Lotus Pedals - Help Cambodian Girls Get to School!

by Lotus Outreach
Vetted

Sross is a student at Hun Sen Prek Pra Lower Secondary School, a school named for Cambodia’s longtime dictator, Hun Sen. Living just outside of the country’s largest city, Phnom Penh, Sross’s family subsists on just a few dollars per day of income. She has three sisters and two brothers, but only she and one of her brothers have not quit school.

“My three elder sisters all work in the garment factory,” she tells us. “Some get $70 or $80 per month, but if they work overtime, they can get $100 per month.”

Life working in a garment factory is not easy, and even though the pay is not high, the modest wages are highly sought after by men and women throughout Cambodia.

Young Sross though, has higher aspirations: “As for me, I am not working in the garment factory. I am studying.” She explains, “In the future, I want to work using my intellect. I don’t want to do manual labor.” 

Sross is one of the hundreds of Cambodian girls who have received bicycles from Lotus Outreach’s Lotus Pedals this year. Since January of 2013, Lotus Outreach has ensured that 302 young riders can get to school to attain their dreams. The program has identified 381 additional students who may qualify to receive a bicycle, and still thousands of girls across the country want to attend school, but have no means of transportation.

Before she received a bike through Lotus Pedals, Sross either had to get a ride with friends, or walk 4 km to school by herself. Her eyes well up with tears talking about the difficulty of getting to school. Walking long distances is not just inconvenient; it can be dangerous because of violent crime or very difficult and muddy in the rainy season. 

To overcome the difficulty of a long commute, even in rainy weather and muddy roads, Lotus Pedals provides its young scholars with heavy-terrain bicycles. The bikes come equipped with a basket for carrying supplies, all-terrain wheels, and a back wheel cover to shield the rider from mud and rain thrown by the wheels. 

“Now that I have the bike, I can go to class and even attend additional sessions on some days. I never miss school!” 

Less than 24 percent of Cambodians finish secondary school, and the percentage of girls who graduate college is in the single-digits. Nonetheless, Sross is determined to be the first in her family to complete college and become a lawyer. She says she wants to serve the falsely accused and the poor who cannot afford representation. 

So many girls are determined to do great things if we just give them the opportunity that an education affords! Just US$80.00 provides a girl with a fully equipped bike, a repair kit and a pump. This small expense is affordable for so many but out of reach for these young women seeking to improve themselves and their community. 

With tears in her eyes, Sross tells us, “I am very thankful to the donors for providing me with this bike.”

Thank you so much for supporting Lotus Outreach and making the dreams of girls like Sross possible!

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Mealea: bright, beautiful, and born into poverty
Mealea: bright, beautiful, and born into poverty

The profile of 20 year-old Mealea is typical of the hundreds of girls we support through Lotus Pedals in Cambodia, and her inspiring story underscores the extent to which a bicycle can alter the course of a girl’s life.

Survivors of the Khmer Rouge genocide, Mealea’s illiterate parents were forced by poverty and high-interest debt to migrate illegally to Thailand in search of work, leaving Mealea and her five siblings—all under the age of 13—alone to fend for themselves.

Though Mealea struggled to help feed and care for her siblings, she always placed a high value on her education. “When I was in the fourth grade, I started to work making rice wine and feeding pigs,” she shares. “I often got to school late because of those chores and the long distance from home to school. However, my school performance was not bad; I was always among the top 10 in my class.”

Recognizing both her aptitude and her precarious situation, Lotus Outreach began providing Mealea with a scholarship—including a Lotus Pedals bike—in junior high school to prevent her from dropping out. This scholarship not only covered Mealea’s school fees, supplies, healthcare, books, uniforms, bicycle, and lunch money, but provided her with a large bag of rice each month to ensure her young siblings wouldn’t go hungry if Mealea continued going to school instead of work.

We shared Mealea’s pride when she passed her rigorous exams to graduate high school in 2010, and was admitted on a full tuition scholarship to the Vanda Institute of Accounting in the capital. Mealea continues to receive support from Lotus Outreach for her living expenses, food, travel, and school supplies through our GATEways university program, and looks forward to graduating next year. In the meantime, she continues to excel in her studies and has expressed a deep and passionate commitment to helping other children in Cambodia. In addition to studying full-time, working part-time to help pay down her parents’ debt, and learning English on the weekends, Mealea volunteers at her school as well as with the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center. 

“I feel very deep gratitude to the donors for supporting me,” shares Mealea. “When I was sick, you cared for me. When my bicycle broke and I couldn’t get to school, you helped me fix it. You educated me and offered me every opportunity you could. You have been like my parents, and I will not be satisfied until I have been able to repay your generosity by helping others!”

We thank you for clearing the path for hundreds of girls like Mealea to pursue education and contribute to the development of their families, their villages, and their country. To learn more about Lotus Pedals and pledge additional support, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/lotuspedals.

Mealea (left) on her Lotus Pedals bike
Mealea (left) on her Lotus Pedals bike
Mealea (right) at her university library
Mealea (right) at her university library

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Despite inclement weather, spirits were high on June 4th when Lotus Pedals distributed 40 new bicycles to young girls at a giveaway ceremony in the Kampot province of Cambodia. The giveaway was sponsored by the World Bank Independent Evaluation Group in Washington DC, which raised funds among its staff in observance of International Women’s Day on March 8.

“This has been a much appreciated initiative by both school girls and their parents,” shared World Bank field representative Alassane, who attended the ceremony on behalf of IEG. “These students walk some 2-8 km to get to school. Some say they will no longer be late coming to school, others say they could now afford the time to take additional private tutoring.”

Lotus Pedals was also recently awarded a grant of $25,000 from Impact Giving, a women’s giving circle based in Orange County, California. This grant, combined with the generous financial support of our donors on GlobalGiving, will mean at least 600 more girls will receive bicycles this year.

On behalf of all of us at Lotus Outreach, thank you for giving these girls the opportunity to get to school safely!

Breaking news!

Starting at 9:00 am EDT on June 12, donations made to Lotus Outreach projects will be matched 50% by GlobalGiving. We are using this rare opportunity to help us complete our sponsorship campaign for poor university girls in Cambodia at http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/gateways/.

The GATE Women and Youth Scholarship (GATEways) project will allow Lotus Outreach to send 100 impoverished Cambodian girls to university, enabling them to rank among the 2% of women in their country to possess tertiary education. By supporting women's higher education, GATEways is working to rebuild the intellectual class in Cambodia which was tragically purged during the Khmer Rouge genocide.

Click here to donate now and your gift will be matched 50%!

The fine print:

  • Donations are matched up to $1,000 per individual, per project.
  • GlobalGiving is offering two bonus awards to participating organizations: $1,000 for the project with the most money raised and $1,000 for the project with the most individual donors.  
  • Only online donations (credit card or PayPal) made via GlobalGiving are eligible for matching.
  • See additional terms and conditions here.
  • There is $90,000 in matching funds available.

Follow our progress on the Bonus Day Leaderboard, which will go live Wednesday morning.

Questions? Please contact us at info@lotusoutreach.org or 888.831.9990.

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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.

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Biking the long road to school in rural Cambodia
Biking the long road to school in rural Cambodia

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
  • Orphans
  • 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!).

"Aw kun" from me to you
"Aw kun" from me to you
Bicycle giveaway ceremony
Bicycle giveaway ceremony

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

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

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