Poverty places a great demand on a child’s time. Between keeping the house while parents work and working themselves, children in rural Cambodia struggle to attend school. Unfortunately, a scarcity of schools means that a commute of several kilometers to neighboring villages is commonplace, compounding the challenges to obtaining an education.
While scholarships provided by Lotus Outreach’s Girls’ Access To Education (GATE) program can nudge talented and ambitious girls into education, without a means of transportation many young women and girls forfeit their chance to attend school. Modeled on a UNICEF initiative in Ghana, Lotus Outreach (LO) began providing bicycles to promising girls in three districts of Cambodia who live more than 1.5 km from school. Today, more than 160 girls attend school thanks to this support.
Eighteen year-old Long Rina is an example of the type of ambitious young female Lotus Outreach seeks to support. Before qualifying for a GATE scholarship, Rina shared an old bicycle with a younger sister to reach the nearest secondary school - two kilometers away. The tedious daily journey (two girls on one bicycle!) was a testament to the drive of both girls to pursue their studies as far as possible. For Rina, in ninth grade, this was already far beyond the typical female in her community – but not nearly as high as she intended to reach. After losing her father because her family was unable to pay for a doctor, Rina was determined to become a doctor herself and devote her practice to the poor.
After receiving her scholarship, which included a new bike, Rina quickly established herself as a bright and remarkable young woman. Her vibrant spirit took in Program Director Raksmey Var, who hopes to help Rina achieve her dream of working as a healer for the destitute. She is so inspired by Rina’s passion and aptitude that she has offered her a place to stay with her family in Phnom Penh should she be accepted into a medical program at the university.
One of the lone pieces of furniture in Rina’s humble, one-room home is a small bookshelf lined with tattered textbooks, bearing witness to her mother’s dream of a proper education for her daughters. Now with GATE support and a safe, reliable means to reach the classroom, Rina and her four sisters can take great pride in bringing their mother’s greatest wish to fruition.
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