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.
Aug 28, 2015

New Blossom Bus scholars!

Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta studying
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta studying

Since our last update, Blossom Bus has been able to accept eight new students into the program due to a few students heading off to college! The Headmaster of a primary school in Rajolaka approached an affiliate with Blossom Bus to see if a few girls from his village could join the program. Fortunately, we said yes! Our Director of Operations, Glenn, visted these new Blossom Bus scholars. This report will share with you the conversations he had with these girls and their families. 

Glenn traveled to the remote village of Rajolaka to meet Sarita, Devi, and Sengeeta, three of eight girls who have joined the Blossom Bus.

Sarita is one of six girls in her family. Her father, Sohan Pal explains, “I am not a wealthy man. But I am aware of the importance of education and want my girls to be educated. The bus is helping me to ensure I can send Sarita to school and without which she would surely have dropped out.”

Devi adds, “Our parents are happy for us to continue our education due to having the bus service and will not stop us going to school due to safety and other issues they would otherwise not be comfortable and may withdraw us from school any time.”

Sarita then goes on to say, “We three somehow managed to complete grade nine without the bus but in the most difficult circumstances. We had to walk a kilometre outside the safety of their own village to a larger road and then take a public tempo for 7-8 kms to the main town. During raining season we couldn’t go to school, as our clothes would become drenched. In the summer it’s very hot and very difficult, we had to manage in all seasons in order to remain in school.”

Devi adds, “Our parents are happy for us to continue our education due to having the bus service and will not stop us going to school due to safety and other issues they would other wise not be comfortable and may withdraw us from school any time.”

Manisha pipes in, “I enjoy going on the bus and it’s very important as I want to finish my education. It’s a safe transport and saves us from the bad weather and harassment from boys on the road.”

Glenn then asked the parents and girls about the importance of education and what they will do once they are educated. Manisha tells us, “Education is important as we can get a job and support our families.” Devi remarks further, “Not having education is a curse and we want to get away from that.” The girls where then asked why having no education is a curse and Sangeeta tells us, “Without education we are not aware of our rights and duties, only through education can we learn correct behavior and which we learn from our parents and teachers.” Devi goes on, “We all want to finish year 12 and go to College. Not sure what job we can get but if we finish our education we can work and earn and do something for my family.

Further discussing education, Glenn asked, "How as girls will you be able to leave your villages and go out to work?" They said without hesitation that once they have an education and are grown up, they will acquire confidence and can travel to cities using public transport and even move to cities for work. Another expectation is that educated girls can be married into an educated families in cities and can find good jobs.

Glenn explained that all the parents and villagers present agreed with these sentiments, which gives us hope about the social development of these small villages.  Education for these girls will break the ceilings that limit their aspirations. We are delighted to have assisted in this process through the agency of the Blossom Bus.

After meeting the girls in their village and hearing about their struggles to get access to education, Glenn left describing his feelings of joy and deep inspiration. There are millions of girls from villages exactly like this across swathes of rural India that are not attending school for exactly the same reasons as these young scholars. We need to continue connecting the drive for education with the means to get there. 

All the families of the three girls thanked Lotus Outreach and its supporters for the tremendous support toward the education of their girl children. 

Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta + families in background
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta + families in background
School
School
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta
Jul 7, 2015

Dreams will come true.

Chanthoeun receives a 15kg bag of rice weekly
Chanthoeun receives a 15kg bag of rice weekly

This report explores the success of Lotus Outreach’s GATEway program which supports women with adverse backgrounds through college and towards a desired profession. This project enables 100 promising young women to complete a baccalaureate degree. In a country like Cambodia where rates of gender discrimination and poverty are unbearably high, programs such as this one work to break the relentless cycle.

Living in a poor and separated family since she was young, Chanthoeun has been at risk of dropping out of school for a long time. Chanthoeun, a 23 years old girl who has been in Lotus Outreach’s ‘Higher Education for Impoverished Cambodian Girls’ was born in Svay Pork village, in the Siem Reap province. She has 5 siblings, 3 brothers and 2 sisters. She’s the third daughter in her family.

Chanthoeun’s parents were separated when she was in secondary school—her father left her mother for another wife. Chanthoeun has faced many hurdles in her life, coming from a separated family, living in poverty and being subjected to domestic violence from her father. During my secondary life, my family faced a lot of problems. We lived in a poor family; my father committed domestic violent after drinking palm wine. Now he has step wife and left my mom and me”, she said. Due to these problems she faced, Chanthoeun wanted to drop out school many times. I felt disappointed and ashamed that my father has a step wife, so I didn’t go to school and missed class for several times. However, because of the encouragement from my friends, teachers and the scholarship opportunity from Lotus Outreach through CWCC, I could finish high school successfully”, exppressed Chanthoeun .

After graduating from high school, Chanthoeun’s family could not continue to support her at university. Other obstacles arose; her mother started to abuse alcohol and was aggressive towards Chanthoeun, blaming her for being selfish. Chanthoeun’s mother was never encouraging of her studies and wanted her to stop going to school and find a job to support the family.

Due to this discouragement, Chantoeun never expected that she would have a chance to study at university and felt frustrated, so she decided to find a job to do to support her family. “The difficult thing for me during that time was that my mother drank alcohol and she always blamed me and wanted me to quit my study at just grade 12 as she wanted me to work, Chantheoun added.

Chanthoeun found a job as a housekeeper with a monthly salary of $50. However, her job could not support her family because she was paid a small salary. She got very sick from over working and had to stay in the hospital for one week. After that, she decided to resign from work in order to take care of her health. She understood that she would not be able to get a well-paid job unless she pursued higher education, so she convinced her mother to let her continue her studies at a university. Her mother finally could see the importance of acquiring a higher education, so she agreed and took out loans from her relatives to help Chanthoeun continue her study at South-East Asia University.

However, when Chanthoeun’s relatives went into debt, they could no longer support Chanthoeun. Fortunately, CWCC received news from Lotus Outreach that they were going to support Chanthoeun in her studies and keep her from dropping out. “I thought that I may have to quit my study again like my older brothers and sisters to farm with mother at my hometown or migrate to other areas to be a blue collar worker. However, my life has changed after I received the scholarship. I feel excited and very happy because I think I will have a good future after I finish from university”, Chanthoeun expressed her feeling.

Nowadays Chanthoeun is studying accounting at South-East Asia University with the support from GATEways program. Chanthoeun has received a monthly stipend, rice support of 15kg per month, accommodation fee, extra-course fee (English), computer course and utilities support (water and electricity). The rice support not only helps Chanthoeun, but also helps her family because she can send some rice to her mother when her mom doesn’t get enough rice from farming. “I sometimes send some of my rice support to my mother when she needs rice, so it’s good for my family and me that this rice support can help us”, she added.

After passing the primary teacher entrance exam, Chanthoeun is now attending pedagogy at Provincial Teacher Training College for a 2-year program. Chanthoeun is busy with her pedagogy course, but she still continues her accounting courses at the university in the evening after she finishes class. “For my future, I want to be a primary school teacher and also a civil servant in district hall as an accountant in my community because I want to help back to my community and teach the poor children. This is my dream, so I will live it and make it happen!” Chanthoeun exclaimed.

Chanthoeun final words, “I would like to thank to CWCC, the GATEway program, and the donors that always help me and encourage me to study at university. I promise that I will try hard in studying and will make my dream come true.”

Chanthoeun attending class
Chanthoeun attending class
Chanthoeun attending her accounting class
Chanthoeun attending her accounting class
Jul 1, 2015

Sreynan's inspired future

Sreynan (right) in orange suit with her bike
Sreynan (right) in orange suit with her bike

The following story explores the success of Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education (NFE) program and the way it has impacted a Cambodian women’s life. The women who are a part of NFE are survivors of urban sex working and are seeking to escape the Cambodia’s commercial sex industry. NFE provides education and vocational training to 130 sex workers and their children for 2-3 hours, 5 days a week for 1 year. With this training, 75% of the NFE students leave the red light districts for jobs or peruse further educational training.

Sreynan is 29 years old. She was born in Banang Village, Ratanakmondol District, in Battambang Province. Sreynan is the youngest among 3 daughters of the family. In 1997, Sreynan’s mother got seriously sick and passed away, so Sreynan had to drop out at 7th grade to raise pigs at home to help support her family. Three years later she left her hometown to come to Phnom Penh City with her neighbor to work in a garment factory. She made $70 per month including over time.

After working in the garment factory for 10 years, Sreynan was introduced to Karaoke work by a friend.. She was told that the work was easy—working less hours just serving ice and playing disc— and she could get tips. Since she often got scolded by the manager at the garment factory, she decided to follow her friend to work in Pipop Rikreay Karaoke and got $60 per month as a fix salary. However, after working there for only 15 days, she quit. Karaoke has long been a standard camouflage for sex services. Sreynan expressed that she didn’t like when men would enter the room with out her permission. When calling home to her family, she would say that she was working at a garment factory.

Following that job, she got another Karaoke job with a basic salary of $70 and could earn around $10 tips per day. Working there she still had to put up with guys’ mistreatment (physical and verbal harassment). After leaving that job, she ended up at another Karaoke job and met our NFE project officer who was promoting NFE in hopes to inspire more students. Sreynan was inspired by the NFE project officer and wanted to work towards a brighter future.

Sreynan wanted to improve her reading and writing skills because since dropping out of school in the 7th grade, she had forgotten almost all of her school skills. She also wanted to be able to do some math, especially division and multiplication, so that she could develop skills for sewing. She enrolled into the NFE program at the end of January and started sewing skill training (provided by the program) on April 22, 2015. She also received a bicycle from the program, which enabled her to go to her skill training that is 4km from the NFE class she is attending.

When being asked about how she felt about program, Sreynan answered “I feel very happy because I am now able to do more math, I’m acquiring the skill that will make a big change to my future, and I am cared for—the program takes me to hospital when I am sick and consults me when I have any problems.”

When asked if she’s noticed any changes in herself, Sreynan answered “Yes, many things. I started to think about future and how to live a better life which I didn’t before; I have a better saving plan—allocating certain percentage of my earning for saving rather than saving what’s left at the end of the month; and I am motivated to continue to struggle and strive for a better future.” She added “I think the program is very useful. It helps women to become stronger, more independent (not having to rely on men) and having skill to support ourselves, so we don’t have to do the work which was filled with guys harassing us and excessive alcohol drinks.”

Sreynan is thankful for the wonderful changes she has experienced thanks to the NFE program and the program donors who are continuing to support her towards her happy, healthier life.

Sreynan working on her sewing skills, using math!
Sreynan working on her sewing skills, using math!
NFE girls at school, Sreynan in back
NFE girls at school, Sreynan in back

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