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.
Oct 2, 2013

Sophy is sewing together a brighter future.

Tieng Sophy, hard at work, learning tailoring!
Tieng Sophy, hard at work, learning tailoring!

In the red light districts of Phnom Penh, Cambodia, the perils of the sex trade abound, and there are few chances for economic advancement. Cambodia’s chaotic history has turned it into a notorious destination for sex tourism, and Phnom Penh is the epicenter of it all. Here, karaoke bars and restaurants serve as fronts for brothels where the employees serve Cambodian men and tourists mostly from the United States and Europe. 

In this once desperate area of Phnom Penh, young women are studying and working with the inspiration of a new hope. Tieng Sophy is 20 years old and currently enrolled in Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education (NFE) program. She is learning the technical skills to be able to work in tailoring and escape the degrading work of Cambodia’s red light district.

Sophy was born in the Tuol Kpuos Village of the southeastern Svay Rieng Province. Tragically, by the time she was 10 years old, both her mother and father had passed away. Following her mother’s death, Sophy lived with her 6th sister and advanced only to the 5th grade.

She acquired some experience in sewing and came to Phnom Penh in 2009 to work in a garment factory. Dire circumstances faced by so many women her age led her to start working at a karaoke bar in the Sen Sok District. Fortunately, she discovered another karaoke bar where Lotus Outreach’s NFE class was running and found a new chance to pursue her dreams! 

Sophie joined the NFE class in January, 2013 and is currently bolstering her sewing skills through a special skills training. She was selected for the training because of her hard work as a student and her previous experience with tailoring. Sophy is very happy with this new opportunity and dreams of returning to her home town to run a sewing shop and grocery.

Nearly 700 persons have been enrolled in Lotus Outreach’s NFE classes, and less than 4% of graduates return to work in the sex trade. Many move on to further their skills in cosmetology and tailoring and acquire much-sought-after positions in garment factories and beauty salons.

Non-Formal Education not only gives young women a chance to move out of exploitative karaoke bars but also creates develops the economy and creates job opportunities for other people. Students of the NFE program have gone on to start their own businesses which employ other Cambodian women and men. One such graduate started a business which now employs over 100 people!

Education is the cornerstone of any economy, and it’s the center of Lotus Outreach’s development strategy. Women who are educated and economically empowered are more likely to invest their money in their children’s health and education. The long-term impacts of educating women reverberate throughout the community and through future generations. 

NFE classes bring hope for a brighter future.
NFE classes bring hope for a brighter future.

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Oct 1, 2013

The resolute Sameoun Boch and other excellent news

Boch (left), seen here posing with fellow students
Boch (left), seen here posing with fellow students

In the remote northeastern region of Mondulkiri, education resources are scarce, especially for women of the ethnic minority Phnong. While secondary education rates among Cambodians in general rest around 35%, for men and women of the Phnong minority, secondary education rates remain even lower at 16%. Literacy rates for highland minority tribes are even lower: 5.3%, and literacy rates for ethnic minority females bottom out at less than 1%.

Sameoun Boch is a part of expanding that 1%! Boch is a 19-year-old Phnong Education Initiative beneficiary living at Dak Dam village with her parents and three siblings. Boch is now at grade 9 of Oraing Lower Secondary School, which is about 35 km away from her house. Lotus Outreach’s Phnong Education Initiative has been providing support to Boch since grade 7. This has allowed her to remain at school, overcoming education boundaries that keep most young women from even attaining basic literacy.

“I didn’t think I could study until grade 9 as I used to think about dropping out even when I was in primary school. However, the scholarship support has really motivated me and taken some of the burden away from my family”, Boch said. “I am doing better at school than before because I have enough time to focus on my studies and I can attend regularly my extra classes on Math, Physics, Chemistry and Khmer Literature”, she continued.

Besides the regular curriculum content, the students at Oraing School also participate in life skill activities. Boch is the leader of the vegetable cultivation project. She says that performing as the leader builds her confidence and helps her develop good communication skills with her teammates and teachers.

When asked about her future, Boch says that her most immediate goal is to successfully pass grade 9 examinations. In order to achieve this, she has been studying extra hard, reading as much as she can and being very attentive in her homework. “I am committed to studying really hard for my grade 9 examinations because I would like to continue my studies in grade 10 next year,” she said. With the dedication and determination that Boch has shown thus far, surely she will exceed even her own expectations!

The Kampuchean Action for Primary Education (KAPE), our local partner on the Phnong Education Initiative, recently assessed the cultural and life skill activities at the school. On a test designed to assess their understanding of the benefits of manufacturing traditional Phnong articles such as scarves and baskets, the students scored an average of 92%. All of the students (100%) were actually able to make these items by hand! In addition, a life skills program officer from KAPE taught the students more about how to monitor their learning progress on life skill activities such as fish farming and vegetable cultivation. The officer showed the students how to use a monitoring list, and also gave further input on how to be more effective when fish farming. The students were greatly interested and keen to monitor their life skills performance at school, using both the technical and managerial knowledge they gained. How wonderful to witness these young people flourish while still maintaining a strong cultural identity!

To learn more or make a donation to this project, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/pei/.

LO
LO's Raksmey, Boch, students & the cultural center

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Sep 16, 2013

Breaking the silence and embracing help

Bopha and friends at Art Therapy session
Bopha and friends at Art Therapy session

Bopha, whose real name has been omitted to protect her identity, is a sweet 11 year-old Cambodian girl. She lived with her father, a cassava farm security guard, her mother, a housewife, and five siblings in the Banteay Meanchey province. Because her father earned such a meager income, the children had to drop out of school before even completing primary education. To make matters worse, her father is an alcoholic, who on many occasions has physically abused his family when inebriated.

In January 2012, Bopha was raped by her 17 year-old neighbor. He had lured her to join him on an evening walk to a shop and attacked her along the way. Immediately after the assault, Bopha was brave enough to tell her mother what had happened. Unfortunately, the neighbor had already disappeared.

Bopha and her mother reported the crime at the communal administration police post. Thankfully, the police officers at the post referred Bopha to Lotus Outreach’s Banteay Meanchey safe shelter.

At the shelter Bopha received crucial legal assistance, including being assigned a lawyer to represent her at the provincial court. She was also offered psychological counseling and healthcare while her case awaited trial. The shelter staff enrolled Bopha in the school nearby, but because of her grave emotional stress and trauma she didn’t perform well initially. After several months of therapy – including art therapy, and individual and group counseling sessions - and a great dosage of love and care from the shelter’s staff and residents, Bopha’s disheartened outlook changed. She was able to rebuild her trust in others, develop healthy relationships and gained renewed enthusiasm in her studies and life.

Bopha has been granted an extended stay at our shelter because her rapist is still on the run. Since she has already testified in court, it is unsafe for her to return home until the perpetrator is caught. Understandably, Bopha greatly misses her parents and siblings, and to ease her homesickness her counselor accompanies her on visits home.

After assessing Bopha’s family situation, our reintegration officer recommended she be supported with a life start-up package and a business grant to help lift her family out of poverty. Dreaming about the future, Bopha aspires, “I hope to one day become a schoolteacher!” Accomplishing her dream will allow Bopha to help improve the lives of the people in her community, multiplying the support given to her manyfold.

Lotus Outreach was able to help and protect Bopha because of your generous support. Sadly, there are so many other stories like hers. In the first half of 2013, with the legal assistance provided by Lotus Outreach to rape victims, 4 perpetrators have been tried, convicted, and sentenced to jail. Another 6 cases await trial.

Cambodia has a strict penal code for sexual assault. Nevertheless, according to a 2013 United Nations study on violence against women in Asia and the Pacific, only 49.8% of perpetrators are arrested in Cambodia, and only 28.3% of those are tried and convicted. Disturbingly, the same study found that Cambodia men who admitted to ever raping a woman or girl did so because they felt sexually entitled, wished to punish their victim or were simply bored and looking for “fun.” The existence of safe shelters like Lotus Outreach’s and the cooperation of police officers are vital to the reporting of cases, protection of victims, and eventual prosecution of perpetrators of sexual assault. This is how together we can help reverse the trend of violence against women in Cambodia.

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