Friends of Barefoot College is an American-based organization designed to champion the work and values of proven global solutions for the rural poor. We support Barefoot College and its solutions for the transformation of rural communities through the empowerment of women.
By applying rural wisdom and knowledge, the Barefoot Approach demystifies and decentralizes sophisticated technology for appropriate use. We support Barefoot’s belief that formal education is not required for women to bring renewable energy and entrepreneurial activities to their communities. This approach has been proven and tested for more than 45 years in more than 90 countries, touching more than 500,000 lives.
Aurelia (Aura) Reinhardt
A veteran public relations and community affairs executive, Aura Reinhardt is the Managing Director at HillSTORY Marketing, a fully integrated and creative marketing communications agency headquartered in New York City.
Ms. Reinhardt’s career spans more than 30 years in the wine & spirits and lifestyle industries where she led the public relations department of LVMH/ Moet Hennessy USA and most recently the communications team at Bacardi USA. As a Vice President, Communications at Moet Hennessy USA, Reinhardt was responsible for leading all trade and lifestyle press initiatives as well as special events for legendary brands like Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Perignon, Hennessy, Belvedere Vodka and more. During her tenure, she was also responsible for strategic partnerships and entertainment marketing for the brands in television and film.
In 2007, Reinhardt moved from New York to Miami to become Vice President Corporate Communications and Community Relations at Bacardi USA. Under her leadership, Bacardi USA saw significant increases in brand activity thanks to award winning PR programming for iconic brands Bacardi Rums, Grey Goose Vodka, Dewar’s Scotch and Bombay Gin to name a few. Believing in Corporate Social Responsibility, Reinhardt built partnerships in sectors such as education, health and wellbeing, culture and local government; she was instrumental in making Bacardi USA a champion of the arts and historic preservation.
A resident of Coconut Grove, Reinhardt is committed to building a culture landscape in Miami that endures and is distinctive. She accomplishes this by playing leadership roles in young arts organizations such as the Coral Gables Arts Cinema, the Wolfsonian/FIU Museum in South Beach and the Gables Community Foundation which touches all aspects of life from education to health and historic preservation. Ms. Reinhardt is tri-lingual in French/Italian/English and has two sons who live and work in New York.
A native Californian, Emmy winner Khrystyne Haje started her career at age 14 as a fashion model. Gracing covers and billboards world-wide she quickly progressed to commercials, starring roles in Network TV, movies and the role of Simone, on ABC's 5-year top 20 hit Head of the Class - now in syndication.
Khrystyne was awarded the Civilian Medal of Honor from the U.S. Department of Defense, for entertaining U.S. troops in the Persian Gulf on the Bob Hope tour.
People Magazine named Khrystyne, one of "The 50 Most Beautiful People In The World" with a beautiful center fold that won a CLEA for beauty.
Her numerous appearances, starring roles and high recognize-ability add power to her personal message of preserving our natural resources and lifting the human spirit. As a founding board member of ECO, the Earth Communication Office, she works hard to protect our delicate ecosystems. She's presented at the White House on community involvement, publicly taken a stand with MADD, (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) and contributed her time and resources to Best Buddies, which enhances the lives of people with intellectual disabilities by offering love, support and friendship.
David Van de Wiel
Founder of Van de Wiel International in 1981, Manufacturer's Agents, representing Original Equipment suppliers in the European and Global Automotive industry. Specialised marketing focus on new technology related to emissions, weight and fuel saving components.
Primary examples being Electric Cooling Fan modules, blow moulded Plastic Fuel Tanks, specialised injection moulding, Vehicle Electronics and Position and Temperature Sensors. Recent investor and Director of high technology gas sensing company specialising in VOC detection and Hydrogen Sensors.
Since the sale of his company in 2014, the focus has been on opportunities in sustainable, renewable, weight saving and solar industries and bringing automotive based strategic marketing experience to these industries.
Jesús M. Pizarro Rodríguez
Ponce, Puerto Rico native, Jesús M. Pizarro Rodríguez was raised in a family of five sisters and three brothers. He received one part of his education from Pontifical Catholic University of Puerto Rico. Here, Jesús earned a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting.
From the City University of New York, he holds a Master's degree in Public Administration. Along with being a graduate candidate in MSc- Digital Currency at the University of Nicosia, Jesús is also the recipient of a Master's of Business Administration from the University of the Sacred Heart in Puerto Rico, where he majored in Management Information Systems.
Jesús' academic achievements have allowed him to gain esteemed professional positions. Currently he serves as the Vice President of Financial Innovation for Heifer International. This institution's goal is to end world hunger and poverty, while also encouraging others to take better care of the earth. In conjunction with these goals, Jesús implements financial accounting system that have been used in over 33 countries. Along with this position, he has recently published a book titled, Lessons Learned from an ERP: From the Perspective of International Accounting by a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). In his book, Jesús shares experience-based knowledge that helps the financial community, worldwide. He is also a member of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants and Puerto Rico Society of CPAs.
In continuing his mission to work for economic and social development that protects natural resources for future generation, Jesús has recently joined Friends of Barefoot College's board of directors. The Indian based, international, grassroots organization has the exact values that Jesús has trained for during his education and career. Sitting on the board of directors will allow him the opportunity to help rural communities get access to solar energy, clean water and education, which improves their longevity and well being. Outside of his career, Jesús lives in Little Rock, Arkansas where he enjoys exploring the great outdoors with his wife Ileana Resendez and their daughter Mila.
Vijay Chitnis, Senior Philanthropic Advisor
Vijay Chitnis lived in Iran during the Islamic Revolution and was forced to flee and eventually settle in Canada. He carried this experience which motivated him to pursue an Ivy League education. Post college, he spent seven years in the state of Assam, India living in a semi-rural community with limited water and electricity. This helped him understand the struggles and complexities of India.
His fundraising experience at Brown University included the cultivation of 10 multi-million-dollar gifts. He represented Brown at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. As Director of International Initiatives in Brown’s Education Department, he created two international partnerships focusing on education management and pedagogy with Indian high schools securing $3.4 million dollars funding for this project.
"Now, more than ever, in our fast changing and modernizing world, there is such a need to focus attention on helping communities - everywhere- that are being left behind. I want to be a part of the effort by Barefoot College to empower forgotten communities to be self reliant, and gives them access to what is every persons right, clean water and light"
- Aura Reinhardt
"To me, Barefoot College represents pure good in the world...Education, renewable energy, empowerment, sustainability, and improved health, are just a few of the qualities that it brings to people's lives and communities. I absolutely want to be a part of that!"
“The simple empowerment of the poorest villages in the developing world, will do more to educate, improve health and provide a more secure future locally in the community, positively offsetting the simple migration of the poor to city slums”
- David Van de Wiel
“I joined Friends of Barefoot College because their values are based on the life and approaches of Mahatma Gandhi. Also, like the organization, I believe that renewable energy is a pillar in ending world hunger and poverty.”
- Jesús M. Pizarro Rodríguez
Our funding beneficiary: Barefoot College
Barefoot College is a 47 year old not-for-profit entity registered in India. In order to create a way for USA based donors to support barefoot's missions, Friends of Barefoot College International USA, a 501c3 was created to support specific projects in Barefoot College's global expansion activities.