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.
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

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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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Jan 11, 2013

To reach the unreachable stars...

Education campaign in Mondulkiri
Education campaign in Mondulkiri

During the past quarter, we are pleased to share that not a single PEI scholar dropped out of school, demonstrating the growing commitment to education in Mondulkiri’s Phnong communities—even in the face of extreme poverty. In late September, four of our teacher trainees graduated from the Provincial Teachers Training College in Kampong Cham, two of which are already teaching in (predominantly Phnong) primary school classrooms in their home districts, showcasing the multiplier effect of investing in capable linguistic minority school teachers.

In the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, we launched a high-profile enrollment campaign, which was conducted by 10 teachers, 105 students and 30 villagers/parents. The central message of the campaign was “Sending Children to School is Like Saving Wealth for Your Children,” and poor villagers across the program area were informed of Cambodia’s Right to Education law, and admonished to enroll their children in local schools at the start of the academic year. The impact of such campaigns is well-established; MIT’s Poverty Action Lab reports that every $100 spent on education advocacy in the developing world results in 40 additional years of education. Recognizing this substantial return on investment, all of Lotus Outreach’s scholarship programs incorporate awareness events, public forms and enrollment campaigns designed to increase community understanding of the importance of sending children to school.

The Phnong Cultural Center continues to thrive, and we recently purchased eleven new Phnong artifacts to display to tourists, school children and broader members of the community. The program additionally collaborated with the Vinacomine Company to bring beds, mats, mosquito nets and blankets to the children living in the Oraing school dormitory.

The Phnong communities in Mondulkiri are recognized as some of the most isolated on the planet, and very few education and development programs are reaching them—despite demonstrable need. We’d like to give a special thanks to you for giving Lotus Outreach the opportunity to expand education and cultural preservation in these villages, and we look forward to watching the program’s success unfold over the months and years ahead.

All of us at Lotus Outreach wish you health, peace and prosperity in 2013.

PEI scholars
PEI scholars

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