Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!

by Lotus Outreach
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!
Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!

At the beginning of the new academic year (February 2021), Lotus Pedals provided bicycles to 12 of our CATALYST university students. Bicycles help scholars get back and forth to college and extra curricular acitvities and are a safe, independent and enjoyable means of transportation. We are so happy to be able to continue to gift bikes to beneficiaries, who relish the freedom these simple vehicles provide. 

Manavy is a first-year student in English Literature. She lives with her father on a plot of rented land in Siem Reap. When Manavy was in primary school, she had to walk, or catch a ride to school because her parents couldn't afford to buy her a bicycle. Her mother sold deep fried bananas on the street, while her father cleared weeds and grass on people's farms and properties, earning on average $1.25 per day. They worked hard because they wanted Manavy to have education, but their combined income was not enough to even buy rice to eat, let alone afford study materials and school uniforms for her, so they had to borrow money to keep her in school. Manavy still remembers her mother telling her: "life is very difficult without education, so you have to have some knowledge because only education can help you get out of poverty in the future and I cannot take care of you forever." She says it is her mother's words that inspire her to pursue her studies and never give up, regardless of how challenging her family situation is. 

In high school, Manavy got a scholarship which allowed her to complete her studies and graduate. Unfortunately, around this time, her mother fell very sick and they had to borrow money from a relative to treat her condition, but even after treatments, her mother continued to detiorate and passed away in March of 2020. With her mother gone, her father was coping with his loss and also worried about the debt they had accumulated, it was an incredibly challening time for their family and they worried about making ends meet. After some time, her father found a salaried job as a gardener, earning $125 each month. With this salary, they are able to pay for rent, food, medicine and other daily expenses.

Manavy found out about CATALYST scholarship from her friend who saw the announcement on Facebook. She applied, passed the social audit and was admitted into the program in February 2021. She was given a bicycle to commute to university, in addition to routine CATALYST support which includes monthly allowance, school fees, accommodation, computer & English tuition fee, textbook money and 15kg rice per month.

Manavy is very grateful for the support. She said, " Lotus Outreach is like my second family who always cares and makes sure I have all the means to acquire education. My father used to drop me at school before going to work, and I used to ask for a lift from friends to get back home, but now I have the bike so that I can pedal 3kms to college, 4kms to study English and practice using computer at CATALYST residential home, exercise with my friends, go to the market and library etc. With the bicycle, I can roam freely which is pretty convenient, unlike before when I couldn't go anywhere due to not having a means of transportation."         

Manavy would like to thank to Lotus Outreach and donors for supporting her. In the future, she wants to teach tourism at local and international universities. Thank you so much for your ongoing support and for building better futures for young women like Manavy. 

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Thang is a first year student studying Business Management at Build Bright University in Phnom Penh with the support of our CATALYST program. She is the sixth child in a family of 7 children and the only child who is fortunate enough to have come this far in her education. Her siblings either have no education at all or have reached the 2nd or 3rd grade at most.

Their family struggled financially throughout her entire life. Her mother grew vegetables on a small scale and Thang helped make a living by selling vegetables on the street since the time she was in 2nd grade. From grades 1 to grade 9 she walked 3 kms to school every day. Thang said " It was very difficult having no means of transportation to get to school; sometimes I wanted to drop out, but because I love studying, I was willing to walk to school."

Her family couldn't afford a bicycle because they were poor and in debt. Due to the economic hardship and having to walk a long distance to school, Thang did not do well academically. She told us, "I got very poor grades because I did not study hard, I only thought of earning money to help my mother. I thought of dropping out again when I was in grade 10 and 11 because my mother was very sick and our debt grew bigger. But my mother would not let me do so and encouraged me to stay in school regardless of how poor we became." 

Because of her mother, Thang committed to finishing high school. Finally in grade 12, the last year of high school, she qualified for scholarship support from LO in partnership with Cambodian Women's Crisis Center. With this support, Thang became more motivated. She said, "After receiving the scholarship, my family and I were very happy. The program provided me with materials for study, money for tuition classes, mental support, and good experiences. It made a difference in my study. I got good grades and successfully passed the grade 12 high school exam!" 

Unfortunately, Thang’s mother died in 2020 while Thang was pursuing her Bachelor Degree with support from Lotus Outreach's CATALYST Project. Her father is unable to work but Thang was committed to her own success as a way to help her family. In February 2021, Thang received a bicycle through Lotus Pedals to travel to her university which is 6 km from CATALYST's residential home. In March 2021, she got a job as a baker with a decent monthly salary. She is very grateful for having received the bicycle which allows her to  commute as needed to classes and work. "The bicycle is very useful for me. It takes me to school and also to work, to the market and places that I want to go. It has given me the freedom of mobility and serves as a bridge to a better future.", said Thang. "I would not be able to afford it by myself because my salary is to support my father back home who is old and cannot work and my widowed sister as well as to pay back our debt. If I didn't get the support from Lotus Outreach, I would have been doing labor work in Thailand now.Thank you so much for helping make my dreams come true. I am committed to study hard and I will not let you down," Thang expressed her gratitude.    

Thank you so much for your ongoing support to help many girls like Thang realize their dreams. Programs like Lotus Pedals address the multi layered causes of poverty that prevent girls like Thang from getting an education. With cross cutting programs and a strong system of support, we at LO hope to break the cycle of poverty from the ground up. 

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The new academic year in Cambodia finally kicked off on January 11th, 2021 after being interrupted by COVID-19 since mid-March 2020. The effects of COVID-19 have been felt at every level, from interruptions in travel, trade and investment as well as day to day happenings. The pandemic has had a particularly devastating effect on low income families whose financial hardship has been only exacerbated even as prices for goods increase. This makes our mission to ensure that girls have a way to get to school even more crucial. 

We often say: educate a girl, transform her community. By giving a girl a bicycle, we ensure she reaches school safely so that she may gain the skills she needs to succeed. When she succeeds, so too does her family and community. We see this first hand every day, and are astounded at the determination of these girls when they are given the tools they need to reach their full potential. 

Since the start of the new academic year, Lotus Pedals has gifted 82 bicycles to female students in Phnom Penh Capital and Siem Reap Province. Votey is one of the recipients. She is in 7th grade at the Hun Sen Siem Reap Lower Secondary School.

Votey is 13 years old, and is the third child of six siblings. Her parents have a cart from which they sell fruits in the Angkor Wat area, together they earn around $150 a month which is all they have to support their eight member family. When she was in primary school, Votey would share a ride to school on her sister’s bicycle. But the Secondary School is much further from her home and in a different direction than her sister's school. As her family could not afford another bicycle during the pandemic and with no other means of transportation, Votey was at risk of having to drop out. Luckily, through Lotus Pedals, Votey now has a new bicycle of her own. She said, "I will take good care of the bicycle and will study hard to finish school and become a teacher. Thank you for your kindness.”

We are so happy to be able to support girls like Votey in breaking barriers in their families and communities. A huge thank you to all who make our work possible. 

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Having been on halt for many months due to Covid-19, finally Lotus Pedals is back in action! Although students are still doing distance learning and online study, they have been going to take handouts from teachers at school a few times a week. To ensure an easy and safe commute for those who live far from school, 157 bicycles were distributed in September! 77 bikes went to students of Girls' Education Initiative Project in partnership with KAPE in Kompong Cham Province & Tbong Khmum Provinces and another 80 bicycles were awarded to scholarship students of Girls' Access To Education in partnership with CWCC in Siem Reap Province. 

After the distribution, we randomly visited several recipients at their home and Lida was one of them. When we arrived at her home, we saw the new bicycle standing beneath the house and her mother weaving a mat. She told us that Lida had gone to look for a red thread to tie around her wrist as a blessing for getting a new bicycle. This symbolic action alone tells us how much the bicycle means to her. A short while later, Lida came back with the red thread and we were able to talk with her about her family, school, challenges and dreams.

Lida is 15 years old, studying in 7th grade at Angkor Thom Lower Secondary School in Siem Reap Province. She is the youngest of 9 siblings. Only 3 of the siblings have received some level of education, Lida and one other are the only ones in school currently. The rest of the siblings and her parents have received no education at all. 

Lida and her family live 2 kms from school, a commute she has made by foot since she was in 1st grade. She is very happy and excited to have received a bicycle for the first time! Lida said, "With this bicycle, I will get to school on time and won't be afraid any more. Before, I had to take a shortcut through a rice field which is very quiet and I was always afraid that someone would hurt me. When it rained, the rice field became very muddy and slippery. I had to keep my school uniform and books in a plastic bag to prevent them from getting dirty and I changed when I arrived at school." 

Lida is inspired by her father, a former soldier. She also wants to become a soldier because she wants to protect people, their properties and Khmer territory. However, her mother doesn't want her to do that because it is dangerous. She wants Lida to be a teacher or a doctor. Considering her mother's wish, Lida has a second career option which is a doctor. When asked about her hopes for Lida, her mother replied, "I want her to have higher education because those who are well-educated get good jobs. For example, the relatives on my husband's side, they are all well-educated and now they are school principals, teachers, working for NGO etc., while my older children, who have no education, are doing seasonal labor work."

 

We are so happy to have this crucial program up and running once again and to see first hand girls like Lida riding towards their dreams. Thank you so much for your generous support for this project. 

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This year we planned to provide 273 bicycle scholarships to economically vulnerable girls, targeting areas where distances between their places of residence and the nearest school are far and thus affect school attendance.

In mid-January, Lotus Pedals gave 15 bicycle packages including the bike, pump, lock, and repair kit, to 7th grade GATE scholars from Angkor Thom High School in Siem Reap Province. The remaining bicycle packages were to be distributed in March, however, due to the COVID-19 crisis, schools have been closed since the middle of March and are expected to resume only in November, with the start of a new academic year. In light of these obstacles, distribution has been delayed but it is our hope that we will be able to distribute all of the remaining bike scholarships by the end of this year. Lotus Pedals recipients live 2-5 kilometers from school, so access to safe and reliable transportation makes a huge difference in their ability to attend school consistently and easily.  

We followed up with many Lotus Pedal recipients to see how they are doing during this difficult time. Sreyreath is an orphan and lived with her aunt until she left her village to study Economics in Siem Reap city. Sreyreath expressed her gratitude for her bicycle, even as her University is closed and offers no online learning. She has returned to her hometown, again living with her aunt and helping to take care of her nephew. Her family has struggled financially during the pandemic, and Sreyreath is worried about falling behind as her school remains closed. 

“These days, I don’t use the bicycle to go to school but I ride it to the market and sometimes for exercise. It is the best transportation for my life, it stays with me all the time. It is also my best friend and it will bridge me to a bright future. This bicycle is very meaningful to me because it helps me to get to school and wherever I want to go, near or far” expressed Sreyreath. 

A tool as simple as a bicycle can transform these girls’ lives; providing safe, independent and reliable transportation. Thank you for your support in providing access to education to these wonderful young women. With a bicycle, they have a ride to school and thus a ride to their future! 

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Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
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Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Maya Norbu
Ojai, CA United States
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