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.
Mar 1, 2013

We're doubling the reach of Blossom Bus this year!

Manju (first row, far right) and her peers
Manju (first row, far right) and her peers

A special thanks to all of our “girl champs” for your generous efforts during the November 2012 Girl Effect Challenge. Though we were unable to edge into the top six, our supporters mobilized to raise over $10,000 for our Blossom Bus program throughout the month, which will allow us to double the number of Blossom Bus riders to 300 beginning this April.

The story of 17 year-old Manju underscores the power of an intervention as seemingly minor as providing a ride to school. Members of a scheduled caste, Manju’s family of seven is landless and poor, and their survival depends solely on the labor of the father Vijay who paints houses in nearby villages. Though Manju faced teasing from her upper-caste classmates, her father was determined to overcome class barriers and felt strongly that keeping Manju in school would prove a catalyst for this change. The Blossom Bus identified Manju and 13 other lower-caste girls in her village as "high priority" given their vulnerability to dropping out of school, and all 14 girls are now attending grade 10 with daily bus transportation.

Manju will graduate to upper secondary school this year and is determined to finish high school--and continue on to college if possible. Manju will likely be part of the first cohort of a planned extension of the Blossom Bus project, which will begin transporting girls transitioning to high school this year. The Blossom Bus will also be expanding to the border with neighboring Rajasthan, a high-need region to which our LEARN education watchdog program recently expanded.

We offer our heartfelt thanks to you for helping Manju and her peers in their uphill battle to pursue education in a country that was recently reported as the G20’s “worst country to be a woman.” With your help 300 young women will be able to achieve the promise of education, thereby breaking the cycle of poverty for themselves, their families and the countless generations that will follow them.

To read more about this project or pledge additional support, please visit www.blossombus.org.

Manju at her school
Manju at her school
82 Blossom Bus girls attend this school
82 Blossom Bus girls attend this school

Links:

Jan 18, 2013

"You are like my parents..."

NFE class in Svay Pak, Cambodia
NFE class in Svay Pak, Cambodia

Srey Neang* was born in 1985 in Kandal, Cambodia and is the oldest of 6 children. Her parents are landless, and survive through meager wages earned as agrarian day laborers. Despite her love of learning, poverty forced Srey to drop out of school in the 6th grade in order to earn money to help feed her siblings. Srey was sent to Phnom Penh by her mother to work as a housemaid and nanny for a distant relative. She worked from 4am to 7pm every day, and took home $10 each month—earning just 2 cents an hour.

Srey moved through a few occupations before learning about an opportunity at a garment factory and after investing in basic sewing training, she landed a job in Svay Pak (a notorious red light district in Phnom Penh) and was able to earn $60 each month. Srey eventually left garment factory work and married, had a child, then divorced her husband before returning to Svay Pak. Srey was back to earning income at a garment factory when her friends began to tell her about the higher wages she could earn if she took a job entertaining and serving men at a local karaoke bar. Though Srey knew she would face harassment and groping from drunk customers, the wage of $110 a month plus $5 to $10 in daily tips was far too good to pass up; by this time, Srey’s son, her mother and three of her younger siblings depended on her earnings for their survival.

Srey hated the work, and faced constant verbal, physical and sexual harassment. “Normally I have to work from 6pm until late night around 2am or 3am and sometimes up to 4am although the closing time is supposed to be 1am,” Srey tells us. “Every four days I have to start work at 1pm. If I am absent for one day on a normal day (6pm-1am time slot), my salary would be cut $5, but if I am absent on the special day (1pm-1am time slot), they will cut my salary $10. I have never been absent so far because I need the $10 bonus at the end of each month for perfect attendance.”

“One of the difficulties of working there is that I have to drink a lot—about nine cans of beer per night—and the alcohol badly affects my stomach. I also have to put up with harassment from clients. They like to kiss and touch me. Plenty of them asked me to go out with them and be their secret lover and promised to support me, but I always reject them. Some of the men get mad and challenge me by offering $100 for one night out and big tips each time they came, but I didn’t accept although other girls did. To me, the fact that I got divorced is already shameful and painful enough, so I don’t want to get involved in any unserious relationship.”

Srey is one of roughly 100 karaoke girls currently participating in our Non-Formal Education and Life Skills program in the hopes of finding a better opportunity. Srey’s teacher tells us that Srey always comes to the class no matter how late she stayed up or how much she had to drink. “The program got my attention because I always loved studying but wasn’t lucky enough to stay in school due to poverty,” shares Srey. “I need to grab this opportunity and study hard because my son is in first grade now and he is going ask me to explain what he doesn’t understand, so I have to be ready and capable enough. I also send my son to English school, so that he won’t have a hard life like me when he grows up.”

When asked what she likes about the class, Srey Neang told us “I enjoy reading and math as before I could not read big words and could only do adding and subtracting but not division and multiplication. Health topics are also very interesting. They teach us how to prevent ourselves from getting STDs and HIV when having more partners and how abortion affects on our health. I also especially enjoy learning about saving and life planning. Before I always wanted to save money but could never manage until learning from my teacher that savings can start small, and we should start doing it right away. Now I am saving in a clay piggybank.”

Srey Neang tells us that her passion has always been to open up her own beauty salon back in her home village, where demand for such services is high and supply is low. Because of her demonstrated commitment and aptitude, Srey was one of five students—selected from a pool of over 100 girls—recently offered a skills training and apprenticeship opportunity in cosmetology.

I really don’t know how to thank you all enough for this opportunity,” shares Srey. “You are like my parents! You give me knowledge, study materials, skills training, and a bike to get to skills training. You took me to the health center and paid for treatment when I was sick. You motivated and encouraged me to study hard and struggle for my future. I truly appreciate these things!”  

*name has been changed at her request

Links:

Jan 18, 2013

364 Girls Now Riding to School in Cambodia

Biking the long road to school in rural Cambodia
Biking the long road to school in rural Cambodia

With your generous support, 364 impoverished girls in rural Cambodia received new bicycles, pumps and locks in 2012, clearing the single greatest obstacle to their continued education. In this update, we will offer you an inside look at how the project picks beneficiaries and monitors their progress.

Because demand for the bicycles far exceeds supply, Lotus Pedals has established the following selection criteria to ensure the bikes reach those most in need. In addition to requiring that girls live at least 1.5 kilometers from the nearest school, priority is given to:

  • Girls who have recently dropped out of school
  • Victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse
  • Girls from poor, landless families with many children
  • Girls in single parent households, or in households with one or more disabled parent
  • Orphans
  • Girls not receiving education support from other NGOs
  • Girls whose families express a commitment to education

To ensure the long-term impact of the bicycle, recipients and their families also sign a contract pledging to do the following:

  • Maintain the bicycle and repair it when it breaks
  • Not to sell or pawn the bicycle
  • Parents or guardians are not allowed to use the bicycle during school hours
  • Return the bicycle if the girl drops out of school within two years
  • Girls agree to maintain academic integrity, school attendance and marks of at least 50%

Lotus Pedals bicycles are delivered in partnership with several well-established indigenous NGOs throughout Cambodia, including in the provinces of Mondulkiri, Banteay Meanchey, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Pursat and Svay Rieng. Because our partners are already operating programs in the target villages, the project has a built-in network for monitoring progress, and our partners agree to track the progress of the girls for a minimum of two years. This model allows us to devote 100% of every dollar you contribute directly toward the purchase of bicycles, while still maintaining our capacity to track project performance.

We thank you again for your contribution, and look forward to keeping you posted on the girls’ academic success in the months and years ahead. We also invite you to consider supporting the education of other girls by making another donation at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/lotuspedals/ (and encouraging your friends on Facebook to do the same!).

"Aw kun" from me to you
"Aw kun" from me to you
Bicycle giveaway ceremony
Bicycle giveaway ceremony

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