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.
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