Born in 1950, Joe Madiath first felt disturbed by injustice when he was a child in rural India. He saw the poor workers being exploited and was consumed with concern that his own father might be contributing to the unfairness with the way he treated his employees. He went to his father's workers and suggested they organize themselves into a sort of union so that his father would have to listen to their demands. He became their leader, protesting in his father's lawn, at the age of eleven. His passion for the needs of the poor led to his desire to aid the state of Orissa, India. In 1979, Madiath founded Gram Vikas to bring renewable energy to Orissa's marginalized rural communities. Madiath works off the belief that only after their homes have running water and sanitation will villagers then seek a better quality of life through education and responsible social and economic practices. The model established by Gram Vikas has been used in 361 villages, affecting almost 27,000 households. Gram Vikas has set a goal to bring water and sanitation to 100,000 families by 2010. In 2001, Madiath received the Outstanding Social Entrepreneur award from the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurship. In 2006 he was named NGO of the year and received India's NGO award, and in 2007 received the Skoll Foundation's Social Entrepreneur Award. More than an activist and a believer in the need for renewable energy, Joe Madiath is an ambassador of dignity to the poor of India.
"In 2017, I hope that all the poor people in India would have access to a clean water supply and safe disposal of human waste. I hope our government will realize that the poor should not be further humiliated by being given third rate facilities. It's more than water and sanitation, it's about human dignity."