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The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!

by Lotus Outreach
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The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!
The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!

Today, we share two case studies from our Blossom Bus scholars who recently took their Board Exams, Indian public exams held after completion of tenth and twelfth grade. Scores on these exams are hugely important and can determine what a student’s future may look like finishing high school and beyond.

Manisha, from village Hurithal, is studying in grade 11 at Girls High School Hathin, and has been riding the Blossom Bus for one year. She has two brothers and three sisters. There is a high school in her village but the quality of education at the school is not good and Manisha believed attending it was a waste of time. Manisha had not given up and was determined to get an education when she found out about Blossom Bus, which would allow her to go to school in nearby Hathin.

Manisha passed her Board Exams this year, which she believes was only possible with the education she has gotten in Hathin. When schools closed in March due to Covid-19, her school arranged online classes. Manisha says that teachers send homework through WhatsApp, she does the work and sends it back to the teacher, who then provides feedback. She is not happy with online classes as she does not get the opportunity to interact with the teacher and if she has some trouble with lesson content, she has little support. Furthermore, teachers can sometimes be too busy to answer each individual student’s questions and sometimes her questions remain unanswered.

Her Father works at a Sweets Shop at Hathin village and is happy that his daughter is attending school and will be able to complete her education till grade 12 due to the safe and reliable mode of transport provided White Lotus Trust. Manisha and her father are sure that she would have dropped out and would be married by now if there was no Blossom Bus. They look forward to when schools reopen and the Blossom Bus starts up again!

 

Manisha from village Swamika joined Blossom Bus in 2019 to attend high school in Hathin. She gives thanks to Blossom Bus after passing her Board Exams this year and graduating into grade 11. There is no high school in Manisha’s village and she is certain that she would not have been able to pass the Board Exams if Blossom Bus had not provided her with safe and reliable transportation to school in Hathin.

Mainsha had joined the Hathin Girls High School in grade nine, two years ago, but had no way to reach school. She was determined to continue her education and even with the support of her father, was only managing to attend school 2 to 3 days a week. With this low rate of attendance, Manisha had little hope for being able to pass her board exams, which demand school presence and intense studies. She was planning to drop out, when she heard about Blossom Bus from her classmates and teachers in the school. Teachers and the School Principal encouraged her to apply for Blossom Bus and to everyone’s great joy, she got a seat.

Manisha will be the first girl in her family to complete a high school education. With her parents’ support and some assistance from Blossom Bus, she hopes to move on to College after high school and exceed the expectations of her family and community.

 

Thank you for your support. Without Blossom Bus these intelligent and inspiring young women would likely not get an education- it is a great honor to be able to foster the light of education in these communities. We believe that educating girls transforms communities.

Manisha from Hurithal
Manisha from Hurithal
Manisha from Swamika
Manisha from Swamika
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Since our last update, the world as a whole has faced very difficult circumstances. In India, where the Blossom Bus program operates, there is a strict lockdown in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools have remained closed since the second week of March due to the current COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown.

Anticipating a long lockdown, the government of Haryana started online classes for all students in grades 1 through 12 beginning in the second week of April. Classes are being telecasted daily for two hours through TV channels. School teachers have also created WhatsApp groups and are able to support students when they need help. The school teachers have stated that classes are running smoothly and are being supervised by an education officer of the precinct where the Blossom Bus girls study. The education officer appreciated our contacting him and said that he is getting messages from students even late at night and answering them with pleasure and pride.

While these remote classes are far from perfect under the difficult circumstances of the current lockdown, we are happy to know the children's studies are continuing and that teachers are committed to these new ways of learning. We are reminded of the old saying "necessity is the mother of invention" as now, out of necessity, even in the rural villages of India, technology can be used and online education is possible. We thank the government of Haryana for this initiative on behalf of students and we hope and pray things will get back to normal as soon as possible.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, 650 girls from 37 rural villages in Mewat, Haryana were able to achieve an average of 90% attendance due to Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus program. There has been significant increases in the number of girls attending the seven high schools served by Blossom Bus. We take heart in witnessing the visible impact of the program for these students.

 

Thank you for supporting access to education today and every day. 

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Blossom Bus riders at school
Blossom Bus riders at school

The Blossom Bus program has continued to run smoothly from October to December 31. We are delighted to report that during this quarter the program has again been able to overcome safety issues, gender biases, inclement weather, seasonal responsibilities on the farm and sibling care, to ensure full school attendance rates for 681 girls from 37 villages attending seven high schools, including 40 attending colleges. 

Even while education department and school authorities continue to applaud this initiative, during this academic year there has been no further provision of affordable public or private transportation available to ensure girls from these villages might reach school safely. Provision of these buses is therefore crucial to the continuing education of the hundreds of girls served by the program.

While the numbers plying on the buses have remained the same for the program during the quarter, the demand for seats on buses among the village communities where the program operates has continued to grow. We are keeping a list of applicants and hope to add 300 new applicants to the current riders before the end of this current academic year on March 31, 2020. 

Every girl that remains in school another year not only becomes an inspiration and role model for her sisters and all the girl children of the villages in which this program is working, she is also adding to the development of her community for now and generations to come.

Nobel laureate and girls’ education activist, Malala Yousafzai, famously said, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world.” An enormous body of evidence supports her conviction. For starters, educated girls realize higher wages and greater upward mobility, contributing to economic growth. Their rates of maternal mortality drop, as do mortality rates of their babies. They are less likely to marry as children or against their will. They have lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria—the “social vaccine” effect. Their agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished. They are more empowered at home, at work, and in society.*

Teachers, principals and education department officers in our work area continuously remind us how inspired they are by our efforts and that by enabling regular attendance of large numbers of girl students at local high schools, the Blossom Bus program is keeping their schools open. This contribution to the overall vibrancy of education in the community is a testament to the deeper impacts of this program on a society at large.

*Paul Hawken, Drawdown (2017)

Girls on the Blossom Bus
Girls on the Blossom Bus
Blossom Bus girls in front of the class
Blossom Bus girls in front of the class

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Jumping on Blossom Bus!
Jumping on Blossom Bus!

There are many obstacles girls from poor rural villages in India face simply getting to school, let alone remaining there. 

In his book, Drawdown (2017), Paul Hawken eloquently tells us:

"Economic barriers include lack of family funds for school fees and uniforms, as well as prioritizing the more immediate benefits of having girls fetch water or firewood, or work a market stall or plot of land. Cultural barriers encompass traditional beliefs that girls should tend the home rather than learn to read and write, should be married off at a young age, and, when resources are slim, should be skipped over so boys can be sent to school instead. Barriers are also safety related. Schools that are farther afield put girls at risk of gender-based violence on their way to and from, not to mention dangers and discomforts at school itself."

Kamini is a recent addition to the Blossom Bus program. Her story illustrates Hawken’s views.

Kamini is from village Rajpur in India. She is the daughter of farmer, Lal, who has a small land holding, but is determined to educate his daughter. Kamini has a brother who is studying in the village school in eighth grade. Lal says that among his five brothers, none were able to study beyond eighth grade as there was no high school in their village.

When Kamini expressed her desire to study further, Lal felt he could not say no. He also wanted that for his daughter: for her to become an educated person, get a good job and earn a name for the family. Though Lal was earning a meager amount selling the farming produce, he was ready to sacrifice whatever necessary for Kamini to go to school. The biggest problem facing them was actually getting her there. Kamini would have to walk and it was four kilometers to the nearest school in Solara.

Kamini tried walking to school for some months but was facing problems on the way. Lal arranged to drop her off at school. To do so, he borrowed a motorbike from his brother, but could not do it regularly as sometimes the bike was not available and on other times he was busy with farming.

These arrangements were unsatisfactory. Kamini ended up staying home for 2-3 days a week, and for longer durations during the rainy season while the fields were water logged. It was simply not possible to walk on the muddy roads. Witnessing these problems, Lal became disheartened. He thought his daughter would drop out for sure and not able be able to complete her education.

Then something happened. Kamini came home from school one day with exciting news. “Pappa!” she exclaimed, “You’ll never guess! It’s a dream come true…there’s a free bus taking only girls to the Solara School!” The bus she spoke of? Blossom Bus, of course! That was a very big day for Lal. Lal shares, “I am now certain my daughter will complete her education, will go to college and be able to live her dreams!"

Kamini at school!
Kamini at school!
Kamini at home with her parents
Kamini at home with her parents

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We are delighted to report that we’ve doubled the number of girls in our Blossom Bus program from 327 to more than 600 riders onboard during the first month of the academic session following the Indian school’s summer break.

The Blossom Bus fleet has increased from seven to eleven buses and we may need a few more busses should the tiny alleys and rough roads of rural Rajasthan and Haryana prove too difficult for the larger buses that are currently in service.

Putting another 300 girls on our buses was not at all problematic; in fact we had a waiting list of around 250 girls ready to board as soon as seats became available.

Availability of buses in these remote areas inhabited by minority communities of agrarian farmers is quickly changing local attitudes toward the importance of girl’s education and just what they are capable of. The fact that forty of our riders are enrolled in master’s programs has a deep impact on the collective mindset in villages where very few have completed school above grade eight. 

We have included a letter from the Education Department of the Government of Haryana to our local NGO in India, White Lotus. The letter praises our work and assures us support in the communities and schools we are planning to add to those currently being served.

All aboard the Blossom Bus!


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Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Ojai, CA United States
$160,849 raised of $200,000 goal
 
2,849 donations
$39,151 to go
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