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!
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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When leaving grade 8, 14-year-old Manisha from the village school in Dhamaka was told by her school teacher, “there is a free bus ride available in case you want to study further."

Manisha was nervous. Her father, Sunder, works in a factory about 150 kilometers away from their house and visits his family occasionally. She wanted to study further, but was not sure if her father would allow it. Her mother called her father and mentioned this idea to him.

He was apprehensive about Manisha’s safety while travelling eight kilometers on a bus -- alone. The school Head Master of the village Dhamaka assured her father, telling him that many girls from village Dhamaka have completed their schooling riding on Blossom Bus safely.

Sunder agreed after talking to the Head Master and Manisha was enrolled in grade nine at Girls High School Aharwan. “I could not believe it and it took some time for me to realize that this is true”, Manisha shared as she was sure her father would refuse to send her that far. Her elder sister, who was married at the age of 18, was not allowed to study further after passing grade eight.

Manisha is now happy and travelling to school on Blossom Bus with friends from her village, Taniya and Monika!

Blossom Bus is now in its 10th year of service and is currently enrolling a fresh group of girls who are joining the bus thanks in large part to the help of teachers at Girls High School Aharwan. It’s great to see these teacher play an active role in recruiting girls from different villages and enrolling them in school. The role of these teachers is crucial to convince parents the bus is safe for their daughters to ride.

The majority of girls who ride Blossom Bus come from very poor families and are vulnerable to drop out after grade eight as their parents are not able to pay for their continuing education. Also, there is the social pressure of wealthy people in the village who do not like it when they see the girls from poor families continue to go to school at a distant village, riding on a bus which is, according to them, threatening as these girls will be educated on par with the girls from wealthy families, enjoying the equal status of education.

The parents from poor families are, of course, happy to see their daughters on par with the girls from wealthy families, but keep a low profile and do not boast about it to avoid the backlash and rivalry.

Even still, five new girls from village Dhamaka are enrolled this year in grade nine! They girls are so happy to be able to continue their studies. The admission process for the upcoming academic year is currently underway, and we will prepare a fresh list of girls for Blossom Bus soon after its completion at the end of this month.

Thank you so much for your support! To learn more about Blossom Bus, please visit lotusoutreach.org

Friends Manisha, Tanya and Monika
Friends Manisha, Tanya and Monika

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Babita and Savita with their father, Birbal.
Babita and Savita with their father, Birbal.

To date, Blossom Bus has served a total of 797 students. In the 2018-2019-year, Blossom Bus served 328 individuals from 15 different villages. Within those numbers, 40 of the students are enrolled in college and 7 are enrolled in master’s programs. Below is a field report about Babita and Savita, sisters who are preparing to become police women.

We met Babita and Savita on the 5th of January 2019 at their house in Bhanguri village. The Blossom Bus served them in their undergraduate degrees and is now serving them as they complete a Law Enforcement master’s degree in Palwal. They will graduate in 2019 and are very happy to be the first in their village with master’s degree.

Savita and Babita are both smart while Savita is outgoing and Babita is a bit shy. I asked them “why are you so serious about your studies when most of the people in villages think that there is no use of education as there are no jobs available after graduation?” to which Savita very promptly replied "jobs are available, and we have to become qualified to grab them. How can we expect to get a job when we are not qualified for one” she said.

Their father Birbal told us that both Babita and Savita have completed the written examination conducted by Haryana Police and he is hopeful that both his daughters shall become Police Women soon. They are also preparing for exams for a job with the Delhi Police. Birbal works as a casual labor at a small toy factory in Palwal and gets a meager salary but he is determined to get his daughters educated. Birbal told us that he is supporting his daughters in every possible way and accompanying them to the examination centers or any department for tests and job interviews.

Birbal stated that this dream for his daughters became a reality with the Blossom Bus. He said that he was not capable of spending thousands of rupees on his daughters travel to college every month. “My daughters could not have reached here without the Blossom Bus. The day my daughters will get a job, I will first invite Lotus Outreach for a big THANK YOU. You made it possible even to have a DREAM” Birbal exclaimed with immense gratitude.

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Mamta and her mother.
Mamta and her mother.

Mamta, who joined Blossom Bus this year, was one year old when her father died in 2003. He left behind five children including Mamta, and his wife, Wati. Without him, their family was left with no income. Mamta's mother refused to give up and worked hard as a laborer in the fields and enabled their family to survive on the small amount she was getting as widow pension from government. She raised her children and sent them all to the village school. Her two elder daughters could not go to school after grade five and eight as the school in the village only went up to grade eight. The two daughters were then married and the third one dropped out after passing grade eight in the village school. The son made it to grade ten but has left school since as he cannot afford to travel to the nearby village due lack of transport. Mamta is the youngest and wanted to study so that she could find a job that could help her ageing mother.

Mamta was told by her friend that there was a bus available for poor families that provided free transportation to and from school. Mamta’s mother approached the school at Ahrawan and inquired about the bus. She met with the teachers and they assured that the Blossom Bus would have room for Mamta, especially given their families situation. Soon after, Mamta started riding the Blossom Bus and enrolled in grade nine in the girls’ school. So far, she really enjoys her studies and is hoping to complete her education and become the only earning member of the family so that her mother can live in peace.

The family is still living in acute poverty surviving on about $50 a month with Wati’s pension. Recently their roof collapsed, and they are worried about the approaching winter. However, Wati is a courageous woman. She smiles and says that she is happy that her daughter could complete her studies and become a respected person in society especially because they belong to lower caste. She says that her daughter could be married into a good family if she completes her education because uneducated brides have no scope for marriage in good families these days. The mother thanked Lotus Outreach and gave blessings to Blossom Bus for this great help she needed the most.

Mama Wati and the collapsed roof
Mama Wati and the collapsed roof
Evidence of poverty
Evidence of poverty
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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Maya Norbu
Ojai, CA United States
$166,513 raised of $200,000 goal
 
2,986 donations
$33,487 to go
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