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.
Jan 2, 2014

Happy New Year! Good News from Cambodia!

Phannin is now #1 in her class!
Phannin is now #1 in her class!

As the year ends, Lotus Outreach is continuing to work hard, providing educational opportunities for women and girls in places like Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Our Non-Formal Education (NFE) Program has 104 young women enrolled working to escape sex-work by learning important skills like literacy and numeracy, as well as advanced skills like sewing, food service and cosmetology.  These young women are capable of so much, just look at our NFE student Phannin.

Phannin is a twenty-one year old student of the NFE program. After working at a number of Phnom Penh’s beer gardens and infamous “karaoke” brothels, she has finally found a way to build a healthy life, and your support is making that happen.

As a child, Phannin managed to stay in school until she had advanced to the 8th grade. Because her family was so poor, she was forced to begin working at beer garden restaurants in Phnom Penh at the age of 17. Waitresses at these venues are often considered as available for sale as the food items, and the restaurants are frequented by tourists and Cambodians alike. For her work she was compensated only US$35.00 per month.

By the time Phannin was making a comparably decent wage, she was being worked almost to exhaustion. At a Karaoke Bar in Takeo Province, she was placed as a supervisor and made US$100.00 per month. There she was forced to accompany customers day and night and imbibe as much alcohol as the patrons wanted. The work and constant alcohol consumption gave Phannin a chronic stomachache for which she had to quit her job and seek medical attention.

She moved in with a friend while recovering from her stomach problem, and it was then that she encountered Lotus’s NFE program. Staff from the program explained how the program allowed a flexible schedule for her to learn the most useful subjects to young, adult women like her. In Non-Formal Education women learn literacy and numeracy, healthy living, and skills training in areas like sewing and cosmetology. The opportunity was compelling, and Phannin decided to sign up!

Before attending the program she was only semi-literate and did not understand basic math like division. Now she number one in her fifteen person class. Phannin spends her time reading borrowed books and magazines from the school’s library, and she is even planning for her future. After reading a book entitled “Getting Rich Fast,” she has cut down on spending money hanging out with friends, and now she’s saving money for the future.

“Now I’m even teaching my friends about financial management and how they can live to be more healthy!” she reports.

After she finishes the NFE program, Phannin wants to start a restaurant of her own where she’ll work on her own terms. She is enrolled in a class at the Food & Beverage Center where she studies an additional three hours per day, six days per week. Her father works for a tourism company and says that he will help by bringing customers by her restaurant.  

Please donate to support Phannin’s amazing work. Many more women are still forced into the degrading industry of sex-work. $170 pays for a girl’s education for an entire year. Let this new year be one for reinvention and new beginnings for everyone.

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Dec 30, 2013

The boundless dedication of Ms. Sreynei

In the most isolated countryside of Mondulkiri province lives a young student of the Phnong minority named Sreynei. Sreynei is sixteen years old and is currently in the 9th grade at Preah Lower Secondary School. She’s the oldest of six siblings, and she has been a part of Lotus Outreach’s Phnong Education Initiative (PEI) for three years.

Sreynei’s home is hard to get to, even by Cambodian standards. The house is barely reachable by four-wheel drive SUV, with a dried up riverbed serving as a road for part of the journey. Flooding during the rainy season carves impossible ruts into the riverbed and other roads alike. Lotus’s field staff got stuck several times along the way, and yet Sreynei has followed this path every day to get to school since the age of seven!

The home of Sreynei's family is located 12 km from the Sre-Preah Lower Secondary School in a village with half a dozen other small houses belonging to ethnic Phnong people. Their one-room house is elevated on meter-high stilts to protect from seasonal flooding. It has split bamboo walls, a tin roof, and no windows, electricity or running water. The wooden floorboards inside are spaced one-centimeter apart, so the bare earth is visible a meter below.

It is a well-known fact that hearts are what make a house a home, and though Sreynei’s parents are both completely illiterate, they are warm, and they converse easily about their lives and how they live so remotely and simply. Her mother gardens on about two hectares of land quite far from the house, cultivating cucumbers, rice, gourds and eggplant. Her father gathers frogs and fish from ponds and streams that flood and dry seasonally. He also gathers and sells a certain tree sap which effectively patches leaks in boats.

After having problems with water-borne illness, the family has started boiling their drinking water, though they admit it is difficult to do all the time. Newly installed nets help keep out some of the mosquitoes and protect the family from endemic malaria. They still have trouble from time to time.

Advancing from such a remote and difficult starting place is full of challenges, but Sreynei keeps her dreams like a spark in tinder. She says, “My dream is to be educated, because as a Phnong I don’t want people to look down on me and berate me like they did to my parents.” She reveals with a sly smile that she is deciding whether she wants to be a Phnong teacher, a nonprofit worker like Lotus’s Raksmey Var, or a health worker.

Because the 12km hike between her house and school is so difficult, Sreynei has relocated to the residence provided by Lotus’s PEI much closer to the school. She says that staying there helps her focus on her studies, and saves her from a long and difficult journey. Momentarily she is back to walking the long path, while she cares for her mother who has fallen ill.

Lotus Outreach believes that opportunity should not be denied to someone for any reason, not for their ethnicity, nor their language, nor the location of their home. Funding this literacy and teacher training program does not take much; just $250 funds school and supportive services for a girl for a whole year! The dedication of Lotus’s 40 PEI students is insurmountable. With just a little support, you’ll never know the places they’ll go! 

Inside Sreynei
Inside Sreynei's family home.
This simple home holds a lot of hope.
This simple home holds a lot of hope.
Dec 16, 2013

Dany's Fight for Reconciliation and Justice

Lotus Outreach’s Consoling through Counseling client Dany* has a story not for the faint of heart.

Born the fourth of seven children to a seasonal laborer and her now deceased husband, Dany lived with her younger siblings in an orphanage in Battambang province. Her mother would travel to find work, while Dany studied at the local high school. Her family is so poor that she lived at the orphanage until she was 20 years old, just so she could survive and go to school.

In September of 2012, her older sister who was already married pulled Dany out of the orphanage so she could work as a gardener in the border town of Poipet. She lived with her uncle nearby until a terrible thing happened in January 2013.

Dany’s brother in law called her and asked her to come over to his house to talk. Her sister was not there, but their young daughter was, so Dany was not concerned. But everything changed once she stepped in the door:

“When I arrived there, my brother in-law took my hand and dragged me into his room and threatened me. He then forced me to have sex with him and threatened to kill me if I told anyone about it.”

At first, Dany did not share what had happened with anyone. She was too terrified to break her silence until her brother in law asked for the phone numbers of her younger sisters. Even more concerned for her sisters’ well-being than for her own, Dany decided to tell her older sister what her husband had done.

Fortunately for Dany and her sisters, Dany’s older sister believed her, and she took Dany to the police and to Lotus Outreach’s partner the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) in Poipet.

To keep herself safe, Dany decided to stay at CWCC’s shelter in Banteay Meanchey to wait for her case to be processed and to receive social and psychological support. By the time she arrived there, Dany had sunk into depression. Conselors noticed she spoke and walked slowly. She distanced herself from the other women at the shelter. She was sad, thin, pale, exhausted and hopeless.

Recognizing her psychological symptoms, Dany’s counselor listened to her carefully. Over the course of months, her counselor built a bridge across Dany’s isolation and taught Dany exercises to deal with her trauma. Small group therapy and breathing exercises are now helping Dany cope with what happened to her. Dany is learning to recognize her strengths and reflect on her own thoughts so she can be motivated to think about good things and move forward.

It is still hard for Dany, but things are getting better.

She feels better from time to time, and she is bonding with the other shelter clients. Lotus’s Consoling through Counseling program is providing her with legal representation through CWCC so she can prosecute her assailant, and her court case is being processed.

Consoling through Counseling is currently providing services to 26 women. In the last quarter, eight survivors were reintegrated into their home communities, and staff conducted follow-up visits to thirty-three already reintegrated women.

The program doesn’t just help women find reconciliation, but it also helps them find justice by prosecuting the perpetrators of the violent crimes against them. So far, the program has aided in the convictions of eight rapists.

Recovering from trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not easy. But you can help these women to overcome and move forward with healthy, productive lives. Just US$100.00 can provide therapeutic counseling for these survivors for a full year. The program also connects them to economic opportunities to make sure they have the things they need to succeed.

Hands can give and hands can take away. Thank you for giving to support the recovery of these beautiful and powerful women.

*Dany’s name has been changed to protect her identity. 

Small group counseling helps women to recover.
Small group counseling helps women to recover.

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