision Scientist Director at the Vaccine Confidence Project. She is referenced, as you can see, by the authors in the study above. At the conference, she emphasized that safety concerns among people and health professionals seem to be the biggest issue regarding vaccine hesitancy.

She also stated,

The other thing that’s a trend, and an issue, is not just confidence in providers but confidence of health care providers, we have a very wobbly health professional frontline that is starting to question vaccines and the safety of vaccines. That’s a huge problem, because to this day any study I’ve seen… still, the most trusted person on any study I’ve seen globally is the health care provider, and if we lose that, we’re in trouble.

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She also brought up her belief that safety studies are incomplete, and that to continue to refer people to the same old science on safety is not adequately addressing their new concerns because better studies need to be done. Furthermore, she recommended that doctors and professionals forego name-calling with ‘hostile language’ such as “anti-vax”. She recommended encouraging people to ask questions about vaccine safety. After all, it makes sense–in order to make our vaccines safer and more effective, you would think everybody would be on board with constant questioning and examination. After all, that’s just good science, and it’s in everyone’s best interest.

Another interesting point that caught my attention was brought up by Dr. Martin Howell Friede, Coordinator of Initiative For Vaccine Research at the World Health Organization. He brought up the topic of vaccine adjuvants like thimerosal or aluminum, for example. In certain vaccines, without these adjuvants the vaccine simply doesn’t work. Dr. Friede mentioned that there are clinical studies that blame adjuvants for adverse events seen as a result of administering vaccines, and how people in general often blame adverse reactions to vaccines being the result of the vaccine adjuvant. He mentioned aluminum specifically.

He showed concern given the fact that “without adjuvants, we are not going to have the next generation of vaccines.”

He also stated that,

When we add an adjuvant, it’s because it is essential. We do not add adjuvants to vaccines because we want to do so, but when we add them it adds to the complexity. And I give courses every year on ‘how do you develop vaccines’ and ‘how do you make vaccines’ and the first lesson is, while you are making your vaccine, if you can avoid using an adjuvant, please do so. Lesson two is, if you’re going to use an adjuvant, use one that has a history of safety, and lesson three is, if you’re not going to do that, think very carefully.

Furthermore, he criticized the assumption that if an adjuvant like aluminum appears to be safe for one vaccine, that it should be not be presumed to be safe for other vaccines. Dr. Friede said that current safety surveillance is quite effective at determining immediate effects (such as immediate injury to the arm at the injection site), but not as effective in identifying “systemic” long term adverse events.

When I heard him mention lesson two, that “if you’re going to use an adjuvant, use one that has a history of safety,” it instantly reminded me of aluminum because it’s an adjuvant used in multiple vaccines like the HPV vaccine, for example, but has no history of safety.

A study published as far back as 2011 in Current Medical Chemistry makes this quite clear, emphasizing that,

Aluminum is an experimentally demonstrated neurotoxin and the most commonly used vaccine adjuvant. Despite almost 90 years of widespread use of aluminum adjuvants, medical science’s understanding about their mechanisms of action is still remarkably poor. There is also a concerning scarcity of data on toxicology and pharmacokinetics of these compounds. In spite of this, the notion that aluminum in vaccines is safe appears to be widely accepted. Experimental research, however, clearly shows that aluminum adjuvants have a potential to induce serious immunological disorders in humans. (source)

The key sentence here is that “their mechanisms of action is still remarkably poor.” Based on what Dr. Friede said at the conference, it really makes you think.

A study published in BMC Med in 2015 found that “Evidence that aluminum-coated particles phagocytozed in the injected muscle and its draining lymph nodes can disseminate within phagocytes throughout the body and slowly accumulate in the brain further suggests that alum safety should be evaluated in the long term.”

This brings me to another point made at the conference by many scientists in attendance, which was that according to some of them, vaccines seem to lack the appropriate safety testing. This is another big reason why people are so confused and have voiced their concerns about safety, as mentioned above by Professor Larson.

Marion Gruber, PhD and Director of the FDA Office of Vaccines Research and Review, questioned the scope of vaccine safety surveillance and monitoring during pre-licensing vaccine trials as well during the conference.

One source of confusion might be that ‘high-ranking’ health authorities sometimes making conflicting statements. For example, Soumya Swaminathan, MD and Chief Scientist at the World Health Organization, stated at the conference,

I don’t think we can overemphasize the fact that we really don’t have very good safety monitoring systems in many countries and this adds to the miscommunication and the misapprehensions because we’re not able to give clear cut answers when people ask questions about deaths that have occurred due to particular vaccines… One should be able to give a very factual account of what exactly is happening, what the cause of deaths are, but in most cases there’s some obfuscation at that level and therefore there’s less and less trust then in the system.

Prior to this statement, in a promotional video released just days before the conference began, she stated that “we have vaccine safety systems, robust vaccine safety systems.”

She completely contradicted herself.

If you’d like access to the entire conference, you can do so at the World Health Organization’s website.

The Takeaway

The scientific community should never stop questioning, especially when it comes to medication. Based on the information that’s come out at this conference, it’s quite clear that there is a lot of room for improvement when it comes to the development of vaccines and vaccine safety overall. Discussion is always encouraging, as long as it’s peaceful and facts are presented like they were at this conference. It’s better to understand the reasons why a lot of people are hesitant about vaccination and appropriately respond, instead of simply using ridicule and hatred because that’s never effective and both parties cannot move forward that way. At the end of the day, scientists should never cease to question.

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