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.
Jun 12, 2013

40 bikes distributed in Kampot + breaking news!

Despite inclement weather, spirits were high on June 4th when Lotus Pedals distributed 40 new bicycles to young girls at a giveaway ceremony in the Kampot province of Cambodia. The giveaway was sponsored by the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group in Washington DC, which raised funds among its staff in observance of International Women’s Day on March 8.

“This has been a much appreciated initiative by both school girls and their parents,” shared World Bank field representative Alassane, who attended the ceremony on behalf of IEG. “These students walk some 2-8 km to get to school. Some say they will no longer be late coming to school, others say they could now afford the time to take additional private tutoring.”

Lotus Pedals was also recently awarded a grant of $25,000 from Impact Giving, a women’s giving circle based in Orange County, California. This grant, combined with the generous financial support of our donors on GlobalGiving, will mean at least 600 more girls will receive bicycles this year.

On behalf of all of us at Lotus Outreach, thank you for giving these girls the opportunity to get to school safely!

Breaking news!

Starting at 9:00 am EDT on June 12, donations made to Lotus Outreach projects will be matched 50% by GlobalGiving. We are using this rare opportunity to help us complete our sponsorship campaign for poor university girls in Cambodia at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/gateways/.

The GATE Women and Youth Scholarship (GATEways) project will allow Lotus Outreach to send 100 impoverished Cambodian girls to university, enabling them to rank among the 2% of women in their country to possess tertiary education. By supporting women's higher education, GATEways is working to rebuild the intellectual class in Cambodia which was tragically purged during the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Click here to donate now and your gift will be matched 50%!

The fine print:

  • Donations are matched up to $1,000 per individual, per project.
  • GlobalGiving is offering two bonus awards to participating organizations: $1,000 for the project with the most money raised and $1,000 for the project with the most individual donors.  
  • Only online donations (credit card or PayPal) made via GlobalGiving are eligible for matching.
  • See additional terms and conditions here.
  • There is $90,000 in matching funds available.

Follow our progress on the Bonus Day Leaderboard, which will go live Wednesday morning.

Questions? Please contact us at info@lotusoutreach.org or 888.831.9990.

Links:

May 24, 2013

The Movers and Shakers of Mewat

Afsana is a role model for girls in her village
Afsana is a role model for girls in her village

Since we visited the charismatic Afsana in 2012, she has been busy inspiring other girls in her village to join the Blossom Bus and attend school, and the ripple effect of her efforts is highly evident. There are now six girls from this tiny, middle-of-nowhere village picturesquely sandwiched between ponds filled by underground aquifers and quarry stone for road and wall building.

All of the one- and two-room homes and in this otherwise minimalist setting feature exquisite hues of ochre and mottled green-grey sandstone and slate. I’m sure for the locals these materials are not at all inspiring, as they see their homes as simply an extension of the barren landscape. But for a visitor with an eye for aesthetics and enviro-friendly development, a settlement of single story dwellings blended into the landscape -- with not a single sign board or plastic wrapper in sight -- is the stuff of ecotopias.

We planned to visit some of the girls we had brought back to school through the Blossom Bus and as it turned out, we were delighted to know Afsana was ‘in town’ and we could meet her as well.

Our first stop was to the single room home of year 8 girl Sarita, 16 years-old from Hutchpuri Village where we also met her mother, older brother and his son. Her mother Jumna doesn’t know her age but her oldest son tells us the oldest daughter is 30, so we guess Jumna is around 45. Jumna tells us, “I’ve never been to school, not even for one day. We are poor and became even poorer when we had to sell our buffaloes to marry our daughter and lost the income from selling the milk. We have no land and I now fully understand the importance of education. Girls learn how to speak out and can also get a job and provide a decent income for the family.”

Sarita has three older sisters; one completed grade 5, another grade 6 and the third never went to school at all. Her father does not work and her older brother is married and provides $25 a month so the family has food to eat. Sarita was forced to drop out of school after finishing grade 7 a year ago and tells us, “my family is very poor and they asked me to drop out of school and stay at home. I was very sad and disappointed but could not argue with my parents at the time. During the past year however I’ve been inspired by Afsana. She is now in grade 10, the first from our village, and is very popular and inspiring. She seems very educated to us and speaks well. All the girls look up to her. Afsana lobbied for us to join the Blossom Bus too. I asked my family many times and they finally agreed to meet the driver and they were convinced it was important and that they should let me go back to school. Now I am very happy!”

She further tells us, “the primary school in my village is not good and teachers are not teaching well. I am now attending class 8 at Chaisa village high school some 5 kms away. We leave at 7.30 am and start back at 2.30 pm. It only takes 20 minutes or so for the journey. I really enjoy studying, English and Hindi are my favorite subjects.” When asked about her future dreams she tells us with a faraway look in her eyes, “I want to go to college and study science.”

As we heard Sarita’s report about Afsana being much looked up to and an inspiration to the girls of Hutchpuri, I was delighted that we would be able to meet and catch up with her during our visit.

We gave our regards to an ornery camel as we entered pathways taking us further inside the village to where Afsana was waiting with her mother, her older sister and the sister’s daughter. We all lit up with delight at seeing each other but were surprised they were living in a lean-to and not in their pucca brick dwelling. It turns out the oldest boy has married and now dominates the main house with his wife and growing family while the rest of the ‘girls’ make do under a thatch roof with no walls. It’s kind of shocking to me but Suraj and Shyam Vir, our local staff, feel the location is good and cool during the summer months.

We launched in to our interview with Afsana and asked how she was progressing and what’s been happening with other girls in her community. She tells us she convinced four new girls to join the Blossom Bus and she herself has just completed her year 10 board exams and expects to progress to year 11 in this academic year. The results are not yet out but she tells us, “I expect to get a 1st division pass. I am top scorer of 16 girls and somewhere around the middle if you include the 64 boys at our class level.”

We look around their simple dwelling and note there is a light and ask if that assists Afsana in studying at night to which her mum replies, “ We don’t ask her to do any work, we’re supporting her in her studies and we put up a light and connected electricity to this dwelling so she can read at night.”

When asked about the future, Afsana tells us soberly, “I want to study at college but its 25 kms from here. We will just take it one step at a time. First I have to clear year 12.” We can’t help feeling there is a bright future ahead and feel compelled to help this inspiring young woman as much as possible. 

Sarita
Sarita
Afsana
Afsana's humble dwelling
The author gets a bite from a local camel
The author gets a bite from a local camel

Links:

Apr 19, 2013

Lotus Pedals goes to Svey Rieng

We travelled three hours south from Phnom Penh to Svey Rieng near the Vietnam border for a recent Lotus Pedals bicycle giveaway. Svey Rieng is one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia, primarily due to poor soil quality and insufficient rainfall which greatly inhibit agricultural output. Only half of Svay Rieng’s children will receive primary school education, with poverty driving the other half to work to contribute to the family purse. There are many reports of parents selling or “leasing” their children to begging syndicates working across the border in Vietnam, and girl children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.

When we arrived at the community hall, we were amicably greeted by the Assistant District Governor (ADC) of Chantrea and the families of the 25 young girls about to receive their first bicycles. While addressing the families, the ADC remarked there are no other organizations working on education in the three communes of his district despite the tremendous need. Even though these poor families had travelled a long way in the heat of the day, their mood was upbeat during a serious yet humorous meeting.

Primary schools are generally available within a few kilometers of people’s homes, but lower secondary schools average 5-10 kilometers or more in this district. Without a bicycle, a girl is given little choice but to drop out when she finishes her primary education. Lotus Pedals is designed to ensure these vulnerable girls will not be forced to drop out due to something as tragically simple as a not having a ride to school.

It was truly delightful to see the joy and hope in the eyes of these children as they answered questions about their studies, plans, and dreams.  A bicycle seems such a small thing to us but to these families its often the difference between whether or not their daughter will have a future. We are deeply grateful to GlobalGiving donors for supporting Lotus Pedals and the 1,000 girls we will have distributed bicycles to by the end of 2013.

To watch a video of the giveaway in Svay Rieng, please click here.

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