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 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

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Jul 11, 2013

Turning the educated into educators...

A joyful Nheun
A joyful Nheun

Nheun grew up in a small ethnic Phnong village about 3 km from Oraing lower secondary school in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. Like all Phnong, Nheun’s family spoke their own language at home and gradually picked up Khmer while being forced to adapt in the early grades of primary school at a time when there were few, if any, Phnong teachers. Minority communities everywhere face varying degrees of social exclusion that often negatively impact the broad spectrum of human development indicators including education, health, and infant mortality.

It’s for these reasons and more that the Phnong Education Initiative (PEI) was conceived in 2009. The PEI program, which is delivered in partnership with Kampuchean Action for Primary Education, has two goals: a) ensure Phnong girls can stay in school through basic scholarships and b) support teacher trainees from the Phnong community who will return to minority classrooms and pay forward the gift of education.

Nheun started in as a basic PEI scholarship recipient in 2009, and continued on to teacher training college in Stung Treang with support from the project. In July 2012, Nheun took the national pedagogy exam and ranked fourth in the entire province. Today Nheun is back in the classroom about 15 km from her home village, and now teaches a class of 13 third-graders.

Nheun recently received her first paycheck which was a long-awaited event for her entire family. She tells us, “my parents and two elder sisters didn’t go to school at all but my mother always supported my education, especially as no one else in the family was educated. While I still had to work like everyone else, I wasn’t made to work too hard and had time to study. From my own side, I always wanted to remain in school as long as possible no matter what difficulties I faced. My father was sick for many years and that brought a lot of pressure on all of us to make up for the loss of income. He died in 2006, and my elder brother was the one that had to drop school in year 9 to become the breadwinner.”

In terms of her teaching career, Nheun tells us the village children are very irregular at attending school which makes subject mastery difficult. Despite the challenges, Nheun pushes forward. “I go to the village very often to ask why parents are not sending the children and try to motivate them to send the children to school every day,” she shares. Nheun’s passion for education also shows in her colorful classroom, which is sprinkled with creative teaching-aids she collected during her time in pedagogy school.

Though Nheun tells us Khmer is becoming more widespread in her community, she still encounters many Phnong children that struggle with the language. “Many of these children arrive at primary school with very little Khmer. I’m happy that I’m able to help my students with my mother tongue so they can get ahead more quickly than children in my school days. Back then, there were absolutely no Phnong speaking teachers.”

PEI is working to change that, and will graduate an additional 16 Phnong teachers this year. In addition to mainstreaming Phnong children into the Khmer-based education system, PEI is celebrating and preserving Phnong culture through the creation of a brand new cultural research center and museum in the region.

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

Nheun with her pupils
Nheun with her pupils

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