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.
Jun 16, 2014

Morokot's Wish-Fulfilling Bike!

It
It's "V" for victory for Morokot!

Morokot is 12 years old and the third daughter of a family of four siblings, one boy and three girls. She lives at the Krang Angkrong Pei village, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Morokot studies in the sixth grade at the Cambodian Volunteers for Children and Development Kork Khleang Pei Primary School, at the Kork Khleang Pei community. Her father, Savorn, is 69 years old and works as a tuk-tuk driver. Her mother, Chan, is 48 years old and works as a food seller.

Sien’s family is very poor. In 2011, her father had a traffic accident and broke his right arm. Since then he's in pain and can no longer drive the tuk-tuk for as many hours as he did before. He drives people in his community just to nearby places and hence is only able to earn an irregular income. Sometimes he can make US$2.50 per day, but sometimes nothing at all. Since the accident, the family’s situation has become increasingly difficult. They had to take a loan from a microfinance establishment to start up the food-selling business. And their oldest daughter, Silen, had to drop out of high school to work in a garment factory to help support the family and repay the loan.

The family now thoroughly depends on the mother’s and Silen’s income. The mother can make around US$5 in profits from her business per day and Silen earns US$120 monthly. However, they still struggle to make ends meet and cover the house rent, paying back the business loan (US$20 per week), purchasing pain medicine for the father, water and electricity costs, and schooling for three children.

In the midst of the family struggle, Morakot tries to stay focused on her studies. She loves reading Khmer literature. She tries to study hard. However, at the beginning of this academic year, her school performance was being negatively affected by the fact that she had to walk 2 miles to school, as it impacted her ability to get to school on time and regularly.

Morokot’s luck changed when she was selected as a Lotus Pedal recipient in April 2014. Here is how she describes the impact the bike has had in her life:

Before getting the bike, I had to walk 2 miles on a road to get to school. Since I had to help around at home in between school and had to walk that far, I sometimes got to school late. Sometimes I had to miss school. And most of the time I felt tired when I got to school and couldn’t concentrate on the lesson. This had a very negative effect on my school performance. I came 15th to 20th in the class then. After getting the bike from the program, travelling to school has become so easy. I now arrive on time and am able to pay full attention in class. My school performance has improved too! I rank between 4th and 11th now!

Thanks to Lotus Pedal, Morokot now can ride her bike to school. Having the bicycle makes a big difference on her ability to attend class, be attentive, and ultimately on her ability to complete her studies. Morokot is deeply grateful to the Lotus Pedals program. She is determined to study hard and pursue her aspiration to become a doctor.

Morokot and her family wish the best of luck and great success to all the donors who so generously supported Lotus Pedals! We at Lotus Outreach second their best wishes!

Determined Morokot
Determined Morokot

Links:

Jun 16, 2014

Sieb Starts a Business

Sieb works under the gaze of her niece
Sieb works under the gaze of her niece

Sieb, 25, is recently divorced from her abusive husband. Sieb’s former husband has taken 2 of their 3 hectares of ancestral land and all their savings. He refuses to part with half, as is customary, or anything for that matter. They remain in a legal battle but with no land titles or documentation; it’s not clear what the outcome will be.

Back in November 2012, Sieb took refuge at Lotus Outreach’s shelter for survivors of rape, trafficking and domestic violence. While she stayed at the shelter for nearly six months, Sieb received sewing skills training and was offered a small business startup grant of $200 to help her get back on her feet.

Sieb’s first venture was reselling produce. She bought sweet cakes made in Thailand but didn’t account for the rainy season and perishable nature of the product and lost $40. Next, she bravely jumped into making dried fish but she cut off the fish heads which should have been included and which reduced the weight of the final product. She couldn’t make a profit and suffered a further loss of $100.

Sieb’s third venture is proving more successful and Lotus Outreach Field Director Glenn Fawcett recently visited Sieb at her home to find out more:

We arrived mid-afternoon to Sieb’s home in Oo Ambaal on the edge of Sisophon town in the Western Cambodian Province bordering Thailand. We could hear that familiar sound, “rat-a-rat-a-rat-a”, of a pedal driven sewing machine as we mounted the broad stairs of Sieb’s stilted wooden home with a corrugated iron roof. Inside, Sieb was working on her garments next to her parents and the usual gaggle of nephews, nieces and sundry neighborhood kids surrounded them.

After Sieb’s initial disappointments from her first two business ventures, it was clear that she would have to make absolutely certain that her next venture was a success. One day, as Sieb sat on her stoop watching life pass by her, she noticed a neighbor returning some garment piecework to a manager and told the neighbor that she could also do some of the sewing piecework for a lower price. The neighbor agreed and pretty soon Sieb was stitching shorts and shirts on piece rates. She’s not very fast as of yet, but it’s a start, and she works 6 hours on most days, which earns her about US$2 a day. This modest income makes a big difference to her and the family at the end of each month and with more practice she will doubtless get faster and generate more income.

Not surprisingly, Sieb says she isn’t going to stop at that. She tells us, “I’m putting money away to start a small grocery store, which I will find more stimulating. It will increase my skill and capacity by having to keep accounts, a budget, and stock in and out.

Even after all she has endured, you can sense a strong confidence in Sieb, fifth of ten children, forced to leave school at sixth grade to look after her younger siblings, tend pigs, and manage other work while her parents labored wherever they could find work to keep food on the table for a family of 12.

Sieb’s story is by no means unique; many Cambodian women face a similar reality after an abusive relationship. Sieb is tremendously brave to strive to improve family’s circumstances after so much hardship. We are absolutely delighted she’s making the best use of the opportunity provided to her through the Counseling and Reintegration program in establishing an income and standing on her own two feet.

On behalf of the hundreds of women served by the Counseling and Reintegration program, we thank you for your support and generosity!

Sieb shows off her work
Sieb shows off her work
Sieb
Sieb's very cherished tool

Links:

Jun 9, 2014

Manju & Manju Video Report

Madhu & Manju (far right) pose with their father
Madhu & Manju (far right) pose with their father

For this Blossom Bus report, we asked our splendid India Project Manager, Mr. Suraj Kumar, to interview two of our 300 Blossom Bus girls. Suraj, very sweetly, chose Manju and Manju! Manju from Dhamaka village and Manju from Bhatt Ki village.

Dhamaka’s Manju very joyfully shared:

"I graduated middle school two years ago. With no high school in my village, I had to drop out. My parents didn't allow me to travel to another village to school.

After a year, I heard about a bus for girls to travel to school. My father was hesitant since he is poor and couldn't afford bus fares. After realizing the bus was free, he allowed me to ride it to school.

My sister Madhu and I now ride the Blossom Bus to school. My father would have married us off by now if we weren't attending school.

We both want to graduate high school, and we'll continue to college if we can."

We do hope both Manju and Madhu are able to continue their education into college, and we are committed to continuing providing them safe transportation to and from college.  

Bhatt Ki’s Manju gave us a glimpse of truly what a great accomplishment it is for a girl in rural Mewat to graduate high school:

"I am the eldest of five siblings. Two of my brothers are in high school. One of my sisters is in 6th grade, and the youngest is in 2nd grade.

When I finished elementary school, I got enrolled in a middle school 5 km away from my village. The school gave me a bicycle, but my parents were always worried about my safety. They wanted me to stop studying after middle school.

I heard about the Blossom Bus. After I was able to get a seat on the bus I started attending high school and now I'm about to graduate. I'm the first girl in my extended family to reach high school, since we belong to a lower caste.

My father is so happy. He wants me to join the police force after I graduate. He's already preparing me to become a police officer by taking me on a 3 km run every morning."

It's extraordinary how a simple intervention like Blossom Bus can foster such life opportunities to the young women reached by the program, while also bearing an enormous potential to transform the cultural mindset towards female education and the role of women in society. With the recent heartbreaking news of the sisters abused and killed in Uttar Pradesh, it's becoming increasignly evident that the situation Indian women are facing is of universal concern and it demands action. We at Lotus Outreach are deeply grateful for your support of young Indian women through the Blossom Bus sponsorship.

Now, nothing better than hearing these extraordinary young women tell their stories themselves!

To watch the interview with Manju from Dhamaka, go to: https://vimeo.com/96960633

To watch the interview with Manju from Bhatt Ki, go to: https://vimeo.com/96946382

Manju (center, blue scarf) with her mom & siblings
Manju (center, blue scarf) with her mom & siblings

Links:

 
   

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