Education
 Cambodia
Project #14245

Higher Education for Impoverished Cambodian Girls

by Lotus Outreach
Vetted
Meas working at her part time job.
Meas working at her part time job.

Since the program began, our Girls Access to Education Program(GATE/GATEways) has helped as many as 1,500 girl students stay in school. Through education, these at-risk students are able to seek futures that will not only enrich their own lives, but extend to their families and communities. The story below written by Meas, a GATE/GATEway beneficiary, is a wonderful example of how vital support from people like you is for students like Meas to succeed.

My name is Meas. I was born on October 26, 1994 at Kampong Kdey II village, Kompong Kdey commune, Chikreng district and Siem Reap province. I have one younger brother. He quit school in 11th grade and is now working at a garage near my home. My father’s name is Norng, he is a farmer. My mother’s name is Soy, she sells Khmer noodle in the village. When I was young, my family faced a lot of struggles because my mother had a serious illness in her back bone. My family spent lots of money to cure her illness and never had enough money to support us all. Since my family spent a lot of money on medical treatments, they did not have enough money for my study. I missed class very often because my family needed money, so I had to help my mom sell Khmer noodle in the village. I was thinking about fully dropping out of school, but my parents encouraged me to keep studying because they wanted me to have a promising future. However, it was hard for me to concentrate on my study while thinking about my suffering mom and my family’s situation.

In 2012, when I was studying in the 12th grade at a high school in Siem Reap province, I was selected to be a recipient of the Girls’ Access to Education scholarship program (GATE). At that time, the program supported me with a monthly stipend (25USD), uniforms, bags, books and study material that helped me to remain in school. After my graduation from high school in 2013, I moved to live in Phnom Penh city in order to attend Royal University of Agriculture. That same year, I also applied and received scholarship support from GATEways scholarship program. As part of the program, I receive monthly stipend, 15kg of monthly rice support, accommodation fee and fee for taking English and computer classes which help me to survive in the city.

I would like to show my deepest gratitude to the donors for supporting me through my studies. My education is so important to me, and without your support I wouldn’t be able to attend university. I am currently working on my thesis and very excited for the future that is ahead. With good grades and a college education, I will be able to find job and be able to support my family.  Thank you. 

Meas and her bike from the Lotus Pedals program
Meas and her bike from the Lotus Pedals program
Students at the University of Banking and Finance
Students at the University of Banking and Finance
GATEway students in Siem Reap
GATEway students in Siem Reap
GATEway students at the library
GATEway students at the library
Daa.
Daa.

Daa, an 18-year-old in 12th grade is a recipient of our GATE, Lotus Pedals and Rice support programs.

We met 18-year-old Daa at her grandmother’s house, a three-walled wood and thatch hut on low stilts with the front totally open to the elements (and whoever would like to walk in at night) on the front side.

As with many Cambodians living in poverty, Daa was left with her grandma as a two year old baby in order to allow her parents to migrate to Thailand as laborers. Daa said, “my parents home is very far from here, in the opposite direction of my school so I hardly ever see my parents even when they are at home”.

While her family issues may have had a profound impact on Daa’s self esteem, it is clear from her responses to our questions the in fact she is doing so well in her class work. She is committed, resilient, and highly disciplined. Daa is now in her 3rd year under support from the Girls Access to Education Program and she tells us, “The GATE program provides me two sets of uniforms, shoes, books, hat, raincoat and a monthly stipend of $25. I spend almost all the stipend on extra tuition classes and occasionally, a snack at school.”

When asked about her bicycle she said, “the bicycle is provided by Lotus Pedals program and without which I couldn’t possibly cover distance of 15kms to school and back every day.  I’m at school from 7am till 6pm everyday and with tuition classes in between so I have to take a packed lunch.” Daa told us she that before getting the new bike she used her grandma’s wobbly and often broken old bike to get to school. Since the beginning of the 2015-16 academic year Daa has had a brand new heavy duty Lotus Pedals bicycle of her own!

During the 9-month school year, Daa also gets 50kgs of rice from the GATE program, as they are considered poorest of the poor. The Grandma’s children send some money from their income as labor in Thailand, otherwise there is no income for this household that includes 3 small children that are Daa’s cousins, children of another daughter, left with Grandma, for a total of 4 kids in her care.

Daa very proudly tells us, “I enjoy study and get 2nd highest marks in my class of 39 students on a monthly basis. My Grandmother gives me all the time I need to study. My only household chore is to gather wood for cooking and I sometimes look after the small children here and there.” We ask what she will do after year 12 and while she is not sure, she feels teaching will be a good option for her. We are all very impressed by Daa’s strength and resolve as she tells us, “Even if I get no further support for my studies, there is no doubt in my mind I will continue to University after I finish year 12 this year!

Daa is a precious, highly capable human resource living in extreme poverty as a lotus lives in the mud. Daa’s story is one of many that convince us our investment in providing these women and children access to education is absolutely and unreservedly worthwhile!!

Daa and her bicycle.
Daa and her bicycle.
Daa and her family.
Daa and her family.
Daa in front of her house with her bike.
Daa in front of her house with her bike.
Pheak at her desk at work.
Pheak at her desk at work.

Our GATE program currently supports 243 girl students. Currently, we are providing 105 families of the GATE students with rice support to make sure that vulnerable families have adequate nutrition. Below is a story about Pheak, a student who has recently graduated from our GATE + GATEways program. With hard work exerted in school, she has proven to be very successful in the work force. 

We met Pheak at the garment factory where she works as a Chartered Accountant. Pheak graduated in September of 2014 from Vanda Accounting Institute at Phnom Penh. Lotus Outreach has supported her since the seventh grade, through high school, and university.  Adding to her LO scholarship, she also won a scholarship from the Accounting Institute. 

To further support her studies and gain work experience, Pheak started a part time job while in her third year at University and was already employed before she ended her fourth year. While there are a lot of unemployed university students, Pheak said that all her batch and the juniors she knows have secured good jobs in their field.

We asked, “Why,” how come you were able to secure this great job with a $300+ salary even before graduation?

“I think it’s because I had joined the workforce early and didn’t wait till the end of my course. I started working as a receptionist in my third year and already had some work experience. I had also used my scholarship money to study computer and English. Further, I bought a computer with my salary and scholarship support and began to practice all I learned at college and at work. I feel I was therefore prepared to cope with the interview with some confidence, as I know what to do when they asked me, even though my English is still not strong. Even so, I was very nervous when I applied for this job. I had to go through 3 rounds of interviews and computer and English were very important and I was especially nervous about my English. I bought a computer at the beginning of third year and used it to practice at home all that I was learning in class. What we learned at Vanda and the software we used were different than what I had to use here when I started so I had to be flexible and adaptable. We used Excel at Vanda and here we use more complicated system. I was still nervous about keeping my job in the first month so I also worked at home after office hours to practice so I could quickly become skilled in that system. Now, with this experience behind me, I feel confident that I can get a job with a better salary if and when I wish to." 

To learn more about Pheak's history, we asked a about her home and family.

“I come from a tiny district, Nimith at Banteay  Meanchey and was supported by the GATE program since grade seven. My parents and family moved to Siem Reap when I was in grade 9 for better job opportunities. They have now resettled at SR and run a recycling business that has improved their livelihood. My mother asked me to drop out and come with them but I refused to stop studying as I was under scholarship and would have lost it. I lived with relatives through grades 9 and 10 then the program allowed me to stay at a residential home for 11 and 12 so I could focus on my studies better."

Pheap, like many other GATE/GATEway funded students, has demonstrated resilience and perseverance.  

We asked how Pheak feels she has grown as a person and how different would she have been had she not received support from LO over all these years.

Pheak responds through welling tears….

“Now I feel that I am a person who has confidence in myself, responsible, and independent. It’s different from when I was young—always under control and guidance of my parents—and I didn’t have a direction for myself because I was still young.”

"Now that I am grown up, I have a good job and I have money, so I realize my real potential and what I can do. I am now much happier than before. "

She ended the interview with saying, "especially, I still want to thank Lotus Outreach again for the support until now. Without the support, I can’t imagine how my life would have been, so I am extremely delighted.”

Pheak is one of hundreds of poor Cambodian village girls from impoverished communities that Lotus Outreach has supported through high school and into University and training courses, thereby building human resources emaciated by decades of civil war and the Khmer Rouge purges. 

GATE students on their way to school
GATE students on their way to school
GATE students in their element!
GATE students in their element!
Sima
Sima

The GATE and GATEways objective is to enhance the life options of at-risk girls and their families and to reduce their vulnerability to violence and trafficking.The GATE program currently provides primary and secondary educational scholarships and holistic support to 422 girls in Banteay Meanchey, Siem Reap and Phnom Penh provinces. This past year 87 GATEways scholars were supported by Lotus Outreach and Cambodian Women’s Crises Center (CWCC) which was made possible through the support of donors like you. The following is Sima's story, a driven scholar that has been supported by both the GATE and GATEways program.

Sima, who is currently twenty-three, joined the GATE program in tenth grade. Sima states, “My family situation was such that going from grade sicth to grade seventh – my parents wanted me to drop school at and I did not attend school in the 2nd semester. Being very young at that time, I had to follow my parents and although the CWCC were looking for scholarship girls, my parents did not hear about it.”

When Sima was in ninth grade her parents were again putting pressure on her to drop out of school due to family poverty. Once the school principle found out she immediately approached Sima’s parents and let them know that she Sima could receive a GATE scholarship if they kept her in school.

While Sima was receiving her GATE scholarship, she was determined to make a positive change for all of the GATE scholars. It is importantly noted that when Sima sees room for improvement, she lets people know! Sima was the first student to request rice support which inevitably became part of the GATE program. Sima also requested that stipends be distributed in the beginning of the month rather than middle, to make paying rent and purchasing food easier. Sima has shown signs of her forward thinking since highschool!

Sima said, “I was the special case in 2010 and while two other girls didn’t get the funds untill later, I got my stipend every month.” Sima reflects on her past, “In grade 11 I decided I wanted to be a lawyer. One of my friends told me she wanted to be a lawyer and we were one and two in the class. We were very competitive. We also ended up studying in the same university and we were always competing, she even did the French degree as well.”

Upon her graduation a few years later she received a scholarship at the Royal University of Law and Economics. After graduating from University with a double degree in Law and French with the support of GATEways, Sima received a scholarship to peruse her Masters degree in Law. Although this was a great opportunity, Sima’s family requested that she take a few years off of school because they needed her to work to help make ends meet.  

In July 2014, Sima started at working for ADHOC(The Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association). Since then, her salary has increased impressively and she is now sending more than half of her salary home to her family. Some of the money that she is sending home is supporting one of her sisters in school.

Sima speaks about her recent job experience, “First I was working for enfant du Mekong as a social worker, not really the job I wanted. Then I saw there was a job available at ADHOC. The job is teaching Law to the community and I really love that. It was especially interesting to me as it is helpful to the community to teach them about rights. Sometimes I advise them on how to approach the court – domestic violence/gender/women’s rights/marriage – right age and not forced – marriage certificate – many of them don’t therefore have marriage certificate / rape.”

“70% of the rape cases I have put forward have been processed in the court and I do the follow-up to ensure case are being taken up or issue a legal position to push the process and ensure the case is going through the court toward a verdict,” Sima says proudly(rightfully so!).

Sima plans to go back to school to earn her Masters in Law after a few years of working. We are encouraging her because of the great work we know she will do and the many lives that she will impact

Sima is very thankful the support that has provided by donors like you. Her success is a wonderful example of how GATEways can change lives and impact many more. Thank you for believing in women like Sima! 

Sim and Glenn our Director of Field Operations
Sim and Glenn our Director of Field Operations
Sim at work!
Sim at work!
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
 

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.lotusoutreach.org
Project Leader:
Wesley Samms
Grants Manager
Sacramento, California United States
$20,750 raised of $60,000 goal
 
253 donations
$39,251 to go
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