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 19, 2012

A Turning Tide

Neeraj, Sukhpal, Kamlesh and sister
Neeraj, Sukhpal, Kamlesh and sister

On December 7 we distributed sweaters to keep 56 brick kiln bus riders warm from the morning chill on their way to primary school in Bhanguri village of Hathin block. While uniforms are now provided by the government (thanks to our local partner’s legal advocacy in the area) we provide these children with school bags, notebooks and sweaters to further encourage their academic commitment.

Demonstrating how this project has impacted parents’ thinking about their children’s potential, one migrant from the neighboring state of Uttar Pradesh spoke with our project manager, Suraj Kumar. Sukhpal, whose grade 5 daughter Kamlesh has been attending the school in Bhanguri for the last three years, worries that his work in the brick kilns will impede his three children from learning skilled labor. They help him make bricks after school to raise the family’s income, but he now thinks of the long-term consequences. Next year, he says, he will try harder to find work nearer his home so that his children can stay in school there, and won’t need to work in the afternoons to help finance the costs of migrating. (See our February 22, 2011 update to learn how Kamlesh convinced Sukhpal to let her go to school.)

Your support has been critical to making this type of long-term, sustainable change possible in rural India. Thank you so much for being a part of it. 

Neeraj, Sukhpal and Kamlesh, one year ago
Neeraj, Sukhpal and Kamlesh, one year ago
Brick Kiln Kids in their new sweaters
Brick Kiln Kids in their new sweaters

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Jan 9, 2012

Prosecuting a rapist

Channery
Channery's art therapy

The daughter of farm laborers, 14 year-old Suy Channery* left the public school system in grade three to help out with adult responsibilities. Her voice became soft when we asked about her education. “I dropped out of school a long time ago,” she says. “When I was 10 years old I worked in Thailand for a year making leather shoes. It wasn’t hard, as I was there with my two older sisters and a neighbor. The working day was 7-12 hours, and we each made $60 per month.”

Last year, a friend from a neighboring farm asked Channery to stay with her while her parents were away. The young woman’s 18 year-old brother came in to where Channery was sleeping that night and raped her, covering her mouth to stifle her cries. "I tried to make him stop, but he was too strong,” she says.

Channery told her mother what had happened, the police were called and the young man was arrested in June 2010. We met Channery when the two families were unable to come to an agreement on compensation, and in September asked our local partner (the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center) for legal advice. They referred Channery to our safe shelter in nearby Sisophon.

Our counselor, Sokny, reports that Channery displayed symptoms of depression and withdrawal similar to that of many trauma victims: she didn’t bathe, she isolated herself from others, cried frequently, and discussed feelings of hopelessness and anger.  “I felt ashamed of myself and felt my reputation was destroyed,” Channery recalls. “I thought my neighbors, being the only people I knew, would think badly of me.”

With nine months of nurturing through shelter activities and individual and group counseling, Channery’s outlook improved markedly. She began communicating more naturally, made friends among the other patients, and reported feeling less ashamed.

When her court hearing arrived Channery gathered all her courage to tell her story in its entirety to a room full of strangers - and her attacker. Once the terrifying experience was over, she was filled with relief. She had braved public humiliation and survived – and found a strength she didn’t know she’d had.

While we hoped that the defendant would be sentenced to 15 years for sexually assaulting a minor, in the court considered the act to be consensual since the perpetrator's sister was not woken up by her cries. He received four years for having sex with a minor and was ordered to pay $10,000 in compensation. 

Re-entering the school system will be difficult for someone as far behind as Channery. She took tailoring training at the shelter, and was reintegrated with a $50 life start-up gift in August. 

*name has been changed

A happy thought
A happy thought

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Dec 13, 2011

Literacy: the ultimate confidence booster

Sok Khea cooking with her daughter
Sok Khea cooking with her daughter

One of 13 children, You Sok Khea never had the chance to attend school in her native Kampong Cham province. Having spent her childhood helping her mother raise her siblings, her first taste of independence came after she moved to Phnom Penh as an adult and found restaurant work.

A few years later as a wife and mother of four,  Sok Khea assumed reading and writing were opportunities that had long since passed her by. Yet her hopes sprang back to life in March when we opened up our NFE class in Tuol Song Kae, not far from her home. She enrolled at the first chance and has excelled, currently ranking fifth in a class of 21 students.

The course and its teachers have exposed Sok Khea to thoughts and ideas that felt well out of reach just a few months ago, quickly raising the bar beyond the basic skills of primary education. One lesson that got her wheels turning was on a cassette called “Keys to Success and Leadership”. Inspired, she enlisted the help and guidance of her teachers to open a small grocery. Today, she runs a successful business out of her house and continues to attend NFE, eager for all it has to offer.

“Before I didn’t know how to calculate so people could cheat me easily,” remembers Sok Khea. “But I’m different now! I can not only read, write and do math, but I can think, analyze and even run a business. I owe a great deal to the program – I don’t know how to thank you enough."

We couldn't have said it better ourselves. On behalf of Sok Khea and all of our NFE students, we thank you for your support and wish you a happy and safe holiday season!

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