Feb 14, 2021

A ride forward

The new academic year in Cambodia finally kicked off on January 11th, 2021 after being interrupted by COVID-19 since mid-March 2020. The effects of COVID-19 have been felt at every level, from interruptions in travel, trade and investment as well as day to day happenings. The pandemic has had a particularly devastating effect on low income families whose financial hardship has been only exacerbated even as prices for goods increase. This makes our mission to ensure that girls have a way to get to school even more crucial. 

We often say: educate a girl, transform her community. By giving a girl a bicycle, we ensure she reaches school safely so that she may gain the skills she needs to succeed. When she succeeds, so too does her family and community. We see this first hand every day, and are astounded at the determination of these girls when they are given the tools they need to reach their full potential. 

Since the start of the new academic year, Lotus Pedals has gifted 82 bicycles to female students in Phnom Penh Capital and Siem Reap Province. Votey is one of the recipients. She is in 7th grade at the Hun Sen Siem Reap Lower Secondary School.

Votey is 13 years old, and is the third child of six siblings. Her parents have a cart from which they sell fruits in the Angkor Wat area, together they earn around $150 a month which is all they have to support their eight member family. When she was in primary school, Votey would share a ride to school on her sister’s bicycle. But the Secondary School is much further from her home and in a different direction than her sister's school. As her family could not afford another bicycle during the pandemic and with no other means of transportation, Votey was at risk of having to drop out. Luckily, through Lotus Pedals, Votey now has a new bicycle of her own. She said, "I will take good care of the bicycle and will study hard to finish school and become a teacher. Thank you for your kindness.”

We are so happy to be able to support girls like Votey in breaking barriers in their families and communities. A huge thank you to all who make our work possible. 

Feb 5, 2021

Exciting news from CATALYST

Learning that she was accepted into CATALYST
Learning that she was accepted into CATALYST

Despite all the challenges due to COVID-19, 27 CATALYST scholars have successfully graduated their bachelor degree programs and a graduation ceremony is planned for February 21 in Siem Reap Province, where their families will be invited to witness this meaningful and hard-earned achievement.

With 27 students leaving the program and continued commitment from current donors to fill their spots, in mid-December CATALYST informed year 12GATE beneficiaries who were about to graduate high school and placed an announcement on Facebook that we were providing 23 scholarships to girls from low-income families for their tertiary education.

Soon after the announcement, the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport announced that all year 12 students would pass the board exam automatically due to the disruption of COVID-19 on education in Cambodia. With this new development, within two weeks of putting out the announcement, CATALYST received more than 300 applications country wide to fill 23 places, which made our social audit very difficult. We had to limit our social audit to only two main areas where we work, Phnom Penh City and Siem Reap Province. We conducted 56 social audits of those who were shortlisted and went through a tough decision to finally grant 23 scholarships to the most deserving girls. We are certain that through the support of CATALYST, their lives will change forever.

Last year, CATALYST started a residential house in Siem Reap for 17 students to stay and this year, the program decided to rent a house in Phnom Penh as well, for the 16 new scholars to stay together. We now have two residential houses! This is something we have always wanted to make happen so we can work with our scholars better to build their capacity to become the agent of change and role model in their community through an immersive CATALYST experience.

Thanks to the generosity of all the donors, we are making a difference in many young women's lives. We hope in the future to be able to offer more girls opportunities through CATALYST, to meet the huge demand for higher education scholarships here in Cambodia.

Jan 6, 2021

Positive Impact of Blossom Bus

The Government Girls’ High School in Aharwan, Haryana has a newly appointed principal who noted specially the positive impact that Blossom Bus has had at the school. Mrs. Renu, the principal, admitted that she was nervous when she was assigned to the school in Aharwan, as it is in a very rural location, about 75 kilometers from her home in Gurgaon. However, when she arrived at the school, she was greeted by the sight of several Blossom Busses in the parking lot, and was told that the busses offer free transportation to girls from several surrounding villages, making it possible for them to attend school. Mrs. Renu was touched by the impact that the Blossom Bus had had on the school and felt encouraged by the efforts of Lotus Outreach at Aharwan.

Mrs. Renu feels that the presence of Blossom Bus has improved the school as a whole, by ensuring that more girls from nearby communities are able to attend. She believes that Blossom Bus has given Aharwan a good name and she is happy to be a part of this school where girls are studying in a safe, supportive and comfortable environment. 

Madhu and Kajal from village Bichpuri

After an irregular and challenging year, schools in Haryana are open for girls in grade 10 and 12, who have to prepare for their board exams. Madhu and Kajal are from village Bichpuri and attend the Government Girls’ School in Aharwan. They were not able to attend online classes as they do not have smartphones or access to laptops. Though the lack of technology in these rural areas was raised as an issue to the local authorities, and there was some discussion on providing students with tablets for online learning, the government ultimately decided it was too high a cost to provide tablets to students. Thus, with schools closed from March through October, preparation for these important exams was put on hold, and many of the girls felt that this year would be wasted if they were unable to pass. Furthermore, for girls like Madhu and Kajal, their families are unlikely to support them repeating an entire year if they were to fail the examinations, meaning they would have to drop out and find work or be married off. 

With schools reopening, however, Madhu and Kajal are feeling hopeful. Currently, only 10th and 12th graders are attending school, so all the teacher’s attention is on helping the girls prepare for and pass these crucial exams. With enough support and determination, the girls feel that they can pass and continue forward to Senior Secondary School, and into their futures.

 

Thank you for supporting girls’ access to education through the Blossom Bus.

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