Higher Education for Impoverished Cambodian Girls

Jul 7, 2014

A Young Woman Brings Healing to her Village!

Chenda got her dream job as a nurse in her village
Chenda got her dream job as a nurse in her village

Thanks to the support of donors like you, our young scholars in Lotus Outreach’s GATEways program are graduating college and moving into skilled positions! They are becoming nurses, midwives, accountants, and more, building Cambodia’s small class of professional workers!

One such success story is Chenda, who is just 21 years old and has recently been hired as a professional nurse in her home village. Her story demonstrates how education has the power not just to transform the lives of individuals, but to provide the most direly needed services to communities.

“During my internship I helped to deliver 4 babies, and it was the happiest moment of my studies. I knew that I made the right decision.”

The youngest of 6 siblings, Chenda joined the GATE program as an 11th grade high school student. Her parents were so poor, they worked basically as subsistence farmers, eating the rice they grew from a small paddy by their house. Her parents borrowed a lot of money from their neighbors and went deep into debt.

In her two years of study, Chenda learned French to help with the pronunciation of medical terms and practices. She completed a 2-month internship at a hospital in Banteay Meanchey, and she learned the basic nursing skills that have made her one of the most medically educated people in her home village! As such, she hopes to open a small pharmacy to give her village access to modern medicines for the very first time.

All of the GATE and GATEways scholars come from the poorest households in Cambodia, which itself is one of the poorest countries in the world. Your donations and support help us to make their dreams become reality, and many of our students –like Chenda– apply their skills to supporting the rural communities from which they come.

Chenda’s new salary of $170 US Dollars per month is allowing her to pay off her parents’ debts and to help her mom save for a new house. This level of income precipitously higher than the mean income in Cambodia– around $60/month, and Chenda is still only 21 years old.

The World Bank Agrees that investing in women’s education is the best way to encourage the right kind of global development. Supporting a GATEways girl through college costs just $100 per month, and it pays dividends to their families their communities for generations.

Thank you for supporting GATEways and women’s education in the developing world! Together we are making a difference for thousands as these scholars go forward in service to their communities.

Chenda hopes to open the first pharmacy in town!
Chenda hopes to open the first pharmacy in town!
Apr 3, 2014

Knowledge is Contagious! GATEways Grad Luen Becomes a Teacher

Luen is paying forward the gift of education!
Luen is paying forward the gift of education!

When Luen graduated from high school as one of Lotus Outreach’s GATE scholarship students, she wished to continue her education by becoming a teacher in a two-year government program. We were of course proud to continue her progress as one of our GATEways post-secondary scholars!

The road to Luen’s success, however, was not an easy one. Luen’s father abandoned her family when she was only in grade nine, and her mother passed away when she was still finishing high school in grade 12. She went to live with her grandmother, but her grandmother too passed away that same year before Luen had finished the 12th grade. Fortunately, the residential homes at GATE Banteay Meanchey were there to accept her.

Lotus Outreach’s GATEways provides tuition, room and board to impoverished students so they can attain post-secondary education, all for just $1,200 per year! Your contribution of $20 can pay for food support for two students for an entire month!

Luen graduated from high school despite these significant setbacks, and she moved forward into teacher training school in Sisophon. Working hard through the year, she graduated number three in her teaching class, and due to her good grades, had the choice to teach anywhere she wanted. A testament to the tremendous community impact of educating women, Luen chose to return to the rural Row Lueh Commune in the district of Svey Check, right next to her home village!

When we went to visit Luen’s class, 14 of her 17 third grade class were in attendance. Luen tells us that rural life makes high demands of children, and work on their parents’ farms precludes many children from attending school regularly. She says, “Some of the students have to stay home to help their parents process the cassava crop.”

Luen knows the people of her hometown area, and she’s proud to return having completed her education:

“I am so happy to be working in my home village. Here, I can be a role model and will help the children and families here to value education and stay in school as long as they can.”

Luen’s story has a fairytale ending. Luen met a young man while in pedagogy school, and they are now engaged to be married. Her fiancée is teaching at another nearby school.

Just several years ago, this kind of story would have been very unlikely in a country like Cambodia. Thanks to your support, more women like Luen are attending school, and they are paying it forward to the next generation.

"I know the answer!!"
"I know the answer!!"


Jan 2, 2014

Happy New Year! Good News from Cambodia!

Phannin is now #1 in her class!
Phannin is now #1 in her class!

As the year ends, Lotus Outreach is continuing to work hard, providing educational opportunities for women and girls in places like Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Our Non-Formal Education (NFE) Program has 104 young women enrolled working to escape sex-work by learning important skills like literacy and numeracy, as well as advanced skills like sewing, food service and cosmetology.  These young women are capable of so much, just look at our NFE student Phannin.

Phannin is a twenty-one year old student of the NFE program. After working at a number of Phnom Penh’s beer gardens and infamous “karaoke” brothels, she has finally found a way to build a healthy life, and your support is making that happen.

As a child, Phannin managed to stay in school until she had advanced to the 8th grade. Because her family was so poor, she was forced to begin working at beer garden restaurants in Phnom Penh at the age of 17. Waitresses at these venues are often considered as available for sale as the food items, and the restaurants are frequented by tourists and Cambodians alike. For her work she was compensated only US$35.00 per month.

By the time Phannin was making a comparably decent wage, she was being worked almost to exhaustion. At a Karaoke Bar in Takeo Province, she was placed as a supervisor and made US$100.00 per month. There she was forced to accompany customers day and night and imbibe as much alcohol as the patrons wanted. The work and constant alcohol consumption gave Phannin a chronic stomachache for which she had to quit her job and seek medical attention.

She moved in with a friend while recovering from her stomach problem, and it was then that she encountered Lotus’s NFE program. Staff from the program explained how the program allowed a flexible schedule for her to learn the most useful subjects to young, adult women like her. In Non-Formal Education women learn literacy and numeracy, healthy living, and skills training in areas like sewing and cosmetology. The opportunity was compelling, and Phannin decided to sign up!

Before attending the program she was only semi-literate and did not understand basic math like division. Now she number one in her fifteen person class. Phannin spends her time reading borrowed books and magazines from the school’s library, and she is even planning for her future. After reading a book entitled “Getting Rich Fast,” she has cut down on spending money hanging out with friends, and now she’s saving money for the future.

“Now I’m even teaching my friends about financial management and how they can live to be more healthy!” she reports.

After she finishes the NFE program, Phannin wants to start a restaurant of her own where she’ll work on her own terms. She is enrolled in a class at the Food & Beverage Center where she studies an additional three hours per day, six days per week. Her father works for a tourism company and says that he will help by bringing customers by her restaurant.  

Please donate to support Phannin’s amazing work. Many more women are still forced into the degrading industry of sex-work. $170 pays for a girl’s education for an entire year. Let this new year be one for reinvention and new beginnings for everyone.


Dec 5, 2013

Soven Mealea Graduates College!

Mealea visiting an ancient Cambodian temple
Mealea visiting an ancient Cambodian temple

For Soven Mealea, whose parents were poor farmers, going to college was never a possibility she or her family ever dreamed of.  Her parents took out loans just to afford the primary schooling of their five children. A few of those loans were from money lenders whose interest rate was three times higher than the bank’s, forcing Mealea’s parents to illegally migrate for work in Thailand so they could repay the debts.

Mealea’s parents’ impoverished circumstances oftentimes discouraged her from finishing school.  From 3rdgrade onwards, Mealea had to supplement her family’s income by selling fruits and cake near her home and assisting with the livestock raising and rice wine brewing at home. She says that she “often got to school late because of those chores and the long distance from home to school (2 mi.), but my school performance was not bad; I was always among the top 10.”

 In 7th grade, Mealea’s luck changed when Lotus Outreach began offering scholarship opportunities in Banteay Meanchey Province. With the scholarship’s monthly stipend support and school materials package, Mealea gained renewed confidence that she could graduate high school. More critically, Mealea’s parents rejoiced and stopped pressuring her to drop out of school to supplement the family’s income.

The possibility of attending college entered Mealea’s mind as a high school senior. She knew that her parents could not afford it, but when she passed a challenging exam that awarded her U$300 a year for 3 years of university fees, she made a leap of faith and gained entry into the Vanda Accounting University at Phnom Penh. Mealea soon realized that surviving in the city was a big challenge. The living costs of accommodation, food, study materials, textbooks, and other daily expenses were overwhelming. Her parents, still working in Thailand, were by this point fully committed to seeing their daughter be able to make it through college and borrowed more money to help her. It was at this critical point that Lotus Outreach offered Mealea a GATEways scholarship to secure her college degree. She says that “without the support so far, I would not be able to stay in school; I would have dropped out a long time ago and would have been nursing my many children by now!”

Mealea, left, and friend ride through Banteay Meanchey. While in college, Mealea was always active in seeking out workshops, trainings, and internship opportunities in order to build her capacity and be ready for employment in a very competitive job market. She joined the Vanda Institute’s “Stock Exchange Workshop” which included several field visits to companies. As a senior, Mealea tutored sophomore and junior year students in accounting related subjects, greatly improving her presentation skills and building up her confidence. In 2012, Mealea got her first job at the Sunway Hotel group where she earned U$120 a month as sales clerk and received a U$30 raise after only 3 months!

In September this year, Mealea graduated from Vanda Insitute with a degree in Accounting together with nine other GATEways scholarship recipients. With assistance from Lotus Outreach, Mealea was offered an accountant position at Jeram Coconut Co. Ltd., where she is currently earning U$150 per month! Mealea, beaming with happiness, expressed, “I always believed that the effort would pay off someday. That’s why I’ve always worked so hard.”  We at Lotus Outreach are extremely overjoyed for Mealea’s achievement. We echo her confidence that working hard and investing in these young women yields great results. By the end of next year, another 42 GATEways scholars will graduate! And we can’t wait to see the great things they will accomplish as empowered, educated women in a new Cambodia.

Mealea and friend bicycle through Banteay Meanchey
Mealea and friend bicycle through Banteay Meanchey


Sep 6, 2013

From High Risk to Higher Education

Loeun Chantha at School!
Loeun Chantha at School!

Hello, my name is Loeun Chantha and I am 21 years old. I was born into a poor farmer’s family in the Roluos Village of rural Cambodia. Growing up an orphan, whose mother passed away at a young age and whose father remarried when I was in grade 7, I was raised by my aging, ill grandmother. Seeing my family struggle to put food on the table, I had made up my mind to drop out of school and risk my life to travel across the border to Thailand in order to find work and support my family. Luckily, around the time I was conjuring up such ideas, an announcement was made at my local school: a scholarship opportunity for needy students offered by the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) and Lotus Outreach. I applied for it immediately, and after going through a rigorous interview process, I was chosen for the scholarship program.

The program not only offered tuition for my education, but also provided me with key items without which I could not have attended school. These included my uniforms, school supplies, bicycle for travelling to and from school, and a monthly stipend. I worked hard throughout high school, but when I reached 12th grade, I was diagnosed with a tumor in my throat that required an urgent operation. Fortunately, because I was in the Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) scholarship program, Lotus Outreach paid for my operation and saw me back to recovery.

Moreover, my teachers along with the program staff were extremely supportive in helping me plan for my future and presenting me with all my available opportunities. They saw me through until I graduated high school and went on to pass the exam for the two-year Teacher Training program at Banteay Meanchey Teaching Center. Lotus Outreach and CWCC continue to support me by providing food for my family so that I may continue my education on to college. Without the funding to buy textbooks and other necessary support, I would not have been able to continue my education beyond high school. Thanks to supporters like you, my dream of becoming a primary school teacher is now becoming a reality!

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Lotus Outreach

Sacramento, CA, United States

Project Leader

Wesley Samms

Grants Manager
Sacramento, California United States

Where is this project located?

Map of Higher Education for Impoverished Cambodian Girls