This month we bring you a personal thank you from a recent bike recipient, Pheung Sopheavy. She is also supported by our Girls' Access to Education scholarship program.
I am now in 12th grade at Dom Dek High School and I am the only child of the family who can stay in school this far. All of my siblings dropped out at primary school level to help earn income to support the family. I have been in scholarship program since I was in 8th grade and I would have dropped out just like my brothers and sisters if I didn’t get scholarship from the program.
None of my family members has a regular job; they all do seasonal labor work on other people’s farm and can earn from $2 to $2.50 per day. I also work like them during school vacation. This seasonal income is not enough to support the big family, let alone supporting my education which gets more and more expensive the higher grade I reach. I am very grateful to the program for covering all these expenses for my family by providing me with school uniforms, study materials, monthly stipend, tuition money, and a bicycle on September 27, 2011 when I passed from 11th to 12th grade.
When I was in 11th grade, I studied at Popel Upper Secondary School near home, but the school has only up to 11th grade, so I had to move to Dom Dek High School which is about 15km or 20km away from home to continue 12th grade, the last grade of high school. Normally for students who stay from 8km up from school are illegible to stay in residential home near school rented by the program, but since I need to help with household chores when other family members go to look for work, I asked the program not to stay in residential home and commute to school daily on the bike provided by the program. Without this bike, I would have difficulty balancing schooling and household chores, so my family and I are very appreciative for the bike and we promise to take very good care of it.
I would like to sincerely thank the program for the right intervention and all the advocacies as well as encouragement given to my family that helps my mother see the value of education and allow me stay in school this far. With financial support and spiritual support from the program and my family, I can see a significant improvement in my study from year to year. Last year I ranked between 7th to 10th in the class, and this year I get second and third place every month out of 50 students. I commit to continue to study hard to return your favor and to be able to support my own family in the future as well as to help develop my country.
In the past year, you have allowed us to provide 236 bicycles, pumps, repair kits and locks to impoverished, at-risk girls across Cambodia so they can safely get to school each day:
We have attached several photographs of the bicycle giveaway ceremonies, and thank you again for giving us 236 more reasons to celebrate back to school season.GUESS WHAT? WE HAVE EXCITING NEWS!We know you care about girls getting to school, so we thought we would tell you about another GlobalGiving project that was recently selected to participate in an exciting competition happening RIGHT NOW!Girls in rural India face the same challenges as girls in Cambodia when it comes to getting to school. Heavily trafficked and potholed roads, however, mean bicycles are not an option. Instead, we provide safe, chaperoned bus transportation to approximately 100 girls in Mewat, Haryana—the most regressive districts in terms of girls’ education in all of India.Lotus Outreach has been selected to participate in the first ever Girl Effect Challenge. In the next 30 days, we will compete with approximately 50 other organizations around the world to become one of six beneficiaries of the Girl Effect Fund, a collective giving pool that has raised nearly $700,000 to date.By becoming a Girl Effect partner, we will not only receive significant financial support for our Blossom Bus project in 2012, but we will also get critical exposure to Girl Effect fans around the world. Need proof that this will make a difference? The Girl Effect has 17,500 followers on Twitter, 260,000 "likes" on Facebook and nearly 1,000,000 views on YouTube! And it isn't hard to see why the Girl Effect is so popular: watch this video to learn why.WE CAN’T WIN WITHOUT YOUR HELPBetween now and November 15, our Blossom Bus project must recruit as many unique donors as possible. We are asking all of our supporters to give just $10 during this time period to help us win the competition. Every donation raised during this period will not only bring us one step closer to our dream of partnering with Girl Effect, but will ensure adolescent girls in Mewat, India can safely return to school. By providing bus transportation, we will help many of these girls escape childhood marriage and become the first girls to reach high school in the history of their villages!You can make your $10 donation today at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/the-blossom-bus/HELP US GO GUERRILLAWe know we can do this! You helped Lotus Outreach win a similar challenge in 2009. But we also know how important it is to get our supporters mobilized and engaged. Please tell your friends, family and colleagues about this competition and ask them to pledge their support. Every donation counts so please help us spread the word far and wide through email, Facebook and Twitter!Questions? Please contact email@example.com.
From October 2010 to March 2011, the Lotus Pedals project gave away 186 bicycles to vulnerable girls across Cambodia, with 45 more scheduled for distribution in the coming weeks. Eighteen year-old Roeun Sonang, a grade 9 student at Chan Sor lower secondary school is one of them. Her family rents 1.5 hectares of land to grow rice, but after turning over nearly half of their yield to pay the landowner, they must still buy rice to eat a few months of the year. With her father, a soldier, stationed at the Thai border, the family doesn’t have the manpower to increase their yield.
The pressure to drop out is omnipresent, but Sonang and her family are determined that all four children should stay in school. They work seasonally and live largely on vegetables that they grow in their garden, rarely eating meat. Until Sonang was selected to receive a bike, the kids walked about 1.5 kilometers to school. She explains what a difference the bike has made for her.
“Since I had to help around at home in between school and had to walk that far, I sometimes got to school late, sometimes had to miss school, and most of the time I felt tired when I got to school and couldn’t concentrate on the lesson which impacted on my school performance,” she says. “I came 15th to 20th in the class then. After getting the bike from the program, it eases me in both traveling to school and to attend any activities with Youth Club. I now arrive on time and can pay full attention on the lesson. I rank between 5th and 9th in the class now!”
What’s more, she carries her younger siblings on the back, so in fact, four children benefit. Sonang and her family wish the best of luck and success to you, the donors who make Lotus Pedals possible. She is determined to make good on your generosity by studying hard to become a lawyer. With a bike to get to school, her chances just got a whole lot better. Thank you!
Gate scholar and bicycle recipient Kreach Sopea wears her big sister’s shirt to school every day; it is stained and still bears the older girl’s name. Sopea’s mother, a widow with four children to raise, can barely afford to keep her in school; Sopea spends her days off foraging in the swamp next to her house for wild vegetables and crabs to sell at the local market. This earns the family about $0.75 a day.
“I know what it’s like to be poor and uneducated,” says Sopea’s mother. “While we couldn’t do it without the scholarship, we are still sacrificing an income so that Sopea can be well educated, and have a better life than I did.”
With her new bike from Lotus Outreach, Sopea has one less hurdle between her and a whole new life. “I am now determined to finish grade 12, and get a job doing secretarial and office work,” she says. For a 14 year-old girl living in a swamp, achieving something so modest will be nothing short of a dream come true.
Thank you - your donation has given an extra hand to a Cambodian girl with big dreams. Watch the video below to see Sopea at home with her mother.
Although poverty presents the most pervasive challenge to the people we serve, the sad reality we often encounter is that many women must also overcome abuse at the hands of their own fathers and brothers. This is the case of Teuk Thida, an avid student who was forced into a karaoke bar after the sixth grade to pay for her brother’s wedding.
The middle child of five, Thida was often thrust into the role of an eldest sibling due to the negligence and mischief of her older brothers. The family’s small plot of land could not provide enough rice for subsistence, so her parents also worked on neighboring farms for $3 a day. To help, Thida scavenged for vegetables, river shells and snails to sell after school, bringing in an extra $0.50 on a good day. None of this distracted her from her studies: she left her house every day at 5am to walk six kilometers to school, usually finishing the year near the top of her class.
As Thida was finishing primary school her oldest brother was planning to marry. With no job and no family savings to rely on, he turned on Thida to come up with $150 to cover the expenses. Behind her parents’ back, who were often away working in the fields, he beat and harassed her to come up with money. In desperation, she turned to her neighbors for loans, but all she could manage was $112. So she fled, terrified, more than 50 kilometers to Phnom Penh in the hope of both escaping her brother’s wrath and finding a way to repay her loans. She found work as a servant for the proprietors of Goat Soup karaoke bar, where Lotus Outreach operates a Non-Formal Education (NFE) project.
At just 15 years old, Thida found herself suddenly working a slave wage. At 18 ½ hour days from 4:30am to 11:00pm for $30 a month, she had been better off selling snails and shells from the river. Instead she swept her bosses’ house and bar, cared for their two children, clerked in their grocery store, and washed dishes in the bar at night. She was, however, permitted to attend NFE classes with the karaoke bar’s female entertainers. This proved to be the sliver of luck that would reverse her fortune.
During a donor visit in mid-November, Thida was identified as being young enough to return to school, and Lotus Outreach’s director of operations made a note of her name. The NFE program manager returned shortly after to gauge her commitment to her formal education, and found that with a bicycle to cover the nine kilometers to the lower secondary school nearest her village, Thida would happily return to attending classes regularly.
The owner of Goat Soup didn’t take kindly to the idea, and threatened to withhold Thida’s wages if she tried to leave. NFE's program manager intervened with a few threats of her own – namely a lawsuit for child exploitation. By the end of the month, Thida was on her way home with scholarship materials and her Lotus Pedals bicycle.
“I am very happy with the bike – it’s the first ever that my family has owned!” says Thida. “And with more education I will be able to get a better job, that doesn’t have long hours like what I had been doing.”
With her brother living in another province with his new wife and the door to secondary school propped open, life has been much brighter. Yet the road ahead is full of challenges for Thida. Although she packs a rice lunch from home, she sometimes must buy food at school. Two required courses (Math and Physics) are fee-based and exam papers must be purchased. Although this averages only $0.60 per day, the small sum is a strain on Thida’s family.
Thida remains focused on the opportunities now available to her, aware that ironically, without being run off to Phnom Penh she would never have come into contact with NFE, Lotus Pedals or the bike that has made secondary school a reality. “I hope at least I can hang on to school until grade 9, so that I can have a better understanding of how to live a better life in the future,” says Thida. “I love studying very much, but if my family cannot afford to keep me in school through high school I may come back to NFE to learn tailoring skill, especially to support my little sisters’ education.”
With the continued support of our generous donors, we will help Thida reach her goal of finishing high school so that when she does join the labor force, she will have the strongest bargaining position possible. Given the opportunity to prove herself academically, a strong student like Thida may even attract a scholarship for higher education. We thank you sincerely for standing beside us to touch the lives of hundreds of girls just like her.
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