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!
Sangita, with her proud grandmother
Sangita, with her proud grandmother

My name is Sangita and I belong to a lower-caste family in Bhanguri village. After I passed grade eight in 2011 from Aharvan School, my father and grandmother asked me to stop going to school as it was not safe to walk three kilometers through the village of upper-caste people, as they generally do not like girls from lower-caste families going to school because it challenges their supremacy. I had no option as I could not object to my parents' wishes. I felt very bad when I saw girls from upper-caste families going to private schools in buses hired by their parents.

I had to stay home for a whole academic year until one day, my friend from school told me that one NGO is providing transport to the girls from Muslim families attending Aharvan School. I had no idea how to approach that NGO and I am not Muslim too. My friends at school helped me and one day I met the representative of Lotus Outreach, who was providing transport. I was very happy to know that the NGO was going to add more girls to the bus and I requested them to add me to the list.

Lotus Outreach was going door-to-door to identify girls who were supposed to drop out after grade five, as our village has only one primary school and so the girls must drop out once they reach grade six because parents won’t let 11 and 12 year-old girls walk alone to a distant school. Lotus Outreach found 40 girls in our village who either dropped out last year or were scheduled to drop out this year after passing grade five.

I was lucky to get a seat on the Blossom Bus and was enrolled again and returned to school. My grandmother initially felt uncomfortable, but when she was informed that over 150 girls are travelling on the Blossom Bus which has been running for three years, she not only agreed but also handed out sweets to the girls on the bus! My grandmother was even happier than I was, as her sons could never study much because of non-availability of resources, but now her granddaughter can study and become a model for the lower-caste families living in the village.

I am happy to be in school, enjoy the bus ride and enjoy my studies. I hope that I can one day graduate high school and get a good job. I want to study not only for my own development, but I want to help motivate parents of all girls from lower-caste families to go to school too.

Thank you Blossom Bus!!!

Three of 46 girls to recently return to school
Three of 46 girls to recently return to school

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"I'll graduate before I'll marry"
"I'll graduate before I'll marry"

Afsana recently received the wonderful news that she passed grade 9. But her achievement isn’t only a personal milestone; her entire community is marking the occasion. That’s because Afsana will be the very first female in Mehluka village to reach grade 10.

Finishing grade 9 at 16 years old, Afsana is a tad behind by western standards. But in the remote, rural district of northern India where she is from, an unwed, childless girl of her age is a rarity. Afsana’s own mother was 14 when she married, and neither of her parents even attended school.

A striking contrast also lies between Afsana and her two older sisters, only one of whom reached as far as grade 5. (The other never went to school.) While Afsana amiably leads our field staff on a tour of her home, her sisters remain in their rooms; on the way out, our officers are discouraged from acknowledging their veiled forms at the door. As married women, they must keep their heads covered, and certainly not address men other than their husbands.

“It’s like seeing the past and the present in one place at the same time,” remarked our director of field operations, Glenn Fawcett.

This surreal juxtaposition almost didn’t come to pass. Despite her visible passion for education, in the year after grade 8 Afsana remained at home, helping to look after her nieces, nephews and the housekeeping. With her secondary school too far away to safely walk to alone, Afsana’s parents pulled her out of school. She resigned herself to the idea of an early marriage.

That’s when news of Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus, a school transportation program designed specifically to reach Mewat’s secondary school-aged young women, blew through Mehluka village.

“When I heard about the chance to return to school, my heart almost burst,” says Afsana. 

Not only did she sign herself up for the Bus, she rallied four of her friends who had also dropped out to re-enroll with her. Now first in her class of 16 girls, a confident Afsana declares, “I want to finish grade 12 before even thinking about marriage.”

Today the Blossom Bus provides the vital link to continued education for 150 girls across Afsana’s home district of Mewat, many of whom are blazing trails for their younger sisters, just like Afsana. We could never do it without your support! Thank you so much for keeping these girls in school. 

Afsana at home with her younger siblings
Afsana at home with her younger siblings
Studying 2-3 hours every night
Studying 2-3 hours every night
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Dear Blossom Bus and Girl Effect fans,

We would like thank you for investing in the Blossom Bus project in rural India.  With your generous support, 150 girls will be returning to school – often escaping arranged marriages – at the start of the academic year next month.  Most if not all of these young women are the first Muslim girls in the history of their villages to ever reach high school—news worthy of celebration in a community where only 2% of women are literate.

The results of our victory in the Girl Effect challenge are likewise evident, as we received our first check of nearly $4,000 from the Girl Effect Fund for the month of January alone!  If the Girl Effect Fund were to maintain this pace throughout the year, we anticipate being able to more than double the project’s reach in 2013.

More exciting news: today is matching day!

Did you know that an additional donation to the Blossom Bus can be matched 30% today?!   GlobalGiving put up $50,000 in matching funds at 12:01 am EST, Wednesday March 14 to give your charitable contribution to our cause an extra boost. Check out how your donation today will grow:

$10 = $13
$50 = $66
$75 = $100
$150 = $200

What’s more, for this first Bonus Day of the year GlobalGiving is awarding $1,000 to the project that raises the most money and another $1,000 to the project with the most unique donors. This is exactly how you won GlobalGiving’s Girl Effect Challenge for our Blossom Bus project last October, and we know you can do it again!

But remember, once the $50,000 in matching funds runs out, the bonus boosts are over. So to make sure you snag that extra 30% AND put us in the running for the $1,000 bonus money, submit your donation now! 

Thanks again for your continued support!

Lots of love,
Lotus Outreach

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Mausmin
Mausmin

Mausmin is a pretty lucky 14 year-old. She rides a bus every day to eighth grade, where she ranks 5th in her class of 40 students. “I don’t find it too difficult, especially since my brother, who is in year 9, helps me,” she says.

One of three children, Mausmin’s family is notably smaller than Mewat district’s average family size of eight. Her mother, Jubeda, lost three children in labor, a tragedy that is all too common in Mewat. Perhaps because they have less mouths to feed and bodies to clothe, Mausmin's parents are supportive of the children’s formal learning for the long term. “We will educate the boys as long as they wish to remain in school,” says Jubeda. “And Mausmin as long as she is safe.”

By “safe” Jubeda means on a bus. Mausmin’s school actually gave bicycles to children who lived several kilometers away, but this simply isn’t good enough for girls - there are empty fields and isolated outhouses on the path. “We cannot possibly ride to school on a cycle alone, even if it is less than 3 kilometers,” says Mausmin.

“We heard that a girl from a nearby village going to school on her bike was surrounded by a group of boys,” recounts Mausmin. “She only escaped because some villagers helped her. There’s no way my parents, or any others for that matter, agree to girls going to school by bicycle.”

Mausmin herself, in fact, didn’t expect to attend eighth grade. At the beginning of the school year, she was at home helping with chores. She had heard of the Blossom Bus and asked to be chosen, but had heard nothing back. Finally, after two weeks as a dropout, she got the news that the Bus was coming to her village.

“I was very happy to know that I could take the Blossom Bus,” she says. “Four of my girl cousins dropped out last year, and while I encourage them to go back there is little chance without a bus to take them,” laments Mausmin. “But I want to finish grade 12, and I feel that my fate will lead me to a good job.”

“Education is everything,” says Jubeda. “It’s the only way to get employment, become independent and teach girls to think for themselves.”

Mausmin, Jubeda and all of us at Lotus Outreach thank you, the Blossom Bus donors, for making sure this young woman, and dozens of others like her, have a chance to be the first in their villages to finish high school.

Mausmin and friend studying by kerosene lamplight
Mausmin and friend studying by kerosene lamplight
With her friends, siblings and mother
With her friends, siblings and mother

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It's official: WE ARE THE GIRL EFFECT!
It's official: WE ARE THE GIRL EFFECT!

You won the first ever Girl Effect Challenge for our Blossom Bus riders! In the month from October 15 to November 15, 574 unique donations were made to this project - pushing us into sixth place and across the finish line with five other finalists! Thanks to you, the Blossom Bus will be featured on the Girl Effect Fund’s project page for a full year, earning Lotus Outreach an incredible new partnership and unprecedented exposure.

You responded immediately with donations (each of which counted as a vote) when we told you about this contest last month, quickly propelling us into first place. However, since each donor can only “vote” once, things looked precarious when the Blossom Bus fell out of the top six in the final week. But we asked you to rally, and you got your friends and family to donate as well. We know for a fact that the personal appeals you made on our behalf were instrumental in the success of this campaign; we edged out the competition by a mere 53 votes!

What’s more, you donated generously. The Blossom Bus raised more money during the Challenge than any other project - $29,562. That’s enough to run 16 buses for an entire academic year.  With each bus making multiple trips each morning, we can now help hundreds of young women in Mewat, India finish high school and delay arranged marriages.

In addition to the incredible boon this contest has been for these dedicated girls and their families, we can’t thank you enough for the opportunity this has given us as an organization. The Girl Effect has become a powerful force in the philanthropic community; their video has been viewed more than three million times on YouTube, their Facebook page has 270,000 “likes” and the Girl Effect Fund has raised more than $700,000 from nearly 11,000 donors on GlobalGiving alone.

And now, it’s official: Lotus Outreach and the Blossom Bus ARE the Girl Effect.

We have a lot to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. On behalf of the Blossom Bus riders, our beneficiaries in India and Cambodia, and all of us here at Lotus Outreach, thank you.

We look forward to keeping you up-to-date on the continued success of this program through regular project reports, but we also encourage you to subscribe to our monthly newsletter by clicking here

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Ojai, CA United States
$163,392 raised of $200,000 goal
 
2,912 donations
$36,608 to go
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