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.
Dec 30, 2013

The boundless dedication of Ms. Sreynei

In the most isolated countryside of Mondulkiri province lives a young student of the Phnong minority named Sreynei. Sreynei is sixteen years old and is currently in the 9th grade at Preah Lower Secondary School. She’s the oldest of six siblings, and she has been a part of Lotus Outreach’s Phnong Education Initiative (PEI) for three years.

Sreynei’s home is hard to get to, even by Cambodian standards. The house is barely reachable by four-wheel drive SUV, with a dried up riverbed serving as a road for part of the journey. Flooding during the rainy season carves impossible ruts into the riverbed and other roads alike. Lotus’s field staff got stuck several times along the way, and yet Sreynei has followed this path every day to get to school since the age of seven!

The home of Sreynei's family is located 12 km from the Sre-Preah Lower Secondary School in a village with half a dozen other small houses belonging to ethnic Phnong people. Their one-room house is elevated on meter-high stilts to protect from seasonal flooding. It has split bamboo walls, a tin roof, and no windows, electricity or running water. The wooden floorboards inside are spaced one-centimeter apart, so the bare earth is visible a meter below.

It is a well-known fact that hearts are what make a house a home, and though Sreynei’s parents are both completely illiterate, they are warm, and they converse easily about their lives and how they live so remotely and simply. Her mother gardens on about two hectares of land quite far from the house, cultivating cucumbers, rice, gourds and eggplant. Her father gathers frogs and fish from ponds and streams that flood and dry seasonally. He also gathers and sells a certain tree sap which effectively patches leaks in boats.

After having problems with water-borne illness, the family has started boiling their drinking water, though they admit it is difficult to do all the time. Newly installed nets help keep out some of the mosquitoes and protect the family from endemic malaria. They still have trouble from time to time.

Advancing from such a remote and difficult starting place is full of challenges, but Sreynei keeps her dreams like a spark in tinder. She says, “My dream is to be educated, because as a Phnong I don’t want people to look down on me and berate me like they did to my parents.” She reveals with a sly smile that she is deciding whether she wants to be a Phnong teacher, a nonprofit worker like Lotus’s Raksmey Var, or a health worker.

Because the 12km hike between her house and school is so difficult, Sreynei has relocated to the residence provided by Lotus’s PEI much closer to the school. She says that staying there helps her focus on her studies, and saves her from a long and difficult journey. Momentarily she is back to walking the long path, while she cares for her mother who has fallen ill.

Lotus Outreach believes that opportunity should not be denied to someone for any reason, not for their ethnicity, nor their language, nor the location of their home. Funding this literacy and teacher training program does not take much; just $250 funds school and supportive services for a girl for a whole year! The dedication of Lotus’s 40 PEI students is insurmountable. With just a little support, you’ll never know the places they’ll go! 

Inside Sreynei
Inside Sreynei's family home.
This simple home holds a lot of hope.
This simple home holds a lot of hope.
Dec 16, 2013

Dany's Fight for Reconciliation and Justice

Lotus Outreach’s Consoling through Counseling client Dany* has a story not for the faint of heart.

Born the fourth of seven children to a seasonal laborer and her now deceased husband, Dany lived with her younger siblings in an orphanage in Battambang province. Her mother would travel to find work, while Dany studied at the local high school. Her family is so poor that she lived at the orphanage until she was 20 years old, just so she could survive and go to school.

In September of 2012, her older sister who was already married pulled Dany out of the orphanage so she could work as a gardener in the border town of Poipet. She lived with her uncle nearby until a terrible thing happened in January 2013.

Dany’s brother in law called her and asked her to come over to his house to talk. Her sister was not there, but their young daughter was, so Dany was not concerned. But everything changed once she stepped in the door:

“When I arrived there, my brother in-law took my hand and dragged me into his room and threatened me. He then forced me to have sex with him and threatened to kill me if I told anyone about it.”

At first, Dany did not share what had happened with anyone. She was too terrified to break her silence until her brother in law asked for the phone numbers of her younger sisters. Even more concerned for her sisters’ well-being than for her own, Dany decided to tell her older sister what her husband had done.

Fortunately for Dany and her sisters, Dany’s older sister believed her, and she took Dany to the police and to Lotus Outreach’s partner the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) in Poipet.

To keep herself safe, Dany decided to stay at CWCC’s shelter in Banteay Meanchey to wait for her case to be processed and to receive social and psychological support. By the time she arrived there, Dany had sunk into depression. Conselors noticed she spoke and walked slowly. She distanced herself from the other women at the shelter. She was sad, thin, pale, exhausted and hopeless.

Recognizing her psychological symptoms, Dany’s counselor listened to her carefully. Over the course of months, her counselor built a bridge across Dany’s isolation and taught Dany exercises to deal with her trauma. Small group therapy and breathing exercises are now helping Dany cope with what happened to her. Dany is learning to recognize her strengths and reflect on her own thoughts so she can be motivated to think about good things and move forward.

It is still hard for Dany, but things are getting better.

She feels better from time to time, and she is bonding with the other shelter clients. Lotus’s Consoling through Counseling program is providing her with legal representation through CWCC so she can prosecute her assailant, and her court case is being processed.

Consoling through Counseling is currently providing services to 26 women. In the last quarter, eight survivors were reintegrated into their home communities, and staff conducted follow-up visits to thirty-three already reintegrated women.

The program doesn’t just help women find reconciliation, but it also helps them find justice by prosecuting the perpetrators of the violent crimes against them. So far, the program has aided in the convictions of eight rapists.

Recovering from trauma and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is not easy. But you can help these women to overcome and move forward with healthy, productive lives. Just US$100.00 can provide therapeutic counseling for these survivors for a full year. The program also connects them to economic opportunities to make sure they have the things they need to succeed.

Hands can give and hands can take away. Thank you for giving to support the recovery of these beautiful and powerful women.

*Dany’s name has been changed to protect her identity. 

Small group counseling helps women to recover.
Small group counseling helps women to recover.
Dec 11, 2013

You helped get Sross on the road to be a lawyer!

Sross is a student at Hun Sen Prek Pra Lower Secondary School, a school named for Cambodia’s longtime dictator, Hun Sen. Living just outside of the country’s largest city, Phnom Penh, Sross’s family subsists on just a few dollars per day of income. She has three sisters and two brothers, but only she and one of her brothers have not quit school.

“My three elder sisters all work in the garment factory,” she tells us. “Some get $70 or $80 per month, but if they work overtime, they can get $100 per month.”

Life working in a garment factory is not easy, and even though the pay is not high, the modest wages are highly sought after by men and women throughout Cambodia.

Young Sross though, has higher aspirations: “As for me, I am not working in the garment factory. I am studying.” She explains, “In the future, I want to work using my intellect. I don’t want to do manual labor.” 

Sross is one of the hundreds of Cambodian girls who have received bicycles from Lotus Outreach’s Lotus Pedals this year. Since January of 2013, Lotus Outreach has ensured that 302 young riders can get to school to attain their dreams. The program has identified 381 additional students who may qualify to receive a bicycle, and still thousands of girls across the country want to attend school, but have no means of transportation.

Before she received a bike through Lotus Pedals, Sross either had to get a ride with friends, or walk 4 km to school by herself. Her eyes well up with tears talking about the difficulty of getting to school. Walking long distances is not just inconvenient; it can be dangerous because of violent crime or very difficult and muddy in the rainy season. 

To overcome the difficulty of a long commute, even in rainy weather and muddy roads, Lotus Pedals provides its young scholars with heavy-terrain bicycles. The bikes come equipped with a basket for carrying supplies, all-terrain wheels, and a back wheel cover to shield the rider from mud and rain thrown by the wheels. 

“Now that I have the bike, I can go to class and even attend additional sessions on some days. I never miss school!” 

Less than 24 percent of Cambodians finish secondary school, and the percentage of girls who graduate college is in the single-digits. Nonetheless, Sross is determined to be the first in her family to complete college and become a lawyer. She says she wants to serve the falsely accused and the poor who cannot afford representation. 

So many girls are determined to do great things if we just give them the opportunity that an education affords! Just US$80.00 provides a girl with a fully equipped bike, a repair kit and a pump. This small expense is affordable for so many but out of reach for these young women seeking to improve themselves and their community. 

With tears in her eyes, Sross tells us, “I am very thankful to the donors for providing me with this bike.”

Thank you so much for supporting Lotus Outreach and making the dreams of girls like Sross possible!

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