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!

Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus service, unique in the State of Haryana, was recently featured by Gov’t of Haryana at a presentation of best practices in Education to the Indian Ministry of Human Resources and Development (MHRD). The program addresses lack of safe forms of transport to school for girls. Lack of transportation is one of the root causes of poor attendance and drop outs for girls across India. 

In this quarter we continue to carry 254 girls to all levels of secondary schooling as well as 20 young Blossom Bus women, now in their 20s that have graduated high school and are now attending Colleges some 10 kms from their homes. These girls are from poor villages and many are the first in their family to be achieving a secondary and/or college education. 

Here below are stories from three Blosson Bus community role models and one story from a father of two Blossom Bus girls.

I am Ritu, resident of village Bhanguri in Hathin block and I am studying in Saraswati Mahila College Palwal. I was travelling to college by Auto rickshaw and was facing problem like harassment by boys. It was not safe to walk to college as it is too far from my village and I was not able to reach college on time. Due to this problem villagers hesitate to send their daughters to college and the girls have to leave studies after school. The girls have two options in these situations, either face the harassment if you want to go to college or drop out. Now with Blossom Bus made available, we do not have to wait for Auto and we reach college on time and we are all very happy.

My name is Sapna, daughter of Sukhbir. The Blossom Bus being provided by Lotus Outreach is very useful for us. We are able to save a lot of time which was wasted earlier waiting for Autos which is not a regular feature and we were not able to reach college on time. This time we can utilize for our studies. We used to reach college late without the Bus and the teachers refused to mark our attendance, this problem is now solved because of the Bus. Our parents also were worried when we used to come home late due to no public transportation. Now our parents are also happy and feel comfortable because of the Blossom Bus. We are able to continue our studies due to Blossom Bus and request that the service be continued in the interest of girls who are prone to drop out in absence of a safe transport.

My name is Sarita, daughter of Birbal, resident of village Bhanguri. I passed grade 12 three years ago and could not go to college as there was no safe public transport available from the village. The buses between Bhanguri and Palwal were badly crowded and arrived at irregular times. My parents were not satisfied with the situation and I was forced to sit at home though I wanted to go to college.

Last year after my younger sister Babita passed her grade 12 exam, we came to know that there is a safe bus being made available by Lotus Outreach to transport girls to college for free. We both then enrolled in Saraswati Girls College in Palwal and now we both are studying in 2nd year graduation course. 

 The Blossom Bus is a blessing for us, we hope to complete our graduation with this facility and we are hoping to study further also. Therefore, we request that this facility may be continued and even enhanced to accommodate more girls as there are many more girls who have dropped out after passing school and are willing to attend college for further studies but are sitting at home as there is no bus facility available to cater to the demand.

My name is Birbal, resident of Bhanguri and father of Sarita. I am a poor man and earn my livelihood through working as laborer doing odd jobs in village in Palwal. I feel happy because both my daughters are now studying in college. I could not have sent my daughters to college because of meager earnings and my elder daughter dropped out after passing school. She could enroll in the college after losing one year only because the Blossom Bus.

Blossom Bus encouraged me to get both my daughters enrolled in the college and they are now studying together and are happy. I would like to allow my daughters to even study for Masters Degree if the Blossom Bus will be available to them in future also. Thank you.

From these sincere stories we can be sure that Blossom Bus is providing hope and safety to the lives of girls in India. Thank you to all that support this important cause. With your partnership we continue to make a different in these young girls lives.

From left to right, Sarita, Babit, Sapna and Ritu
From left to right, Sarita, Babit, Sapna and Ritu
Blossom Bus riders jump for joy!
Blossom Bus riders jump for joy!
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Ratana and her bicycle!
Ratana and her bicycle!

The following project explores Ratanas’s long-term pursuit of her education. Ratana’s story starts within our CWCC program and traces her steps up to her Lotus Pedals bike!

Ratana, 24 years old, is originally from Muk Wat Village, Kompong Klang Commune, Sout Nikum District, Siem Reap Province. Her parents are farmers. She has 5 siblings—2 girls and 3 boys—and she is the oldest child. Unfortunately, when Ratana was young, there was domestic violence within her home. Ratana’s mother decided to seek intervention from the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center (CWCC) and spent several months staying in CWCC’s safe shelter.

Through her relationship with CWCC, when Ratana was in sixth grade, she was chosen to be a recipient of the Girls’ Access To Education (GATE) project implemented by CWCC with funding support from Lotus Outreach. When the program first found her, she was so discouraged and about to drop out due to both poverty and domestic violence. “When I was in primary school, my father always drank alcohol and came home beating my mother. I got so depressed and ashamed that I didn’t want to go to school any more”, Ratana said.

Having been in the GATE program, Ratana gained her aspiration and strive back for a better future. Ratana studied hard and eventually graduated from high school in 2011, which wouldn’t have happened without the support of the program. While she was so excited and eager to pursue her dreams, her heart fell and sank once again given that her family could not support her to pursue her study at university. She was thinking about giving up her dreams and looking for labor job to support her family. Luckily, Lotus Outreach decided to continue supporting GATE graduates to do tertiary education (under another project called GATEways) and Ratana qualified for it! “I thought that I had no fortune to attend university like other students since my family couldn’t afford it. Without the supporting from the program, I would surely be working in the farms right now”, she said.

Nowadays, Ratana is a third year student of midwifery at Regional Training Center of Battambang. With the supporting from GATEways program, Ratana has been receiving 15kg rice support every month, monthlystipend, accommodation, utility, English and French tuition, and computer course.

Living far from home is not easy for Ratana and without any transportation of her own, Ratana often walks many miles to school. Sometimes, she was late for her classes and couldn’t concentrate on her studies other times she had to walk through dangerous parts of town. Moreover, she was participating in an internship at one of the local hospital in Battambang province in mid August and was worried about how she would commute there. Ratana wished that she could have a bicycle that would take her to school and her internship. In responding to this simple wish of hers, Lotus Pedals, implemented by Lotus Outreach Cambodia, gave a bicycle to Ratana on August 8, 2015 in Battambang Province with facilitation from GATEways project officer. Ratana was extremely delighted and grateful to the program for always responding to her needs. “I am very thankful to donor for always supporting me, both with my study and my living. I am very happy and truly appreciate this kind and caring gesture toward me. This bike will help me a lot with my transportation to school and to work. I would like to wish all the people who have been making this possible for me to come this far with all the best of luck, health, wealth, success and prosperity.”, Ratana expressed her feeling.

Ratana and her friend with their bikes.
Ratana and her friend with their bikes.
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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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Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Ojai, CA United States
$163,407 raised of $200,000 goal
 
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