We travelled three hours south from Phnom Penh to Svey Rieng near the Vietnam border for a recent Lotus Pedals bicycle giveaway. Svey Rieng is one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia, primarily due to poor soil quality and insufficient rainfall which greatly inhibit agricultural output. Only half of Svay Rieng’s children will receive primary school education, with poverty driving the other half to work to contribute to the family purse. There are many reports of parents selling or “leasing” their children to begging syndicates working across the border in Vietnam, and girl children are particularly vulnerable to trafficking and exploitation.
When we arrived at the community hall, we were amicably greeted by the Assistant District Governor (ADC) of Chantrea and the families of the 25 young girls about to receive their first bicycles. While addressing the families, the ADC remarked there are no other organizations working on education in the three communes of his district despite the tremendous need. Even though these poor families had travelled a long way in the heat of the day, their mood was upbeat during a serious yet humorous meeting.
Primary schools are generally available within a few kilometers of people’s homes, but lower secondary schools average 5-10 kilometers or more in this district. Without a bicycle, a girl is given little choice but to drop out when she finishes her primary education. Lotus Pedals is designed to ensure these vulnerable girls will not be forced to drop out due to something as tragically simple as a not having a ride to school.
It was truly delightful to see the joy and hope in the eyes of these children as they answered questions about their studies, plans, and dreams. A bicycle seems such a small thing to us but to these families its often the difference between whether or not their daughter will have a future. We are deeply grateful to GlobalGiving donors for supporting Lotus Pedals and the 1,000 girls we will have distributed bicycles to by the end of 2013.
To watch a video of the giveaway in Svay Rieng, please click here.
With your generous support, 364 impoverished girls in rural Cambodia received new bicycles, pumps and locks in 2012, clearing the single greatest obstacle to their continued education. In this update, we will offer you an inside look at how the project picks beneficiaries and monitors their progress.
Because demand for the bicycles far exceeds supply, Lotus Pedals has established the following selection criteria to ensure the bikes reach those most in need. In addition to requiring that girls live at least 1.5 kilometers from the nearest school, priority is given to:
Girls who have recently dropped out of school
Victims of physical, sexual and emotional abuse
Girls from poor, landless families with many children
Girls in single parent households, or in households with one or more disabled parent
Girls not receiving education support from other NGOs
Girls whose families express a commitment to education
To ensure the long-term impact of the bicycle, recipients and their families also sign a contract pledging to do the following:
Maintain the bicycle and repair it when it breaks
Not to sell or pawn the bicycle
Parents or guardians are not allowed to use the bicycle during school hours
Return the bicycle if the girl drops out of school within two years
Girls agree to maintain academic integrity, school attendance and marks of at least 50%
Lotus Pedals bicycles are delivered in partnership with several well-established indigenous NGOs throughout Cambodia, including in the provinces of Mondulkiri, Banteay Meanchey, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Pursat and Svay Rieng. Because our partners are already operating programs in the target villages, the project has a built-in network for monitoring progress, and our partners agree to track the progress of the girls for a minimum of two years. This model allows us to devote 100% of every dollar you contribute directly toward the purchase of bicycles, while still maintaining our capacity to track project performance.
We thank you again for your contribution, and look forward to keeping you posted on the girls’ academic success in the months and years ahead. We also invite you to consider supporting the education of other girls by making another donation at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/lotuspedals/ (and encouraging your friends on Facebook to do the same!).
As a result of your generous support, 107 impoverished young girls in the Russey Keo district of Phnom Penh, Cambodia received refurbished bicycles and repair kits this month, allowing them to celebrate Back to School season in style.
In rural Cambodia, the road to school is long and full of hazards. In addition to the time and opportunity costs of traversing lengthy distances to school by foot, rural Cambodian girls face a high incidence of sexual violence in their communities, and walking alone increases their risk. By supplying heavy-terrain bicycles to the poorest girls living over one mile from the nearest schoolhouse, Lotus Pedals is helping hundreds of adolescent Cambodian girls safely return to school.
The giveaway ceremony, held at Bun Rany Hun Sen Koh Dach High School on October 8, was attended by nearly 1,000 people, including the district officer, commune council, village chief, school director, teachers, local authorities and 700 school children and parents. Speaking to the crowd, the Deputy Governor stressed that a bicycle means a lot to poor family that would otherwise have to save for a very long time in order to afford a bike for their daughter. Student council representatives also declared that with a bike, the girls can now come to school both regularly and on time. Recipients thanked the donors and promised to study hard and take good care of their new bikes.
Susan B. Anthony once said "I think [the bicycle] has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives a woman a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. The moment she takes her seat she knows she can't get into harm unless she gets off her bicycle, and away she goes, the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood."
These words – spoken by a 19th century American feminist – could not be truer in present-day rural Cambodia, where – for a young woman – a bicycle can mean the difference between reaching her full potential and a life of oppression. We offer our deepest gratitude to each and every one of you for entrusting us to help these young Cambodian girls get back to school, and for investing in the healing of a nation.
On July 12, Lotus Pedals delivered brand new bicycles and pumps to five promising young women enrolled in our Girls’ Access to Education (GATE) scholarship program in Phnom Penh, Cambodia to ensure they could get to school safely.
In urban environments like Phnom Penh, girls often face harassment and abuse while walking to school alone, and their risk increases as they reach adolescence, both as a result of their age and the longer commute to secondary school.
We interviewed one of the new Lotus Pedals recipients, Chea Daraty, who describes the danger she faced before receiving the bicycle. Watch her short interview by clicking the link below.
Since last October when Sim Soline began her upper secondary studies, she has walked four kilometers to her new high school. Sometimes she was able to ride along on the back of a friend’s bike or pay a moto-taxi to bridge the distance – whatever it took to make it to class. Her attendance is near perfect, making this 10th grader an excellent role model for her six younger siblings, all of whom are still in school.
Inspired by the earnest ambition of this 17 year old, and conscious of her influence over six younger children looking up to her, we wanted to give Soline as much support to complete high school as we possibly could. She is already one of our GATE scholars, but we also made her one of 63 girls who received a bike through our Lotus Pedals project this March.
We can do this because of YOU! Your continued support makes all the difference for students ready to go the extra mile to succeed, and for the kids who look up to them. Thank you!
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