The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!

by Lotus Outreach Vetted since 2009 Top Ranked Effective Nonprofit Site Visit Verified
Lokesh at local village school where she taught
Lokesh at local village school where she taught

Many of us living in the developed world, though I’m sure not all, have taken for granted having a bus to take our children to school whether close to or far from home. It’s different in the developing world. There are 115 million children in elementary education in India, a great deal of them living in remote villages with only a primary school and almost none of them get access to a school bus, except in a few cases where services are made available by organisations like Lotus Outreach. While 315 is a tiny drop in a huge ocean of children, the Blossom Bus has made a big splash in the area we work in where school enrolments of girls above year 9, first generation high school girls, have increased by 100s of percent.

Lokesh travelled to school and College for six years on Blossom Bus from Bichpuri village along with around 30 other riders from the same village. Two years back Lokesh was one of six local youths hired by us for an after school teaching program called Equality Education Addition (EQ+). She was paid for that work and earned herself a lot of respect from her village for being a young, educated woman getting a good salary while working in her home village.

Recently Lokesh broke another social and economic glass ceiling by landing a job in a local bank with which carries a tremendous amount of respect as a young woman in a male dominated society where almost all the young women are defined by their husband and stay at home looking after children, home and hearth. She is lucky in the sense her parents are very encouraging. Her father wanted her to achieve something and become a role model for the village girls, to motivate them to come out of poverty through empowerment by education.

Lokesh is not the shy and timid girl her society expected her to be and told us that riding on Blossom Bus gave her a sense of safety and confidence to ride a bike alone without fear of harassment, especially now that many villagers now see her in the bank and respect her. She also tells us this is only a beginning and that her current position will provide a platform for her to get a much better job after completing her college education.

Thank you to all the donors who have supported Lokesh on her journey! We can't wait to see where goes! 

Lokesh (middle) on the Blossom Bus to College
Lokesh (middle) on the Blossom Bus to College
Lokesh teaching EQ+ Program children
Lokesh teaching EQ+ Program children
Lokesh and other EQ+ teachers hired from BB riders
Lokesh and other EQ+ teachers hired from BB riders
"We are Blossom Bus Girls"
"We are Blossom Bus Girls"

Aharwan Girl’s High School full to overflowing with Blossom Bus riders

We met a number of the 215 Blossom Bus girls studying at Aharwan School today and visited their classes.

We also discovered the total number of students in these two classes is now more than 70, which is more than 35 students over the department of education’s limit.

While this situation burdens the Aharwan School principal and teachers, they are all deeply devoted and long term allies of Blossom Bus, so they are working on solutions. The School has thus far raised funds from the government and the communities to construct four spacious new rooms to accommodate the increasing numbers of girls coming to attend classes due to the Blossom Bus services. While this solves part of the problem, it is also vital to obtain more teachers because as of right now there aren’t sufficient teachers available for classes nine and ten.

The teacher Mr. Balbir informed us, “Seats at our school are in high demand these days because of our very good academic results and a safe environment for girls coming from poor and Muslim families. Unfortunately however, we are unable to provide them the personal attention they should be getting as there are more than 75 girls in each of the grade nine and ten classes. We have requested the authorities to provide more teachers but have not been successful thus far. The girls are working hard and getting much better than average exam outcomes even though they have less time with their teachers than they should. Last year Aharwan Girl’s High School had the best board results in their Ward."

While education in government schools at Haryana and across India is still obviously a work in progress, it’s much better these girls are in school getting a good education than anywhere else. We were happy to see Aharvan school in better shape than ever, with more rooms, cleaner than ever and with teachers taking more interest in creating a better learning environment. All of these things have contributed to the girls at this School performing better in exams than in government schools across the state.

The teachers thanked Lotus Outreach for our great support and which they say has made a huge contribution to making Aharwan Girl’s High School number one in the Ward.

78 girls enrolled in 10th grade
78 girls enrolled in 10th grade
74 girls enrolled in 9th grade
74 girls enrolled in 9th grade
From 30 to 315!
From 30 to 315!
Blossom Bus scholars in their NEW BUS!
Blossom Bus scholars in their NEW BUS!

We have some exciting news for you! This month, Lotus Outreach acquired a new Blossom Bus! This will be the 7th in our fleet.  These vehicles are now serving 315 girls in Haryana and Rajasthan. These communities continue to request for more seats on the Blossom Bus so we've worked hard to meet their requests! The vast majority of girls in these communities would not be able to study past the eighth grade without the Blossom Bus. 

The following are stories of two new Blossom Bus girls from Aharwan High school that were interviewed in November, 2017.

Tarteela, daughter of Rukbuddin, recently passed the eighth-grade exam from the local school at Rajpura village last year and was asked by her mother to stop studying after her father passed away a few months ago. Her mother has seven young children and no source of income. There is no high school in their village so her mother asked Tarteela to drop her studies just as her elder sister had done some three years before when her sister graduated from the eighth-grade.

Since Tarteela’s father is deceased, her family became dependent on the mercy of her uncle who promised to help them by providing some money. Unfortunately, her uncle can only afford to give them enough money to pay for food twice a day. Despite these life circumstances, Tarteela requested her mother to support her education. Her mother stated that Tarteela's education may be the only hope for their family, but she could not afford to pay for the transportation. Just by chance, Tarteela was told by some girls attending High School in Aharwan from her village that there is a bus available to girls for free to school. Tarteela’s mother quickly arranged to meet the school’s Headmaster so that they could secure a seat on the Blossom Bus and enroll in the school. Tarteela could not believe it and was completely surprised by the support provided by the staff of White Lotus Trust, a partner of Lotus Outreach, that enabled her to get a seat on the Blossom Bus. Tarteela’s mother was also very happy and now hopes that one day her daughter will be able to support their family so that they may live with dignity and self-respect. Tarteela told us that she will never in her entire life be able to forget what Blossom Bus has done for her!

Sonia, daughter of Jagvir, has three siblings including one elder brother and two younger sisters. She lost her father to an illness four years ago when she was studying in the fifth grade at a primary school in Bichpuri. She has been travelling on Blossom Bus for the last four years but this year she was asked by her mother to drop out of school after completing her upper primary as the family is dependent on the meager earnings of her elder brother who earns a small salary as a salesman at a mobile phone shop. Sonia was deeply disappointed and saddened as it was her dream to continue to study for a profession that would provide a good income for her family. Her mother was somewhat conservative and held the view that girls can’t get jobs and it would be a waste of time and money for her to continue in school. Sonia was very disheartened but not willing to give up and sought support from her brother who was already hard pressed to earn a livelihood for the family of five. Her brother was not entirely against the idea but was apprehensive about the chances of success. Sonia pleaded with her mother and brother and gave them the example of a girl from their village named Lokesh who is travelling on Blossom Bus and who now has a job that earns her 6000 rupees ($92 US) a month salary from White Lotus Trust to provide tuition classes to children from their own village. Sonia argued the job only required a two-hour work day and that it didn’t require going outside of the village. Sonia added that the only way that Lokesh acquired this job was by finishing the 12th grade. 

Sonia pleaded her case stating that continuing her education with the Blossom Bus would open up many opportunities for her in the future. Her mother and brother were convinced by this compelling argument and allowed her to continue her studies while travelling on Blossom Bus.

Sonia is now studying in the ninth grade and is very hopeful she will eventually become financially independent and be able to help her siblings and reduce the burden her brother currently bears alone. 

Thank you to all of the donors who make it possible for girls like Tarteela and Sonia to continue their education!

Tarteela, Blossom Bus scholar
Tarteela, Blossom Bus scholar
Sonia, Blossom Bus scholar
Sonia, Blossom Bus scholar
Genevieve + seven masters degree seeking students
Genevieve + seven masters degree seeking students

We are happy to announce that eight Blossom Bus girls have enrolled in masters degree programs after graduating from Blossom Bus to college this year. Genevieve, a Lotus Outreach International representative from the US, visited Durgapur village in Palwal district on July 30th 2017. Once she arrived, she met these girls and interacted with them. Genevieve’s first reaction after the meeting with the girls was “Wow! They’re really bright!”.  My answer was that they are brave too as they have achieved this difficult position by fighting the mindset of the society all the while being discouraged by their own extended family!

Usha, a Blossom Bus girl from Durgapur, told us even her uncle was not happy about her enrolling in college. His reason being that his own daughter wasn’t able to go to college, so he didn’t approve of Usha attending college either. All of these girls have challenged this kind of gender discrimination and have been able to challenge this mindset.

We’ve now reached a landmark in the Blossom Bus service. After starting with 46 girls in 2010, we have now provided the service to 688 unique girls by 2017. Up to this year, 366 girls have completed their education and graduated. While it is certain not all of those girls got jobs and professions, we can say with confidence these 688 girls have shown their families, siblings (especially girls) that girls have tremendous capacity, and can complete high school and college and do whatever a boy can do. A whole generation of girls and young women in this area and across the entire State of Haryana has been inspired by the achievements of these Blossom Bus riders. The government has featured them and the service as a way forward in terms of social development and in terms of ways to provide educational rights to the underserved while younger siblings have taken up the baton and used their sister as an example to get family approval to remain in and leverage their right, to attend school.

White-collar employment in rural areas remains a challenge, even so, we believe education is not for employment or a job alone; education produces better citizens. Whatever the case, many of the graduates, especially those finishing college will find gainful employment and professions they can ply in the nearby towns. The rest of the students will continue to contribute to the education of their own families and towards building better communities. We now have 40 young women on the Blossom to College Bus and 8 of them are now pursuing a Masters Degree.

Thank you to all of the donors who have supported these driven young women! 

Blossom Bus masters degree students
Blossom Bus masters degree students
Rakhee and Raveena with their father
Rakhee and Raveena with their father

"God gave us back our hands!"

Recently we met with two girls from the village of Durgapur who are beneficiaries of the Blossom Bus to College program. These two girls, Rakhee and Raveena, are in their first year of a Bachlors of Science degree. Their parents, Braham and Bimla, are both handicapped and missing one hand. Mr. Braham informed us that he lost his arm in an accident long ago and due to his handicap, he was married to a woman who also had one hand. They both never used this handicap as an excuse and worked hard as farm labors.

Braham and Bimla have done everything they can to make sure that their daughters, Rakhee and Raveena, are educated. The daughters appreciate their parent’s willingness to support their education. They themselves are very intelligent and sincere in their studies. Rakhi secured 97% marks in 10th grade and 92% in grade 12. Raveena also secured 92% marks in 10th grade and 90% in 12 grade.

Based on their performances, they were both offered admissions into the Bachelor of Science program and are expecting to become doctors. Raveena told us that after the 12th grade, she was worried about furthering her studies because of the small pension that her family survives on from the government assistance that her parents receive for their handicaps. She expressed “my father did everything to arrange money for the college but travelling to college was a big worry. We met some girls from the village who were travelling on Blossom Bus to college and were apprehensive about getting a seat on the bus as the buses are already full. My parents met the Blossom Bus people through some girls already on the bus and told them about their situation. We were accommodated on the Blossom Bus without asking a single question on the basis of our performance and appetite for further studies.”

Braham told us that he feels very satisfied when he sees his daughters attending college as it has been a dream of his. He is very hopeful that one day his daughters will become respected participants of society and will bring glory to the family, “Our children will get back our lost hands and we all will live with respect in the society and not in poverty.”

Along with Blossom Bus to college, there is a growing need for Blossom Bus to high school.

In 2009 there was one lone Muslim girl in all the village schools of Mewat! It is extremely encouraging that since then, six Muslim girls have joined the Blossom Bus program. These six girls are from the village of Sapanki and are currently in high school. Blossom Bus was initiated by the Head teacher of Aharwan School who contacted Blossom Bus on behalf of the girls after being approached by their parents. In the past years, it has been students that have urged the schools to implement Blossom Bus. We are delighted to state that now we are receiving requests from parents and teachers! A few years ago, these parents would have never thought of sending their teenage daughters out of village for even the smallest of errands. With this increase of need, we have been serving more villages and extending our services to more students.

The girls and their parents are very excited to be able to continue their studies and are expecting to complete high-school with the help of Blossom Bus.

On behalf of both the Blossom Bus to High School program and the Blossom Bus to College program, the students are forever grateful for your generosity. As you can tell, they show great promise for the future.

The father of Rakee and Raveena
The father of Rakee and Raveena
The head teacher with Blossom Bus students
The head teacher with Blossom Bus students
 

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.lotusoutreach.org
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Ojai, CA United States
$140,543 raised of $160,000 goal
 
2,468 donations
$19,457 to go
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