Lotus Outreach

Lotus Outreach International is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to ensuring the education, health, and safety of at-risk and exploited women and children in the developing world. Lotus Outreach achieves its mission by supporting effective grassroots projects in vulnerable communities.
Mar 19, 2014

Vhannah: Thriving Textile Entrepreneur

A happy Vannah and her 6-year-old daughter
A happy Vannah and her 6-year-old daughter

Lotus Outreach views the relationship between us and the women we have the privilege to support as a partnership with them for a better, more just world. In this update we are honored to present the tenacious and graceful Vannah. The inspiring story of 31-year-old Vannah demonstrates the underlying potential of the 45% of Cambodian women that have been denied education. Vannah is part of an entire generation that had no access to education due to the Khmer Rouge’s shutdown of the public school system and execution of 90% of the country’s teachers in the late 1970s. Growing up in the wake of genocide, civil war and foreign occupation, Vannah and her siblings were forced by poverty and political turmoil to spend their childhoods laboring rather than studying.

While many NFE participants are able to better their lives tangibly as a result of the classes, Vannah has used the skills she acquired to improve the livelihood of an entire village. She entered the NFE program in 2011 while working at a brothel in Phnom Penh and swiftly rose to the top of her class. Despite the hardships she endured, the determined Vannah used her spare time constructively and encouraged other girls to also take skill training. In addition to her daily lessons in basic literacy, numeracy and business management, she enrolled in our sewing and tailoring course, which proved to be the foundation for her career as a prolific businesswoman. “When I started NFE, I couldn’t sew a straight line,” shares Vannah. “It was the skills I learned during NFE that have made me the successful tailor that I am today.

In just a few years, Vannah has managed to invest in 30 weaving looms and four sewing machines, effectively employing 100 local villagers who support as many as 500 people. Her weaving and tailoring workshops are able to maintain a local tradition of silk making, a process that transforms raw materials into vibrantly patterned, hi-quality silk fabrics. Ingenuity and careful business planning have allowed her to employ the bulk of her extended family, and she reflected on how the family no longer has to experience hunger each day. “Every day we used to worry how we would survive. Now I feel very happy knowing we’ll be okay.” Vannah, a single mom of a 6 year-old girl, is now able to earn $200 a month – two times the per capita income in Cambodia – and hopes to buy her first home in the near future. Vannah is also starting up a small retail operation, and recently purchased second-hand blue jeans, which she plans to re-sell with a good margin of profit.

Our visit with Vannah marked the most interesting and satisfying visit I can remember in many years and hundreds of visits with Cambodian families,” shares Glenn Fawcett, Lotus Outreach’s Director of Field Operations. “Vannah is a warm-hearted and generous boss who pays her employees well and inspires those around her to find the best in themselves. We are so happy to see such a kind and talented person in the midst of great success.”

Thank you so much for your support of the Non-Formal Education project! Your generosity is the backbone of this project and the platform for incredible transformation like the one we witnessed with Vannah.

Vannah puts her sewing skills to good use
Vannah puts her sewing skills to good use
Vannah oversees a worker at a weaving loom
Vannah oversees a worker at a weaving loom
A joyful employee of Vannah
A joyful employee of Vannah

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Mar 17, 2014

16-year-old survivor Mulika moves forward, pen in hand

Literacy training gives survivor Mulika new hope
Literacy training gives survivor Mulika new hope

In any country, not having a proper education creates a lot of added difficulties and risks for a person, and this holds especially true for women. It becomes more difficult to get a well-paying job, and in Cambodia it can even cause young girls to try to migrate to Thailand to find work.

Lotus Outreach designs its programs empower women economically and allow them to avoid risky behaviors like migrating to find work. Migrating puts young women at great risk of violent crimes, trafficking and rape.

For the many women who cannot avoid these perils, Lotus Outreach offers reconciliation through our Counseling and Reintegration program. Please consider donating— a week’s counseling can be provided for only $10.00!

Mulika is one such woman who has benefitted from counseling and economic reintegration services provided through this program. Her name has been changed to protect her identity.

Now 16 years old, Mulika dropped out of school at a young age due to her family’s extreme poverty. She travelled to Thailand by herself to find construction work, leaving her parents and her two siblings behind. She did manage to arrive and to find work in Thailand, but the danger for young Mulika was not over.

A Cambodian man who was Mulika’s coworker at the construction site forcibly raped her, beat her, and sliced her face with a broken bottle. She was seriously wounded and was hospitalized for her injuries.

Her wounds required multiple surgical treatments, and so Mulika was transferred back to a Cambodian hospital in Banteay Meanchey, near the Thailand border. The incident traumatized Mulika, and her family incurred significant costs in obtaining the medical treatments she needed. Her sense of self-worth plummeted, and things were made worse when her Cambodian fiancé decided to separate from her.

Fortunately, Lotus Outreach’s Counseling and Reintegration program was there to catch her as she fell. Mulika’s parents sought help from our local partner, the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center, and placed Mulika in the center’s residential care program.

Mulika began participating in group counseling sessions, learning to manage her depression and her anger. The anti-social behaviors which she exhibited when she joined the program lessened, and as she became more engaged in the therapy she was able to smile and make friends once again.

Counseling and Reintegration aims not just to help women reconcile their traumatic experiences, but also to prepare them for life and work beyond living in the crisis center. Mulika is attending literacy classes at the shelter, and she is learning the skills which her impoverished background had always denied her.

What’s more, the center has helped Mulika to file charges against her attacker, a Cambodian man who at the time of this report was still at large. Prosecuting their assailants gives some reconciliation to the survivor, and successful prosecutions help keep other women safe from dangerous rapists and abusers.

Mulika still has a long way to go, and dealing with the experience of a violent rape and traumatic migration is not easy. She is beginning to feel better, and she is grateful that Counseling and Reintegration is there to give hope, even to the hopeless.

Thank you for contributing to support these brave survivors!

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Mar 11, 2014

Two Blossom Bus Graduates Ask their Fathers: "Can we go to college?"

Renu (left) and Priyanka with their fathers
Renu (left) and Priyanka with their fathers

It is now March, and in Haryana, India winter is thawing, festivals are beginning, and spring is coming to blossom. In India, this is the time when students take final exams and move on to the next grade. And so it is that Lotus Outreach’s own spring blossoms are blooming—the Blossom Bus girls are graduating high school!

In the next month, the very first group of Blossom Bus riders is finishing the twelfth grade. Many of the 34 young women who are finishing this spring are the very first women in their families to complete high school!

Two such young graduates are Priyanka and Renu. Although they are excited for their achievement of graduating high school, they feel disheartened that their parents will probably soon ask them to marry after they have completed school examinations. For many girls in this area of India, marriage is common as early as age 14, but these young adults still yearn for independence and further learning.

With no interest in marriage, Priyanka and Renu asked us to approach their fathers about continuing their education at the women’s university 20 kilometers away.

Twenty years ago in Mewat, only two percent of women belonging to the minority Muslim “Meo” population even attained literacy, but now Priyanka and Renu women want to continue to forgo marriage so that they can go to college – a level of education even their fathers have not seen.

The local women’s college is 20 km away from the Durgapur village, and given the dangerous conditions for women travelling alone, as it is for the other Blossom Bus riders, it is too dangerous for young women to be riding public buses alone.

The two young women hesitate to ask their fathers if they should be allowed to take this almost unprecedented first step towards a post-secondary education. Priyanka’s older sister was married after she had completed high school at age 18, an exceptional enough achievement in a young Meo woman’s life, but Priyanka doubted that her father would allow her to remain unwed and in school. She and Renu both asked us to speak to their fathers on their behalf.

Speaking together with the two young women and their fathers, we proposed that should the girls be allowed to attend college, the Blossom Bus program would assure their safe transport to and from the college. Without any hesitation, both fathers nodded in agreement!

Our surprise at the fathers’ answer must have been obvious, because the fathers explained that they enthusiastically support the education of girls, but they had only been concerned for their daughters’ safety in transit. Their progressive mentality is part of a cultural shift that might not ever have happened in this area if not for Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus!

Lotus Outreach is beginning to move the Blossom Bus program forward, providing college transportation to as many of the 34 Blossom Bus graduates as possible.

You can support these girls in shattering the glass ceiling by donating to support the program! Just $10 can cover the transportation costs of one of these girls for her first month of college!

Thank you for everything you do to support Lotus Outreach and women’s education! 

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