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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!
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta studying
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta studying

Since our last update, Blossom Bus has been able to accept eight new students into the program due to a few students heading off to college! The Headmaster of a primary school in Rajolaka approached an affiliate with Blossom Bus to see if a few girls from his village could join the program. Fortunately, we said yes! Our Director of Operations, Glenn, visted these new Blossom Bus scholars. This report will share with you the conversations he had with these girls and their families. 

Glenn traveled to the remote village of Rajolaka to meet Sarita, Devi, and Sengeeta, three of eight girls who have joined the Blossom Bus.

Sarita is one of six girls in her family. Her father, Sohan Pal explains, “I am not a wealthy man. But I am aware of the importance of education and want my girls to be educated. The bus is helping me to ensure I can send Sarita to school and without which she would surely have dropped out.”

Devi adds, “Our parents are happy for us to continue our education due to having the bus service and will not stop us going to school due to safety and other issues they would otherwise not be comfortable and may withdraw us from school any time.”

Sarita then goes on to say, “We three somehow managed to complete grade nine without the bus but in the most difficult circumstances. We had to walk a kilometre outside the safety of their own village to a larger road and then take a public tempo for 7-8 kms to the main town. During raining season we couldn’t go to school, as our clothes would become drenched. In the summer it’s very hot and very difficult, we had to manage in all seasons in order to remain in school.”

Devi adds, “Our parents are happy for us to continue our education due to having the bus service and will not stop us going to school due to safety and other issues they would other wise not be comfortable and may withdraw us from school any time.”

Manisha pipes in, “I enjoy going on the bus and it’s very important as I want to finish my education. It’s a safe transport and saves us from the bad weather and harassment from boys on the road.”

Glenn then asked the parents and girls about the importance of education and what they will do once they are educated. Manisha tells us, “Education is important as we can get a job and support our families.” Devi remarks further, “Not having education is a curse and we want to get away from that.” The girls where then asked why having no education is a curse and Sangeeta tells us, “Without education we are not aware of our rights and duties, only through education can we learn correct behavior and which we learn from our parents and teachers.” Devi goes on, “We all want to finish year 12 and go to College. Not sure what job we can get but if we finish our education we can work and earn and do something for my family.

Further discussing education, Glenn asked, "How as girls will you be able to leave your villages and go out to work?" They said without hesitation that once they have an education and are grown up, they will acquire confidence and can travel to cities using public transport and even move to cities for work. Another expectation is that educated girls can be married into an educated families in cities and can find good jobs.

Glenn explained that all the parents and villagers present agreed with these sentiments, which gives us hope about the social development of these small villages.  Education for these girls will break the ceilings that limit their aspirations. We are delighted to have assisted in this process through the agency of the Blossom Bus.

After meeting the girls in their village and hearing about their struggles to get access to education, Glenn left describing his feelings of joy and deep inspiration. There are millions of girls from villages exactly like this across swathes of rural India that are not attending school for exactly the same reasons as these young scholars. We need to continue connecting the drive for education with the means to get there. 

All the families of the three girls thanked Lotus Outreach and its supporters for the tremendous support toward the education of their girl children. 

Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta + families in background
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta + families in background
School
School
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta
Sarita, Devi and Sangeeta
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Nisha with the head master and her teacher
Nisha with the head master and her teacher

The following story explores the sucess of the Blossom Bus through Nisha, a girl student in persuit of her education. The Blossom Bus program provides girl-only transportation that is safe and accessible to the young girls of rural towns in Mewat India where the female literacy rate is as low as 6%. The scarcity of schools and the conservative pressures of the community creates many barriers between girls and their education. 

Nisha is one of the many girls from the village Jalalpur who has reached 10th grade this year. She has been traveling on the Blossom Bus for last three years. She is the eldest daughter of a Maulvi in a Mosque and has six younger sisters. Her sister Aisha also travels on the Blossom Bus and is enrolled in the 6th grade this year. Nisha expressed, “It was very difficult to convince my parents to attend a school eight kilometers away from the village though I was very much interested in continuing my studies." Nisha had to work very hard to persuade her father about the benefits of education before she could ride the Blossom Bus. 

After raising seven daughters, Nisha’s father was reluctant to send her to school because he was afraid about her safety and security. With only girls, Nisha’s father experienced some difficulties and was reluctant to let her go. Three years ago, before Nisha took the Blossom Bus, Nisha’s friends worked to convince him of the safety and reliance of the Blossom Bus. They told her father that the school was an all girls’ school and that a local father of a student rode the bus with them as a chaperone. The friends explained that the Blossom Bus is well trusted by parents and has been supplying the service for a long time. With the help of her friends, Nisha's father finally agreed to let her take the Blossom Bus to school. Since then, Nisha and her sister have been taking the Blossom Bus to school everyday. Nisha's father is now happy knowing that his daughters are receiving a good education, and he now knows that it will benefit them in their future.

Head Master Mr. Balbir Singh and Nisha’s class teachers Mrs. Rawat expressed that Nisha is a good student and performs well in class. They are happy with the transportation and thanked Lotus Outreach and all of the donors for this great program that is provided to the students of the poor families of Mewat. The Blossom Bus has transformed many lives and has shown promise for the girls who have graduated. Many of the girls that have graduated have continued on to college, which is a dream come true for the girls of Mewat. Mr. Balbir Singh explained that he was very proud of the 45 out of the 54 girls in 10th grade that have passed the exams this year in contrast to the 40% average in the state.

Because of the supporters of the Blossom Bus, the number of girls using this program continues to grow. This year Lotus Outreach has 250 girls traveling to school on the Blossom Bus. The program is constantly enrolling new students who will replace the students who have graduated.

We would like to thank you. We couldn’t have done it without you!

What do think about the Blossom Bus?

Nisha at her school
Nisha at her school
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Monika
Monika

The scarcity of schools combined with the dangers of traveling to neighboring schools unprotected and also the conservative local attitudes toward female mobility has terrible consequences for an adolescent girl in Mewat: if there is no school in her village, she is forced to drop out. Our program Blossom Bus works hard to give these girl students the opportunity to stay in school and ultimately change the patriarchal culture of Mewat and greater India. Our staff recently visited the tenth grade at Aharwan High School to get a sense of these girls and their perspectives regarding the importance of this program.

In the tenth grade there is a total of 54 girls, 27 or 50% of these girls are able to attend school because of Blossom Bus. Imagine, this class would only have half the students and so many of these intelligent girls almost all of which want to graduate college would have to remain home to do chores, farm and take care of livestock, all while waiting for an offer to  marry at very young ages.

When asked about the importance of education, Monika from Dhamaka village some 6 km away, told us: “You have to have a good education to get a good job.”

We responded, “Many say there is no need for girls to study as there are no jobs. What do you think?”

Monika replied, “There are jobs available and even an educated person will do things better and we will also educate our own children well and that will make the huge difference. We cannot come to school without this transportation. I have two brothers and one sister, my brother in the 8th grade recently dropped out to look after our farming after my Dad passed away. Our parents do support the idea of girls’ education, but won’t allow us to come on bike. I tried to come by bike before the Blossom Bus arrived, but it wasn’t safe.”

Many of these girls are quite shy in the class setting and it took sometime to get them to speak out, but when we asked if they wanted to continue school and attend college, there was an immediate and rowdy chorus of:

YES!! Of course we do!”

Another student, Puja, stated:

“Going to school is very difficult without the bus and our futures will be spoiled if we cannot continue to go to school.”

We replied, "what if you just complete grade 12, what then?"

“If I complete grade 12, I will be educated enough, my life won’t be spoiled and I will be respected because uneducated people are not respected”

The social impact of this program on so many of these girls, most first generation learners of illiterate parents, is very profound. These girls are demanding their right to education and once educated, as mothers they will do all they can to ensure their children are educated and so on into a virtuous cycle that is changing societal norms and beliefs throughout Mewat.

Give to this program and help build this virtuous and beneficial momentum for girl’s education and greater social change in India!

Puja and her mother
Puja and her mother
Blossom Bus Riders
Blossom Bus Riders

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Principal Satender Pal in Class!
Principal Satender Pal in Class!

The Blossom Bus program has been operating in Mewat since 2008. Currently, the program supports 300 girls attending middle school and high school to continue their studies. This report serves to highlight the success and impact of the program from a unique vantage point— that of a school principal!

Lotus Outreach’s team met the principal of Girls High School Ahervan, where Blossom Bus safely and consistently transports many disadvantaged girls to and from school. In Ahervan, there are girls studying in grades 6 through 10 coming from a total of eight different rural villages. Out team came to Ahervan to talk with Mr. Satender Pal, the school’s principal, to hear his views on these girls’ education.

Mr. Satender Pal joined the high school in March 2014 and has improved the infrastructure substantially. The old and damaged rooms were repaired with support from the villagers, as the government does not give sufficient funds towards school repairs. Two new rooms are currently being constructed so that students can sit properly and fully engage in the their studies.

Mr. Satender Pal is passionate towards the education of girls and sensitive to the many negative stereotypes regarding their education. He mentioned during informal interactions that he was reluctant to join duty at this school in Mewat, fearing little cooperation and support from the local villagers. Mewat ranks among the most regressive districts in terms of girls’ education in all of India. The scarcity of schools combined with conservative local attitudes toward female mobility creates terrible obstacles to girls’ education.

After further conversations with Mr. Satender Pal, our team discovered he was very happy to discover transportation through Blossom Bus that supports these girl students coming from distant villages. Likewise, he made clear that he was very pleased the girls were traveling safely and were very happy.

He went to explain that it was very encouraging to see the generosity of people who are living thousands of miles away from these villages, but are still willing to support girl’s education. In fact, this gave him so much encouragement he said, that he worked the entire month of his summer vacation to build and further repair rooms for these girls with help from other staff and villagers.

Mr. Satender Pal thanks Lotus Outreach on behalf of girls traveling on Blossom Bus and the staff of Girls High School Aharvan and wishes our supporters a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Satender Pal, Teacher, and many Blossom Bus Riders
Satender Pal, Teacher, and many Blossom Bus Riders

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Zeba in her science lab at college
Zeba in her science lab at college

The Blossom Bus program has been operating in Mewat since 2008. Currently, the program supports 300 girls attending middle school and high school to continue their studies. This August, Blossom Bus has arrived at a new benchmark: transporting 15 high school graduates to college. Moving forward to pursue a tertiary degree of their choice is an accomplishment previously undreamed of. We are deeply honored to be part of their incredible story of triumph.

One of the 15 graduates traveling to college is Zeba. Zeba lives with her parents Akbar and Asmeena, and four siblings in Mamolaka village. Akbar and Asmeena recognize the value of education and all of Zeba’s siblings, one a younger sister, are attending school. But Zeba shares, “I never thought I would be able to go to college. No girl from our village had attended any college till date. The reason is that parents are not comfortable with the hostile environment around the villages and in college.” It is a dream come true for Zeba and her cousin Sanam, who is also a Blossom Bus rider to college.

Zeba and Sanam graduated high school riding on the Blossom Bus. They were disheartened at the prospect of having to suspend their studies, since their parents would never allow them to travel the 20 km from their village to the college town of Palwal. They asked the Blossom Bus operator if there was any possibility of extending the transport facility, and their request was relayed to us.

We at Lotus Outreach were inspired to answer the graduates’ request and to be able to continue supporting their academic aspirations. To ensure the parents were on board with their daughters pursuing a college education, we selected a women’s-only college 4 km further away, as the parents would not be supportive of a co-education institution.

Once the logistics to expand the program were sorted out, we relayed to the 15 graduates accepted into college that a Blossom Bus would be available to them. The young women were astounded and extremely relieved that their parents were supportive of them joining the women’s-only college. Students and parents were very happy that the Blossom Bus had been expanded to provide them transportation to college.

On August 25, Mr. Glenn Fawcett, our Director of Field Operations, met these young students while traveling on the Blossom Bus en route to college. He talked to them about their experience of being in college. All students expressed they were delighted to pursue a tertiary education.

Zeba and a few other students communicated with Glenn in English and were astounded at their gained ability to communicate clearly to an Australian man in his own language. Zeba said, “I never imagined that one day I would be talking to a foreigner in his own language.” Zeba’s parents and friends also recognize what a remarkable accomplishment this is.

Zeba and Sanam are trailblazers in their family and community. Sanam’s two elder sisters were already married at the age of 14 and 15, and sadly never attended a day of school. Zeba and Sanam’s fathers, who are siblings, get by through working odd jobs and farming on a small piece of land that doesn’t even provide enough grains for the family’s own consumption. Young women of their background achieving a college education will have a profound impact on this family and the entire village. Zeba and Sanam are leading the way as the first women to pursue a tertiary education in a community where tragically many are not able to complete more than five years of primary school. We salute these young women’s striking determination and commitment. And we salute you, Blossom Bus’s generous donors, for your support of this project. Blossom Bus’s accomplishments is the direct fruit of your generosity!

Blossom Bus girls boarding at Durga village
Blossom Bus girls boarding at Durga village
Blossom Bus girls arriving at college
Blossom Bus girls arriving at college
Blossom Bus girls on their way to college!
Blossom Bus girls on their way to college!

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Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
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Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Ojai, CA United States
$159,870 raised of $200,000 goal
 
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