Lotus Outreach

Lotus Outreach International is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the education, health, and safety of at-risk and exploited women and children in the developing world. Lotus Outreach achieves its mission by supporting effective grassroots projects in vulnerable communities.
Jul 7, 2015

Dreams will come true.

Chanthoeun receives a 15kg bag of rice weekly
Chanthoeun receives a 15kg bag of rice weekly

This report explores the success of Lotus Outreach’s GATEway program which supports women with adverse backgrounds through college and towards a desired profession. This project enables 100 promising young women to complete a baccalaureate degree. In a country like Cambodia where rates of gender discrimination and poverty are unbearably high, programs such as this one work to break the relentless cycle.

Living in a poor and separated family since she was young, Chanthoeun has been at risk of dropping out of school for a long time. Chanthoeun, a 23 years old girl who has been in Lotus Outreach’s ‘Higher Education for Impoverished Cambodian Girls’ was born in Svay Pork village, in the Siem Reap province. She has 5 siblings, 3 brothers and 2 sisters. She’s the third daughter in her family.

Chanthoeun’s parents were separated when she was in secondary school—her father left her mother for another wife. Chanthoeun has faced many hurdles in her life, coming from a separated family, living in poverty and being subjected to domestic violence from her father. During my secondary life, my family faced a lot of problems. We lived in a poor family; my father committed domestic violent after drinking palm wine. Now he has step wife and left my mom and me”, she said. Due to these problems she faced, Chanthoeun wanted to drop out school many times. I felt disappointed and ashamed that my father has a step wife, so I didn’t go to school and missed class for several times. However, because of the encouragement from my friends, teachers and the scholarship opportunity from Lotus Outreach through CWCC, I could finish high school successfully”, exppressed Chanthoeun .

After graduating from high school, Chanthoeun’s family could not continue to support her at university. Other obstacles arose; her mother started to abuse alcohol and was aggressive towards Chanthoeun, blaming her for being selfish. Chanthoeun’s mother was never encouraging of her studies and wanted her to stop going to school and find a job to support the family.

Due to this discouragement, Chantoeun never expected that she would have a chance to study at university and felt frustrated, so she decided to find a job to do to support her family. “The difficult thing for me during that time was that my mother drank alcohol and she always blamed me and wanted me to quit my study at just grade 12 as she wanted me to work, Chantheoun added.

Chanthoeun found a job as a housekeeper with a monthly salary of $50. However, her job could not support her family because she was paid a small salary. She got very sick from over working and had to stay in the hospital for one week. After that, she decided to resign from work in order to take care of her health. She understood that she would not be able to get a well-paid job unless she pursued higher education, so she convinced her mother to let her continue her studies at a university. Her mother finally could see the importance of acquiring a higher education, so she agreed and took out loans from her relatives to help Chanthoeun continue her study at South-East Asia University.

However, when Chanthoeun’s relatives went into debt, they could no longer support Chanthoeun. Fortunately, CWCC received news from Lotus Outreach that they were going to support Chanthoeun in her studies and keep her from dropping out. “I thought that I may have to quit my study again like my older brothers and sisters to farm with mother at my hometown or migrate to other areas to be a blue collar worker. However, my life has changed after I received the scholarship. I feel excited and very happy because I think I will have a good future after I finish from university”, Chanthoeun expressed her feeling.

Nowadays Chanthoeun is studying accounting at South-East Asia University with the support from GATEways program. Chanthoeun has received a monthly stipend, rice support of 15kg per month, accommodation fee, extra-course fee (English), computer course and utilities support (water and electricity). The rice support not only helps Chanthoeun, but also helps her family because she can send some rice to her mother when her mom doesn’t get enough rice from farming. “I sometimes send some of my rice support to my mother when she needs rice, so it’s good for my family and me that this rice support can help us”, she added.

After passing the primary teacher entrance exam, Chanthoeun is now attending pedagogy at Provincial Teacher Training College for a 2-year program. Chanthoeun is busy with her pedagogy course, but she still continues her accounting courses at the university in the evening after she finishes class. “For my future, I want to be a primary school teacher and also a civil servant in district hall as an accountant in my community because I want to help back to my community and teach the poor children. This is my dream, so I will live it and make it happen!” Chanthoeun exclaimed.

Chanthoeun final words, “I would like to thank to CWCC, the GATEway program, and the donors that always help me and encourage me to study at university. I promise that I will try hard in studying and will make my dream come true.”

Chanthoeun attending class
Chanthoeun attending class
Chanthoeun attending her accounting class
Chanthoeun attending her accounting class
Jul 1, 2015

Sreynan's inspired future

Sreynan (right) in orange suit with her bike
Sreynan (right) in orange suit with her bike

The following story explores the success of Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education (NFE) program and the way it has impacted a Cambodian women’s life. The women who are a part of NFE are survivors of urban sex working and are seeking to escape the Cambodia’s commercial sex industry. NFE provides education and vocational training to 130 sex workers and their children for 2-3 hours, 5 days a week for 1 year. With this training, 75% of the NFE students leave the red light districts for jobs or peruse further educational training.

Sreynan is 29 years old. She was born in Banang Village, Ratanakmondol District, in Battambang Province. Sreynan is the youngest among 3 daughters of the family. In 1997, Sreynan’s mother got seriously sick and passed away, so Sreynan had to drop out at 7th grade to raise pigs at home to help support her family. Three years later she left her hometown to come to Phnom Penh City with her neighbor to work in a garment factory. She made $70 per month including over time.

After working in the garment factory for 10 years, Sreynan was introduced to Karaoke work by a friend.. She was told that the work was easy—working less hours just serving ice and playing disc— and she could get tips. Since she often got scolded by the manager at the garment factory, she decided to follow her friend to work in Pipop Rikreay Karaoke and got $60 per month as a fix salary. However, after working there for only 15 days, she quit. Karaoke has long been a standard camouflage for sex services. Sreynan expressed that she didn’t like when men would enter the room with out her permission. When calling home to her family, she would say that she was working at a garment factory.

Following that job, she got another Karaoke job with a basic salary of $70 and could earn around $10 tips per day. Working there she still had to put up with guys’ mistreatment (physical and verbal harassment). After leaving that job, she ended up at another Karaoke job and met our NFE project officer who was promoting NFE in hopes to inspire more students. Sreynan was inspired by the NFE project officer and wanted to work towards a brighter future.

Sreynan wanted to improve her reading and writing skills because since dropping out of school in the 7th grade, she had forgotten almost all of her school skills. She also wanted to be able to do some math, especially division and multiplication, so that she could develop skills for sewing. She enrolled into the NFE program at the end of January and started sewing skill training (provided by the program) on April 22, 2015. She also received a bicycle from the program, which enabled her to go to her skill training that is 4km from the NFE class she is attending.

When being asked about how she felt about program, Sreynan answered “I feel very happy because I am now able to do more math, I’m acquiring the skill that will make a big change to my future, and I am cared for—the program takes me to hospital when I am sick and consults me when I have any problems.”

When asked if she’s noticed any changes in herself, Sreynan answered “Yes, many things. I started to think about future and how to live a better life which I didn’t before; I have a better saving plan—allocating certain percentage of my earning for saving rather than saving what’s left at the end of the month; and I am motivated to continue to struggle and strive for a better future.” She added “I think the program is very useful. It helps women to become stronger, more independent (not having to rely on men) and having skill to support ourselves, so we don’t have to do the work which was filled with guys harassing us and excessive alcohol drinks.”

Sreynan is thankful for the wonderful changes she has experienced thanks to the NFE program and the program donors who are continuing to support her towards her happy, healthier life.

Sreynan working on her sewing skills, using math!
Sreynan working on her sewing skills, using math!
NFE girls at school, Sreynan in back
NFE girls at school, Sreynan in back
Jun 19, 2015

Valuing education within an indigenous community

Cherbb
Cherbb's class

The Phnong Education Initiative provides minority students in Cambodia with scholarships and housing assistance so they can continue to attend school. Otherwise these students would be forced to drop out of school due to poverty and/or distance from the nearest school. The indigenous minority, Phnong, survives on subsistence agriculture. Literacy rates for highland tribes are 5.3%, and females among this minority fall to 1%. Phnong Education Initiative provides children and teacher trainees with scholarship packages, and aims to change to gender imbalances.

Cherbb, a 15 year old that is in 7th grade lives with her mom, Krum in their home at Pu Haem Village. Cherbbs family and 25 other households share a large part of Phnong’s community where they continue to practice slash burn agriculture on land that sits on the edge of the ‘Mondulkrir Protected Forest’ area which has one of the largest continuous stretches of dry and semi-evergreen forests in South East Asia.

Cherbb’s community has a local primary school, by her estimation it is, “a 20 minute walk up a hill,” but the nearest secondary school is 14 kilometers away. At least half of the children from this Phnong community don’t finish their first year of high school because it becomes too far and too expensive to commute, so they are forced to drop out.

Luckily for Cherbb and her sister, their parents see the value of education and receive support from Lotus Outreach that allows them to stay in dormitory accommodations during the week and then return home for the weekends. Almost all of the PEI students work on the weekends either on the home plot or to earn money doing seasonal work when it’s available near their homes. Cherbbs mother tells us, “With an education a girl can and often will, support her family with the salary from the type of job education will ensure. Without assistance from the program, which pays for school uniforms, books, tuition and weekly stipend we also wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of transport and incidental expenses and Cherbb would have to drop out. We feel education is important and valuable, but we can only do what’s affordable for us. We are very thankful for the support”

Cherbb is very happy to have transitioned from primary school into 7th grade, “its my dream to teach English at lower secondary school level, I am very keen to learn English"

The Phnong people have been living in mud floor dwellings with wood and thatched roof huts for hundred of years. The Phnong community lives 40kms from then nearest health clinic. Infant mortality although preventable, is very common problem. Cherbbs mother spoke of her experience with this, “I actually had 4 children and two died of diarrhea, one at 4 months and one only a week old. Even though we only have two children, I'm not well and use the birth control pill to avoid pregnancy. We drink water from a ring well not far up the hill and boil it to avoid infections.”

The traditions and culture of the Phnong are difficult to hang on to, as interest in preserving their culture becomes less important than their immediate survival. Cherbbs mom expressed, “We will continue to support Cherbbs education as best we can until she finishes year 12 and becomes a Lower Secondary School Teacher”. Given that no one else in the village has ever achieved more than a 10th grade education, Lotus Outreach is encouraged to assist students such as Cherbb as long as possible. We will continue to support them towards a goal of higher education and an overall well being to in the Ethnic Phnong communities of Cambodia.

Thank you to all the supporters who allow young students like Cherbb to attend school, Lotus Outreach couldn't do it without you!

 

 

Cherbb(second to the right) and friends
Cherbb(second to the right) and friends
Cherbb and her sister husking rice
Cherbb and her sister husking rice
PEI girls at school with teachers and Glenn
PEI girls at school with teachers and Glenn

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