Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!

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

Lotus pedals continues to serve girl students of all ages and education levels. Because many of the Lotus Pedals recipients graduate middle school and high school, their hopes and dreams carry them on to pursue their studies at the collegiate level. The need for transportation is just as important for these college students as it is for the younger students. In concurrent with the Lotus Pedals Program, many of the recipients receive scholarships through our Girls Access to Education Program(GATE/GATEways). The story below, written by a Lotus Pedals beneficiary, describes the pursuit of her education and just how important the Lotus Pedals Program is to her journey.

A story written by a Lotus Pedals beneficiary, Meas:

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 studies. I missed class very often because my family needed money and 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 ailing mom and my family’s situation.

After I graduated high school with the Girls Access to Education Program(GATE) I was lucky enough to be able to continue on to college with the support of GATEways. I was overjoyed when I found out that I could continue on to college. I moved to Phnom Penh and attended the Royal University of Agriculture. When I started college I decided to rent a house which is around 3km from university. When I first came here, it was really hard for me to go to school because I didn’t have my own transportation. I had to walk to school and sometimes and I had to spend money for a motor taxi. One of my friends who lives near my renting house offered me a ride to school because she has her own motorbike, but not often because we had different school schedules. In 2015, Lotus Pedals program provided me with a bicycle in order to help me with my commute to school. Since then, I am able to go get to university on my own which reduces my expenses and saves time. I also ride my bicycle to the market which is around 2km away from my renting home. I don’t have to borrow my friends’ bicycle or wait for my friend to pick me up anymore. The bicycle is very helpful for my studies and allows me to travel to school whenever I need to study. 

I would like to show my deepest gratitude to the donors for supporting me with the bicycle. The bicycle is so important to me because I am required to go to university very often in order to meet with professor and discuss my final thesis as well as attend regular classes. The bicycle has helped me go to school as needed and meet with my professors on time. With the help of the bike I am committed to graduate with good grades. With good grades I will be able to find a job and be able to support my family.  Thank you. 

Meas receiving her bicycle.
Meas receiving her bicycle.
Lotus Pedals bicycles galore!
Lotus Pedals bicycles galore!

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 with poverty, Daa was left with her grandma as a baby at two years of age in order to free 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 infact 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.”

“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 grandmother.
Daa and her grandmother.
Daa and her family
Daa and her family
Daa and her bicycle
Daa and her bicycle
Daa with her grandmother and sibling.
Daa with her grandmother and sibling.
Daa in front of her home.
Daa in front of her home.

In the last 18 months, 211 bikes were provided to Lotus Pedals students. These Lotus Pedal students were provided a pump, lock and repair kit to ensure their bicycles take them to school every day. The following is an account of a home visit conducted by Lotus Outreach's Director of Field Operations, Glenn Fawcett, which explains the personal story of a Lotus Pedals scholars, Srey:

We travelled along the raised banks of rice fields in the car until we could drive no more, then we walked the last few hundred metres to a modest, stilted wooden, traditional style Cambodian village home.

We sat in the coolest place, which in most Khmer homes is under the house and as far as the hot summer sun as possible. Srey sat with her grandma, on a low, traditional wooden platform. On her face a wizened smile beyond her years.

We asked her why she was given the bicycle and when.  “I received the bike as I am an orphan and didn’t have a bike. It was presented at a big ceremony not so far from here on 5th November last year. Before getting my new bike I used to walk to school or catch a lift with a friend". Her grandmother told us the very sad story about how Srey became an orphan.  “Even though her parents had five children, they decided to get divorced. There were 4 boys and Srey, the only girl. They called the community to a meeting and told them they would each take two of the boys and you (all) can do what you want with the girl as we are leaving her here.

This was of course extremely painful for all of us to hear this, especially in front of Srey who must find revisiting such details deeply disturbing. We quickly recovered from the shock and deflected our questions to her 53 years old grandmother and a mother of NINE! I could only think what a saintly person she is to take on another child when she has so many mouths to feed and care for and already living deep enough in poverty.

We then asked Srey to tell us what the Lotus Pedals program conditions required of them and after thinking a little (she is only 12) she told us, “We should not sell the bike and have to maintain it". Kin, her grandmother, further volunteered, “We will keep her in school as long as she likes.” Again we were humbled by her grandma’s generosity and began to ask Srey about her studies. She excitedly and with bursting pride tells us, “I am 10th of 41 in my class but I want to be third!” We asked why only 3rd, why not first? To which she replied, “impossible!” We weren’t sure why she could not hope for first, (but you can imagine) but the point remains she is an intelligent young girl abandoned by her parents and doing well in her studies against all odds. We asked what is her dream for the future and she told us, “I want to do something connected to medicine. Maybe I cannot become a Doctor as that is very hard and expensive, but I can do something medical.”

Srey's school is currently a little less than 2 kms from her home but when she graduates primary, the lower secondary school is far off. When asked about upkeep we were told the dog had chewed up the pump and her bike had a flat tire!!! Being concerned about such things we asked how long it’s been flat and to our surprise she told us it was punctured as she was riding home to meet us!

We asked what would she do? Srey told us she has the patches and glue and will take it to a nearby neighbour’s house where a man will fix the puncture. She also told us about her bravery while learning to ride. “You can see the basket has come off and that happened while I was teaching myself to ride. I fell off 5 or 6 times and also broke my uncle’s number plate on his motto and for which I got beaten.

We left with a prayer in our hearts for this courageous girl and her adoptive family and that Srey will continue studying and realise her dream of working in the field of medicine.

Thank you for all the supporters who contribute so generuosuly to the lives of these students.

Srey, her family, and their home
Srey, her family, and their home
Pheap and her mom with Pheap
Pheap and her mom with Pheap's bike!

Dear Lotus Pedads sponsors,

As you may know, Lotus Pedals gives the gift of education to girls in deep poverty, where public transportation is often nonexistent. It also gives these girl students a feeling of mobility and confidence as they pedal with speed down rural roads with friends to and from school. The following is a success story about Pheap, a student that has benifted greately from the Lotus Pedals program.

Pheap, is in 12th grade at Nimith high school. Pheap lives in Reaksmey Meanchey village in Banteay Meanchey. Her father Vann Sokear, 42, is a laborer and her mother Sin Sophea, 39, is housewife. Pheap has 3 female siblings and she is the oldest. All of her siblings are in school.

Pheap’s family is very poor and does not own any paddy fields to cultivate rice or vegetables. Their property is just large enough for their home. Her father works locally, along the Cambodia-Thailand boarder to support Pheap'sfamily. Often her family can’t afford rice to cook. Pheap has always helped her family with household chores and has frequently quit school so that she could work as laborer to support her family.

A teacher advised Pheap to enroll back in school, so she applied to the GATE scholarship program. Pheap was selected as one of the scholarship recipients. Since 2012 when Pheap was in 9th grade, she has been receiving support from Lotus Outreach through CWCC (Cambodian Women Crisis Center). Her family has been receiving special rice support of 50kgs per month since 2012. Both the educational scholarship and the rice support have been vital to her family over the past four years.

Before getting the scholarship, Pheap found ways to catch rides with friends on their bikes. Because of that, her attendance was very irregular and she often had to miss school. To ease her commute and ensure she didn’t have to miss school due to lack of transportation, the program provided her with a Lotus Pedals bicycle. She felt very happy to receive the bike and it really helped with her attendance. When she reached 10th grade, school was 20kms away from home, so Pheap was placed in the residential home near school. She rides her bike home every weekend to see her family and helps them with chores. She has been studying very hard and is one of the top ten students in her class of forty-five.

In late 2015, during a scholarship giveaway event, Pheap was given a new bike along with a pump to replace her old bike that was given since 2012. Her old bike has now been passed down to her younger sister. Pheap is very happy because now her sister can also bike to school.

Pheap is very grateful for all the supports, financially and spiritually. She is committed to her studies and hopes to peruse her education as long as she can. She wishes to become a secondary school teacher specializing in Khmer literature so she can help educate younger generation to be educated like her. 

Ratana and her friend with their bikes
Ratana and her friend with their bikes

The following project explores Ratanas’s long-term pursuit of her education. Ratana’s story starts within our CWCC program and traces her steps up to her Lotus Pedals bike!

Ratana, 24 years old, is originally from Muk Wat Village, Kompong Klang Commune, Sout Nikum District, Siem Reap Province. Her parents are farmers. She has 5 siblings—2 girls and 3 boys—and she is the oldest child. Unfortunately, when Ratana was young, there was domestic violence within her home. Ratana’s mother decided to seek intervention from the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) and spent several months staying in CWCC’s safe shelter.

Through her relationship with CWCC, when Ratana was in sixth grade, she was chosen to be a recipient of the Girls’ Access To Education (GATE) project implemented by CWCC with funding support from Lotus Outreach. When the program first found her, she was so discouraged and about to drop out due to both poverty and domestic violence. “When I was in primary school, my father always drank alcohol and came home beating my mother. I got so depressed and ashamed that I didn’t want to go to school any more”, Ratana said.

Having been in the GATE program, Ratana gained her aspiration and strive back for a better future. Ratana studied hard and eventually graduated from high school in 2011, which wouldn’t have happened without the support of the program. While she was so excited and eager to pursue her dreams, her heart fell and sank once again given that her family could not support her to pursue her study at university. She was thinking about giving up her dreams and looking for labor job to support her family. Luckily, Lotus Outreach decided to continue supporting GATE graduates to do tertiary education (under another project called GATEways) and Ratana qualified for it! “I thought that I had no fortune to attend university like other students since my family couldn’t afford it. Without the supporting from the program, I would surely be working in the farms right now”, she said.

Nowadays, Ratana is a third year student of midwifery at Regional Training Center of Battambang. With the supporting from GATEways program, Ratana has been receiving 15kg rice support every month, monthlystipend, accommodation, utility, English and French tuition, and computer course.

Living far from home is not easy for Ratana and without any transportation of her own, Ratana often walks many miles to school. Sometimes, she was late for her classes and couldn’t concentrate on her studies other times she had to walk through dangerous parts of town. Moreover, she was participating in an internship at one of the local hospital in Battambang province in mid August and was worried about how she would commute there. Ratana wished that she could have a bicycle that would take her to school and her internship. In responding to this simple wish of hers, Lotus Pedals, implemented by Lotus Outreach Cambodia, gave a bicycle to Ratana on August 8, 2015 in Battambang Province with facilitation from GATEways project officer. Ratana was extremely delighted and grateful to the program for always responding to her needs. “I am very thankful to donor for always supporting me, both with my study and my living. I am very happy and truly appreciate this kind and caring gesture toward me. This bike will help me a lot with my transportation to school and to work. I would like to wish all the people who have been making this possible for me to come this far with all the best of luck, health, wealth, success and prosperity.”, Ratana expressed her feeling.

Ratana and her Lotus Pedals
Ratana and her Lotus Pedals

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.lotusoutreach.org
Project Leader:
Elise De Grande
Executive Director
Sacramento, CA United States

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