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 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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Dec 11, 2013

Blossom Bus reaches 300 riders! Many still remain!

Pooja (center) is back in school thanks to you!
Pooja (center) is back in school thanks to you!

Thanks to donors like you through our partner Global Giving, Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus is bigger than ever! We just expanded our bus services to 50 new girls from 8 villages in the state of Rajasthan, India. The girls are located four to eight kilometers from the school in rural areas where it is dangerous for a young girl to walk alone. Combined with the 250 girls already using Blossom Bus in the neighboring state of Haryana, the total number of Blossom Bus riders is now 300!

When we reached out to school teachers in the Senior Secondary School of Kaman Block in Bharatpur, they pointed us to a number of students in need of transportation. Among the many students they directed us to was young Pooja.

They told us Pooja was an ideal, hardworking student. She had studied hard to reach eleventh grade but suddenly disappeared from class. It is all too common for girls in this area not to even make it eleventh grade, because they are married away at ages as young as fourteen. Lotus Outreach went to investigate Pooja’s mysterious dropout.

We approached Pooja’s family, and they told us the whole story. Pooja lived with her mother and younger siblings quite far from the school – nearly eight kilometers away – but had been traversing the distance on her bike before harassment by some village boys made it too unsafe.

Biking alone can be hazardous for Meo Muslim girls in this area, as groups of young men lay in wait for them and then attack and sexually assault them. Rather than risk a horrible attack, Pooja reluctantly withdrew from school.

We told Pooja and her mother about the availability of safe transportation through Blossom Bus, and they were ecstatic! Pooja’s dream had been to complete her studies and work professionally so she can support her family in the absence of her father. With the consent of her mother, reassured by the presence of 49 other Rajasthan girls on the bus, Pooja’s dream was revived and now she is back in school!

When women have so much to offer their communities, it is tragic to see their potential unrealized simply because they lack transportation to school. The cost to provide transportation assistance to a young scholar is only $150 for an entire year!

Lotus Outreach is striving to make sure as many girls as possible can get an education. Still, hundreds of girls we have identified are waiting to get on the Blossom Bus. Donate today and help a girl realize her dreams and actualize her fullest potential!

The newest group of Blossom Bus riders!
The newest group of Blossom Bus riders!
Dec 5, 2013

Soven Mealea Graduates College!

Mealea visiting an ancient Cambodian temple
Mealea visiting an ancient Cambodian temple

For Soven Mealea, whose parents were poor farmers, going to college was never a possibility she or her family ever dreamed of.  Her parents took out loans just to afford the primary schooling of their five children. A few of those loans were from money lenders whose interest rate was three times higher than the bank’s, forcing Mealea’s parents to illegally migrate for work in Thailand so they could repay the debts.

Mealea’s parents’ impoverished circumstances oftentimes discouraged her from finishing school.  From 3rdgrade onwards, Mealea had to supplement her family’s income by selling fruits and cake near her home and assisting with the livestock raising and rice wine brewing at home. She says that she “often got to school late because of those chores and the long distance from home to school (2 mi.), but my school performance was not bad; I was always among the top 10.”

 In 7th grade, Mealea’s luck changed when Lotus Outreach began offering scholarship opportunities in Banteay Meanchey Province. With the scholarship’s monthly stipend support and school materials package, Mealea gained renewed confidence that she could graduate high school. More critically, Mealea’s parents rejoiced and stopped pressuring her to drop out of school to supplement the family’s income.

The possibility of attending college entered Mealea’s mind as a high school senior. She knew that her parents could not afford it, but when she passed a challenging exam that awarded her U$300 a year for 3 years of university fees, she made a leap of faith and gained entry into the Vanda Accounting University at Phnom Penh. Mealea soon realized that surviving in the city was a big challenge. The living costs of accommodation, food, study materials, textbooks, and other daily expenses were overwhelming. Her parents, still working in Thailand, were by this point fully committed to seeing their daughter be able to make it through college and borrowed more money to help her. It was at this critical point that Lotus Outreach offered Mealea a GATEways scholarship to secure her college degree. She says that “without the support so far, I would not be able to stay in school; I would have dropped out a long time ago and would have been nursing my many children by now!”

Mealea, left, and friend ride through Banteay Meanchey. While in college, Mealea was always active in seeking out workshops, trainings, and internship opportunities in order to build her capacity and be ready for employment in a very competitive job market. She joined the Vanda Institute’s “Stock Exchange Workshop” which included several field visits to companies. As a senior, Mealea tutored sophomore and junior year students in accounting related subjects, greatly improving her presentation skills and building up her confidence. In 2012, Mealea got her first job at the Sunway Hotel group where she earned U$120 a month as sales clerk and received a U$30 raise after only 3 months!

In September this year, Mealea graduated from Vanda Insitute with a degree in Accounting together with nine other GATEways scholarship recipients. With assistance from Lotus Outreach, Mealea was offered an accountant position at Jeram Coconut Co. Ltd., where she is currently earning U$150 per month! Mealea, beaming with happiness, expressed, “I always believed that the effort would pay off someday. That’s why I’ve always worked so hard.”  We at Lotus Outreach are extremely overjoyed for Mealea’s achievement. We echo her confidence that working hard and investing in these young women yields great results. By the end of next year, another 42 GATEways scholars will graduate! And we can’t wait to see the great things they will accomplish as empowered, educated women in a new Cambodia.

Mealea and friend bicycle through Banteay Meanchey
Mealea and friend bicycle through Banteay Meanchey

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