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.
Apr 3, 2014

Srey-Pov Overcomes Abuse and Poverty through Education

Srey-Pov
Srey-Pov's wedding day after a difficult journey

Srey-Pov is 26 years old, born in Mittapheap village, Sangkat Russei Keo, Khan Russei Keo, with three brothers. Her journey to complete the Lotus Outreach Non-Formal Education (NFE) program has been long, and she has had to fight every bit of the way.

But this year Srey-Pov completed a skills training in sewing after having taken the NFE literacy course in 2010, and she is finally moving forward into a hopeful new period in her life!

Srey-Pov’s life has not been easy. In the second grade she had to drop out of school to take care of her father who was dying of AIDS. By the time she was 15, her father and her mother had both passed away, her three brothers were scattered to the wind, and Srey-Pov was married and pregnant. After the baby was born, her husband quickly became abusive, there was a difficult custody battle for the child, and a divorce leaving Srey-Pov with nothing.

With no income, no parents, no husband, and no education, Srey-Pov was left with no other option but to find work at the karaoke-parlor brothels endemic to Cambodia.

Srey-Pov quickly became tired of the drunken indignity and powerlessness of karaoke work, and so she signed up for Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education class at the karaoke parlor near where she worked. In the year 2010 at age 23 she learned to read, spent much of her time studying, and finished with excellent grades. After finishing the NFE literacy program, she started to learn sewing through the NFE skills training.

Sewing skills and cosmetology trainings through NFE have the power to transform women’s lives and give an option to escape exploitative sex work. Just $20 covers a month of skills training that can save a woman’s life from tragedy!

It’s not easy to turn your life around overnight. But with effort and a little good luck, Srey-Pov began to see changes happening. In 2013 she landed a job at a garment factory using her sewing skills, and a man fell in love with her. By May she and he were married, and they are moving soon to Sen Sok where she will reunite with her daughter, now age 13. Srey-Pov insists she will keep her daughter enrolled in school until she graduates.

When you start off so far behind, it can take a long time and a lot of hard work to catch up. Taking the NFE literacy class in 2010 was the first step, and it laid the groundwork for her to move forward into a dignified life. Now she is saving her money to buy her own sewing machine so she can work from Sen Sok. With any more luck, her daughter will have a much easier life than Srey-Pov did.

Srey-Pov (2nd from left) graduating NFE in 2010
Srey-Pov (2nd from left) graduating NFE in 2010

Links:

Mar 31, 2014

Ms. Soar Brings the Fire of Knowledge to her Community

Ms. Soar is salutatorian of her class of 20!
Ms. Soar is salutatorian of her class of 20!

Ms. Soar is studying to be a teacher in Steung Treng Province, but there is something special about her. This intrepid young woman is a Phnong-language teacher, and she is studying to teach the people from her homeland in her own mother tongue.

Having come from a house with bamboo walls and no door or windows, Ms. Soar knows the difficulty of being one of a rural, minority people marginalized by the broader society. As a young student, she left her remote home to study at the Orang Lower Secondary School about 30 kilometers (18.6 miles) away. She did this as part of Lotus Outreach’s Phnong Education Initiative (PEI). Since then, her studies have taken her as far as the provincial capital to obtain teacher certification, so she can bring the fire of knowledge to the minds of other Phnong-speakers like herself.

A history of marginalization, combined with the kind of exploitation that usually accompanies it, has left the Phnong people largely without access to educational resources, minimal wealth, land, or infrastructure. The Cambodian public education system teaches only in Khmer, and so people who speak other languages are left by the wayside.

Ms. Soar made the journey to find her own education as a child, and since grade eight she had the dream of becoming a primary school teacher herself. With scholarship support, residence and materials provided by Lotus Outreach, she excelled in school, especially in the area of mathematics. The cost of supporting a secondary-school student with everything she needs to excel is only $250.00 per year!

It was very important that she study as hard as she did, because in order to become a teacher she had to travel to the Provincial Office of Education in the capital of the province. She had never been to a city as big as the capital before, and had never met so many different people before.

When she arrived to take her examination to become a teacher trainee, she found 160 other applicants vying for only 55 positions.  Thanks to her hard work and study, she passed the examination and was able to study at the Phnong Teacher Training Center!

Now the Phnong Teacher Training Center Dormitory in Steung Treng province is her home, and Ms. Soar is studying pedagogy with 19 other daring minority students. Each one of these people dreams of bringing the power of education to their own villages. Better education means better health, better earnings, better representation in government, and  

Ms. Soar has the support of her family, her immediate community, and even the license from the provincial government! Now all she needs is your support! Donating just $20 covers an entire month of teacher training for a minority student.

Thank you for supporting Lotus Outreach and the development of minority communities like this one!

Secondary students with study materials/uniforms
Secondary students with study materials/uniforms

Links:

Mar 19, 2014

Vhannah: Thriving Textile Entrepreneur

A happy Vannah and her 6-year-old daughter
A happy Vannah and her 6-year-old daughter

Lotus Outreach views the relationship between us and the women we have the privilege to support as a partnership with them for a better, more just world. In this update we are honored to present the tenacious and graceful Vannah. The inspiring story of 31-year-old Vannah demonstrates the underlying potential of the 45% of Cambodian women that have been denied education. Vannah is part of an entire generation that had no access to education due to the Khmer Rouge’s shutdown of the public school system and execution of 90% of the country’s teachers in the late 1970s. Growing up in the wake of genocide, civil war and foreign occupation, Vannah and her siblings were forced by poverty and political turmoil to spend their childhoods laboring rather than studying.

While many NFE participants are able to better their lives tangibly as a result of the classes, Vannah has used the skills she acquired to improve the livelihood of an entire village. She entered the NFE program in 2011 while working at a brothel in Phnom Penh and swiftly rose to the top of her class. Despite the hardships she endured, the determined Vannah used her spare time constructively and encouraged other girls to also take skill training. In addition to her daily lessons in basic literacy, numeracy and business management, she enrolled in our sewing and tailoring course, which proved to be the foundation for her career as a prolific businesswoman. “When I started NFE, I couldn’t sew a straight line,” shares Vannah. “It was the skills I learned during NFE that have made me the successful tailor that I am today.

In just a few years, Vannah has managed to invest in 30 weaving looms and four sewing machines, effectively employing 100 local villagers who support as many as 500 people. Her weaving and tailoring workshops are able to maintain a local tradition of silk making, a process that transforms raw materials into vibrantly patterned, hi-quality silk fabrics. Ingenuity and careful business planning have allowed her to employ the bulk of her extended family, and she reflected on how the family no longer has to experience hunger each day. “Every day we used to worry how we would survive. Now I feel very happy knowing we’ll be okay.” Vannah, a single mom of a 6 year-old girl, is now able to earn $200 a month – two times the per capita income in Cambodia – and hopes to buy her first home in the near future. Vannah is also starting up a small retail operation, and recently purchased second-hand blue jeans, which she plans to re-sell with a good margin of profit.

Our visit with Vannah marked the most interesting and satisfying visit I can remember in many years and hundreds of visits with Cambodian families,” shares Glenn Fawcett, Lotus Outreach’s Director of Field Operations. “Vannah is a warm-hearted and generous boss who pays her employees well and inspires those around her to find the best in themselves. We are so happy to see such a kind and talented person in the midst of great success.”

Thank you so much for your support of the Non-Formal Education project! Your generosity is the backbone of this project and the platform for incredible transformation like the one we witnessed with Vannah.

Vannah puts her sewing skills to good use
Vannah puts her sewing skills to good use
Vannah oversees a worker at a weaving loom
Vannah oversees a worker at a weaving loom
A joyful employee of Vannah
A joyful employee of Vannah

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