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.
Sep 11, 2013

Pedaling the long road to college: Mealea's story

Mealea: bright, beautiful, and born into poverty
Mealea: bright, beautiful, and born into poverty

The profile of 20 year-old Mealea is typical of the hundreds of girls we support through Lotus Pedals in Cambodia, and her inspiring story underscores the extent to which a bicycle can alter the course of a girl’s life.

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, Mealea’s illiterate parents were forced by poverty and high-interest debt to migrate illegally to Thailand in search of work, leaving Mealea and her five siblings—all under the age of 13—alone to fend for themselves.

Though Mealea struggled to help feed and care for her siblings, she always placed a high value on her education. “When I was in the fourth grade, I started to work making rice wine and feeding pigs,” she shares. “I often got to school late because of those chores and the long distance from home to school. However, my school performance was not bad; I was always among the top 10 in my class.”

Recognizing both her aptitude and her precarious situation, Lotus Outreach began providing Mealea with a scholarship—including a Lotus Pedals bike—in junior high school to prevent her from dropping out. This scholarship not only covered Mealea’s school fees, supplies, healthcare, books, uniforms, bicycle, and lunch money, but provided her with a large bag of rice each month to ensure her young siblings wouldn’t go hungry if Mealea continued going to school instead of work.

We shared Mealea’s pride when she passed her rigorous exams to graduate high school in 2010, and was admitted on a full tuition scholarship to the Vanda Institute of Accounting in the capital. Mealea continues to receive support from Lotus Outreach for her living expenses, food, travel, and school supplies through our GATEways university program, and looks forward to graduating next year. In the meantime, she continues to excel in her studies and has expressed a deep and passionate commitment to helping other children in Cambodia. In addition to studying full-time, working part-time to help pay down her parents’ debt, and learning English on the weekends, Mealea volunteers at her school as well as with the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center. 

“I feel very deep gratitude to the donors for supporting me,” shares Mealea. “When I was sick, you cared for me. When my bicycle broke and I couldn’t get to school, you helped me fix it. You educated me and offered me every opportunity you could. You have been like my parents, and I will not be satisfied until I have been able to repay your generosity by helping others!”

We thank you for clearing the path for hundreds of girls like Mealea to pursue education and contribute to the development of their families, their villages, and their country. To learn more about Lotus Pedals and pledge additional support, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/lotuspedals.

Mealea (left) on her Lotus Pedals bike
Mealea (left) on her Lotus Pedals bike
Mealea (right) at her university library
Mealea (right) at her university library

Links:

Sep 6, 2013

From High Risk to Higher Education

Loeun Chantha at School!
Loeun Chantha at School!

Hello, my name is Loeun Chantha and I am 21 years old. I was born into a poor farmer’s family in the Roluos Village of rural Cambodia. Growing up an orphan, whose mother passed away at a young age and whose father remarried when I was in grade 7, I was raised by my aging, ill grandmother. Seeing my family struggle to put food on the table, I had made up my mind to drop out of school and risk my life to travel across the border to Thailand in order to find work and support my family. Luckily, around the time I was conjuring up such ideas, an announcement was made at my local school: a scholarship opportunity for needy students offered by the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) and Lotus Outreach. I applied for it immediately, and after going through a rigorous interview process, I was chosen for the scholarship program.

The program not only offered tuition for my education, but also provided me with key items without which I could not have attended school. These included my uniforms, school supplies, bicycle for travelling to and from school, and a monthly stipend. I worked hard throughout high school, but when I reached 12th grade, I was diagnosed with a tumor in my throat that required an urgent operation. Fortunately, because I was in the Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) scholarship program, Lotus Outreach paid for my operation and saw me back to recovery.

Moreover, my teachers along with the program staff were extremely supportive in helping me plan for my future and presenting me with all my available opportunities. They saw me through until I graduated high school and went on to pass the exam for the two-year Teacher Training program at Banteay Meanchey Teaching Center. Lotus Outreach and CWCC continue to support me by providing food for my family so that I may continue my education on to college. Without the funding to buy textbooks and other necessary support, I would not have been able to continue my education beyond high school. Thanks to supporters like you, my dream of becoming a primary school teacher is now becoming a reality!

Jul 12, 2013

I didn't think a girl like me would have a chance

Chenda
Chenda

Born just five years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge, 29 year-old Channa was part of an entire generation of children that grew up under an education system in crisis. The Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979) completely decimated the educated class; 90% of Cambodia’s teachers were systematically murdered and the public school system was disbanded entirely. In the wake of genocide, social upheaval, and political chaos, Cambodia’s school system had to be rebuilt from scratch.

Despite this, Channa was one of the fortunate ones who managed to attend school through 6th grade in her home province of Kandal. In her early twenties, Channa’s fortune turned and she was widowed with an infant son. With a child and three younger siblings to support, she migrated to Phnom Penh in search of work in the capital’s many garment factories.

Though Channa was able to earn $100 a month in a garment factory, it required extensive hours and still wasn’t enough to support five people. Soon, Channa and her younger sister followed the path of many other uneducated and desperate women in Cambodia; they turned to the red light districts.

Channa was given a second chance at continuing her education in 2012, when she was identified by our Non-Formal Education (NFE) and Life Skills program as a prospective student. Channa excelled in her course, and maintained an attendance rate of 80% the entire year. Because of this, she was selected among approximately 100 other NFE students to participate in a new cosmetology apprenticeship program introduced last year.

The program trainer, Vida, describes the structure of the apprenticeship: “It will usually take around a year to finish the program, but there is no time limit. Training can continue until skills are sufficiently developed, so the trainees can work around their schedules. There is also an employment guarantee to work in my salon after finishing the course, either on salary or a salary/commission basis.”

Channa is excited and optimistic about the future. “I plan to continue working here once I finish the course until I earn enough to go back to my village and set up my own shop,” she shares. “After finishing I will be earning $150 per month plus what I can earn from outside work.”

Twenty year-old Chenda likewise didn’t get very far in school. She dropped out in the 5th grade to migrate to Phnom Penh for karaoke bar work. A struggling but motivated single parent, Chenda was selected for both her vulnerability and demonstrated commitment to starting a cosmetology business.

“I can’t tell you how happy I am to have been selected,” she tells us. “I really didn’t think a girl like me with a 5th grade education would have a chance to escape the lifestyle and work I was doing.”

Chenda’s mother lives with her in a tiny 5x4 meter rented room with paper-thin walls, one of many rented out by karaoke workers in that building. We visited her in 2010 and even then her tiny room was crowded with hairdressing equipment hanging on every wall, sure signs she was eager to establish an income that would free her from karaoke work.

Chenda enthusiastically shared her roadmap for the future: “I plan to stay and work in the salon for a year after the course and learn wedding makeup and hair which is very lucrative and in high demand. I’m also dying to learn haircutting. I can’t wait to start it!”

Given their drive and aptitude, we have every reason to believe that Channa and Chenda will be successful in their future endeavors.

We are always so stunned to see the extent to which an investment of just $270 can turn the world of one woman – and her family – around completely. The goal of the Non-Formal Education program is not only to empower members of the “lost generation” in Cambodia who missed out public schooling, but break the cycle of destitution for their children and all future generations as well.

Chenda practicing hair styling skills
Chenda practicing hair styling skills
Channa (left) practices makeup application
Channa (left) practices makeup application

Links:

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