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 16, 2012

Mid-year update & KimNga's story

Your support has given her the gift of literacy
Your support has given her the gift of literacy

In the first half of 2012, your generous support opened the doors to a better life for 98 women and children living and working in the red light districts of Svay Pak, Beung Kak II and Phnom Penh Thmei, Cambodia. In addition to the Non-Formal Education (NFE) literacy and life skills classes, the project supported training in tailoring, sewing, cooking and cosmetology, paving the way for better jobs outside of the sex and entertainment industry. The program also provided STD and HIV/AIDS screening and counseling to 85 of these students, ensuring they stay healthy while transitioning to better futures.

The story of Heab KimNga demonstrates just how much of a difference these courses can make in the lives of the most vulnerable. Born in 1994 in Kondal province, KimNga learned grown-up responsibilities at a young age. Losing her father at the age of three, KimNga was forced to drop out of school in the third grade in order to help care for her seven siblings. Her dedication to giving her brothers and sisters a better life was evident when she moved to Phonm Penh to take up work entertaining men in a karaoke at the age of 15. She wanted to make sure her younger siblings could afford to stay in school no matter what.

In February 2011, KimNga joined the NFE class in hopes of finding something better for herself. She absorbed all that the literacy and life skills classes had to offer, and began attending vocational training in sewing. In December of 2011, she graduated from the program and found a good job in a garment factory in the same month (in Cambodia, the garment industry is highly regulated with strict labor laws).

Since then, KimNga’s life is looking up. She recently married and now enjoys a productive, loving family life with her new husband who works in construction. “The program has helped me to have the kind of simple, happy life that I think everyone wishes for,” share KimNga. “I feel so warm in the heart now and my only remaining wish is to one day have a business of my very own!"

Sewing class
Sewing class

Links:

Oct 10, 2012

Good News from Mondulkiri

PEI scholars receive food support
PEI scholars receive food support

We are pleased to report that at the close of the 2011-2012 academic year, all 31 girls receiving scholarships through the Phnong Education Initiative passed their exams and were promoted to the next grade level! Five of the girls even placed on the top ten of their classes (which have as many as 80 students), and overall the scholars performed better than their peers which is significant given the severe penury and marginalization these students face.

Our teacher trainees are likewise doing well, with 16 of the year-one trainees now carrying out their teaching practicum in primary school classrooms. By gaining hands-on experience in teamwork, student monitoring, teaching methods and school management, these young women are being prepared to pay forward the gift of education to other disadvantaged Phnong children in their home province of Mondulkiri.

While working to mainstream Phnong children into the Khmer-based education system, the program also focuses on celebrating and preserving Phnong culture and language through the development of a new Phnong Cultural Center which teaches minority children how to make traditional Phnong baskets, bows, paintings and scarves while compiling and documenting Phnong cultural traditions including recipes, wedding rituals and handicraft techniques. The Cultural Center is open to the public, and the students are able to sell their handicrafts, using the profits to improve education in the region.

PEI: Turning Students into Educators

The story of Pet Pearny, an 18 year-old Provincial Teacher Training College student, is great example of what the Phnong Education Initiative is designed to achieve.

Pearny is from the Phnong minority group in Oraing, Mondulkiri. She is the elder sister of six siblings, all of whom live with her parents in a small wooden house with a tin roof. When Pearny was in primary school she never imagined she would be able to reach lower secondary school level (the equivalent of junior high). At that time, she reflects, most of the people around her didn’t value education and very few bothered to send their daughters to school, preferring instead that they stay home and tend to their siblings or help on the farm. Compounding these unfavorable conditions are the distances to schools in Pearny’s home region; her lower secondary school is 15 kilometers from her house. Furthermore her parents could not afford the costs of education—such as transport, school supplies and books—no less ensure the family had adequate food. Fortunately, she received a scholarship from PEI which allowed her to focus on her studies without worrying about how she could pay for necessities such as uniforms, notebooks, pens and other study materials.

While in school, Pearny began dreaming of one day becoming a teacher in her community so she could show people the benefits of educating children, especially girls who are often forbidden by their parents to go to school.

Pearny successfully completed the grade 9 diploma exam in 2010, and due to the teacher shortage in remote areas, the Cambodian Ministry of Education Youth and Sports allows students who pass grade 9 to apply to train as primary school teachers. Pearny’s home region has a big teacher shortage so she applied and passed the examination to study at the Provincial Teacher Training College with continued support from PEI. “My dream has now come true!” she tells us.

The Provincial Teacher Training College Deputy Director tells us, “Pearny is a Phnong girl who shows high commitment. I hope that she will soon graduate and go back to help the children in her community.”

We thank you for generously investing in the futures of these girls, as well as the countless children that will move through their classrooms in the future.

A PEI student with traditional Phnong handicrafts
A PEI student with traditional Phnong handicrafts
Pearny trains in a primary school classroom
Pearny trains in a primary school classroom
Oct 9, 2012

Meet Munni from West Bengal

Munni at class
Munni at class

Ten year-old Munni’s story is typical of the hundreds of children that benefit from the Education Scholarships for Child Laborers project in rural Haryana, India. Last October, Munni migrated with her parents and two siblings to Mewat’s brick kilns from West Bengal, a poor state in eastern India. Before coming into contact with the program, she and her 11 year-old brother Raju worked long days alongside their parents in Mewat’s brick kilns—often as late as 11PM. Poor and landless, the family has only shallow roots in their home village. When we asked Munni where she was from, she didn’t even know the name of her village and shrugged, “Bengal?”

Last fall, Raju and Munni took notice of the other children from the brick factory compound that were riding to school each day instead of working. Though they pleaded with their parents to join the bus and enroll in school, the parents declined. With Raju and Munni’s little sister too young to help meet the family’s brick quotas, their parents felt the family wouldn’t be able to earn enough money to survive without Raju and Munni’s labor.

After nearly a year of pleading, and with both encouragement  and warnings from Lotus Outreach field staff (it is illegal for children under 14 to work in India), Munni’s parents finally relented. Reassured that transportation, supplies, lessons and meals would all be provided for free, they began to see the value of enrolling the children in school, as well as the legal risks in not doing so.

As a result of your support, Munni and Raju are now going to school every day and have near perfect attendance.  Munni is a bit behind the curve and cannot read or write properly yet, but expresses a commitment to getting better and is particularly enthusiastic about the prospect of learning English in school—something she never fathomed back in her home village in West Bengal. Though struggling with her studies and the local language, Munni appears to be a quick learner and has the support and commitment of her teachers.

Munni is still young, but is already dreaming big. Her goal is to graduate high school one day and ultimately do something about other children who have to work in brick kilns. From her experience, she learned that it is far better for kids to be in school, and she does not want others to have to suffer the same fate as she has.

Thank you for giving Munni and her peers hope for a brighter future!

Munni (right) and her peers get school supplies
Munni (right) and her peers get school supplies

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