Project #14245

Higher Education for Impoverished Cambodian Girls

by Lotus Outreach
Kanha receives monthly rice from the program
Kanha receives monthly rice from the program

The beneficiaries of our GATEway program are thriving in their studies and making plans for their professional futures. Many of them have studied with us through gradeschool up to university. The following explores Kanha’s story, a recipient who has been supported through out programs since she was in second grade.

Kanha, 21 years old, lives in Bitmeas village, Somroeng Commune, Sout Nikum district, Siem Reap province. She has 4 siblings and is the second child. When Kahna was young, her parents went through a challenging separation. Since then, her father has passed away and she now lives with her sick mother. In response to being diagnosed with a serious illness, Kahna’s mother was forced to sell all of their families farming land to help pay for her medical expenses. This has put a lot of economic pressure on her family and the whole family now relies on the eldest sisters income who works in Siem Reap Province. All of her siblings are attending school, so the money from her sister can hardly support the whole family. Kanha has had a hard time staying in school. With a single mother who is ill at home, and no father, she has had to overcome many obstacles.

In 2008, Kanha was selected to be a scholarship recipient of Girls’ Access To Education (GATE) program in Siem Reap province with funding support from Lotus Outreach in partnership with Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC). The scholarship was a great help to her family and enabled Kahna to stay in school and continue her studies.

However, life has proved to be difficult for Kahna. After she graduated from high school, and with the goal to continue on to university, she was met with an even greater hurdle; paying for college. Her sister would not have enough money to support Kahna while still supporting her younger siblings. Kanha was very hopeless and discouraged. She did not want to continue her studies and wanted to find labor work to do to support her family. Luckily, Lotus Outreach wanted to continue supporting GATE graduates to do tertiary education (under another project called GATEways). Ratana qualified for it and was admitted to GATEways program in 2012. Kanha and her family were very happy as the program provides her with a monthly stipend, accommodation, food, English and French classes, tuition and computer course as well as rice support of 15kgs every month. This brought Kanha so much hope for future. With the rice that she gets she often sends some to her family as they have trouble getting food because of the loss if their farming land. Even though attending university has been a great feat for Kahna, she still worries about her family. “Every time I visit my mother and see her living condition, I always think about quitting my study to find a job to help her. However, with on-going encouragement and consulting from the program, I gained my aspiration back and get more confident to continue my study and strive for a better future,” she said.

Currently Kanha is studying nursing in year II at Chenla University in Phnom Penh. She is renting a house that is far from her university but less expensive. She faces a lot of problems with traveling to school. Transportation in Phnom Penh city is expensive, which she can’t afford to pay for it every day. In order to go to school everyday, she goes with her friend who has motorbike and is studying at the same university. However, depending on her friend for rides is very difficult with different university schedules. She often missed her classes or arrives late. To ease her commute to school and to respond to her need, the program provided her with a bicycle, which helps her to get to school.

Kanha is very grateful with all the support spiritually and financially. GATE and GATEways has supported her since she was in secondary school until now. She would like to thank donors and the program that have never left her alone and have always cared for her. Kahnu expressed “I would like to sincerely thank donors and the program for supporting my study since I was in secondary school until now. Without your help, I would not be able to attend university and I would have migrated to do labor work in Thailand.”


Kanha receives a bike through the program
Kanha receives a bike through the program
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
Chhorvan at work
Chhorvan at work

Chhorvan Pursues the Path of Public Service

This report shows the success of GATEways in shepherding Cambodian women through college and often into their desired professions. This report likewise offers a glimpse into the trajectory of a GATEways scholar after gradutation, living as an independent woman in Cambodian society. In Cambodia, less than 2% of women have education beyond high school. Help us reverse this destructive trend!


Many GATEways scholars consider learning Korean so they can get a high paying job in Korea and travel abroad. Chhorvan, however, had other aims. Now at the age of 25 years old, living in Nakachhay village in Banteay Meanchey, Chhorvan graduated from GATEways year and a half ago with a degree in Korean language from the University of Banteay Meanchey.


Chhorvan was almost forced to drop out of high school, because her family was extremely poor. But with the financial support from Lotus Outreach and through CWCC facilitation, she was able to finish high school through a GATE scholarship and continue on to study Korean language in university as a GATEways scholar.


Chhorvan shared why she decided to learn Korean language: “My house is near a Korean organization. Sometimes I volunteered at the organization to help Koreans with the development of villages such as building houses and digging wells for the poor. I had spoken with them and learned about Korean culture and language and that made me want to learn Korean.”

In the fall of 2014, after Chhorvan graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Korean, she learned from a senior student that Kyung Sin (Cambodia) Corp, an electronic company in Kandal province, needed a Khmer employee who could speak Korean fluently and had computer skills. She applied for the position and had an interview in Korean language. When she applied for position, CWCC helped review the application and provided tips on how to conduct an interview. A day later, she was selected and offered to work as a full-time employee with a starting salary of 200 USD per month.


At the same time, Chhorvan also took an entrance exam to be a public servant. Chhorvan desired to work in the public sector, because she believes the benefits of the public sector, though lower pay, are better than the private sector. She said, “I want to work as a civil servant in public sector, because I think that such work is sustainable…. [Also] I can work in the region that I prefer. I wish to work in my hometown, near my family.”


Chhorvan took the entrance exam to be a public servant after she saw an announcement that the district hall in Banteay Meanchey was hiring public servants and offering the exam. She said she expected to fail the exam, for it was very difficult, competitive and apparently many applicants who pass the exam are rich applicants who can bribe the committees that select civil servants.


After working for three months at her private sector job, Chhorvan received the notice that she passed the civil servants’ exam. She informed CWCC immediately to get career advice on how to proceed. Ultimately, Chhorvan decided to work as an administrator at Ochrov district hall. Now she works there and receives a salary of 130 USD per month.


Chhorvan said cheerfully: “I did not think that I having just graduated, that I could get 2 jobs already. I am now proud to have a job in my country with the knowledge that I have learned.” She added that her mother is also happy because her only daughter can work near home and look after her when she’s sick. In addition to her second job in public service, Chhorvan has been accepted to continue her master degree in general management at Banteay Meanchey University.”


She deeply thanks Lotus Outreach, CWCC and their supporters for the assistance in helping educate her and further guiding her through her career path.


Namthorng at the Royal University of Phnom Penh
Namthorng at the Royal University of Phnom Penh

The following report is a true testament to the huge success of this program and its sister high school program GATE (Girls’ Access to Education). It demonstrates the strong will these girl scholars have to learn and succeed, if only given the basic support necessary. It is a tragedy that less than 2% of women in Cambodia possess education beyond high school. Help us change this destructive trend!

Twenty-two-year-old Namthorng originally from the Banteay Meanchey Province of Cambodia, entered Lotus Outreach’s program as an extremely poor student. Through her hard work she was able to receive a tertiary scholarship to enter university, and is now a highly sought after computer systems network administrator working in Phnom Penh. We were able to meet with Namthorng and interview her at the Royal University of Phnom Penh, where many GATEways scholars currently study.

The sense of growth in these girls between high school where they’re too shy to speak English and the tertiary level where they know enough English and have the confidence to use what they have, is extremely encouraging. This growth from high school to college is so large as these girls are now picking between multiple job offers, earning really good money and operating with confidence in a 21st century context. It shows the true strength of this program.

We never could have known how successful this program now going into it’s tenth year would be. This is real social development, not only in the girls themselves, but also in the impact on their families and rural communities. These scholars are simply showing that girls can succeed and achieve like boys in school and also in finding well-paid jobs. It is turning social norms on their head and helping erase cultural boundaries for the better.

Namthorng tells us, “I was supported by Lotus Outreach for 2 years in the GATE program before being assisted again by LO to win a position at PNC for a two year education course in IT.”

“After graduating I applied for a job at Cloud Net Cambodia where I work as a Sales Executive selling website design and finding clients to buy their product. I actually applied as a network administrator to set up computer systems, which is what I am trained for, but I decided to do this work as it is giving me experience that I don’t have. Many companies called me to interview so I have a lot of options and while I am now earning an OK salary of $200 a month, I’ve been offered $300 and could easily get $500 after a short time doing this kind of work.”

We asked Namthorng, “Did you ever think while living in Kob this would ever happen for you?”

She replied, “In my dream I always hoped that I could get a high salary but could not imagine that I would ever be able to study in such a good university and get such great qualifications. English is very important for getting a good job and I could not have got that without the PNC training where we focused on English 20 hours per week.

Namthorng continued, “When I go home I always tell my neighbors they should convince their children and grandchildren to try hard to study and get educated and don’t look down on others or listen to those giving negative opinions...When I was studying IT at PNC I lived in a shared house with 20 other girls. I was house leader and set ground rules to ensure we could live together peacefully such as a 10 pm curfew, no walking alone in the street at night, sharing housework and being honest with each other.”

We could never have hoped for such tremendous outcomes ten years earlier when we began supporting girls from poor Cambodian families and advocating for education as a tool to reduce violence against women, which has brought profound and definite change. The success of great young women like Namthorng emerging as leaders and role models in their communities definitely makes it all worthwhile! Help us sponsor more scholars and future leaders like Namthorng! Thank you!

GATEways Scholars Jump in Joy!
GATEways Scholars Jump in Joy!


Yan hard at work!
Yan hard at work!

Lotus Outreach’s GATEways program is thriving. It opens the doors to higher education and achievement as donors like you help aspiring students accomplish their goals! Take Yan for example.

Yan is currently supported by our GATEways program and is a third year student majoring in Law at the University of Management and Economics in Banteay Meanchey Province. Yan’s story exemplifies a diligent and dedicated student fighting to create change in both her personal life and also larger community.

Yan was born in the Prech Chey village located in Banteay Meanchey Province and has one brother and sister. When she was just 12 years old her father passed away, leaving the family in serious debt. Yan’s brother was forced to migrate to Thailand to find a job and earn more money to support their family, while Yan and her sister continued with their studies. In their spare time they also helped their mother on their rice farm to make ends meet.

After grade twelve Yan was ready to migrate to Thailand like her brother to earn more money to support her family. Thankfully, however, after receiving high grades on her final exams she discussed the possibility of going onto University with her mother.

After entering University, GATEways awarded her a scholarship, which she is still currently receiving! This scholarship covers a student’s costs for tuition, food, residence, utilities, additional class fees and a small spending stipend!

Yan has been an extremely hard-working and an active student in University. During her second year, in addition to her studies she worked as a kindergarten teacher at Sisophon Language School for 3 months earning $50 per month. Beginning in May 2014, Yan worked as a short-term data collector with CWCC to research “Cambodian Child Migrant Workers in the Thai Fishing Industry.”

Going forward Yan wants to create further impact. She aspires to work with the Government or in an Official Law Department, such as the Ministry of Justice. Ultimately, she wants to help poor and vulnerable people find justice and live equally within society.

The World Bank Agrees that investing in women’s education is the best way to encourage the right kind of global development. Supporting a GATEways girl through college costs just $100 per month, and it pays dividends to their communities for generations.

Thank you for supporting GATEways and women’s education in the developing world! Together we are making a difference for thousands as these scholars go forward in service to their communities.


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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Aptos, California - USA
Project Leader:
Wesley Samms
Grants Manager
Sacramento, California United States
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