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!
Murshida at a White Lotus event
Murshida at a White Lotus event

When the right factors converge, even the course of longstanding tradition can be rerouted. One of the most important factors is the support we receive from generous donors like you! You make possible the Blossom Bus program, which places a new destination on the map for pious Muslim girls in rural Mewat, Haryana. Our partner and advocate for education, White Lotus, is relying on its stellar reputation with the community to bring that destination within reach.

The parents of 11 children, Farooq and Amna were planning marriages for four of their daughters – Farana, 15, Ruksana, 14, Murshida, 13, and Farzana, 12. With the girls’ completion of grade 5, the highest level of schooling available in Babupur village, marriage was the safest option to ensure the girls were properly provided for. Responsible parents in Mewat don't permit their daughters to commute several kilometers unattended through empty fields, where they may be subject to harassment or attract undue attention.

Yet these young women had a taste of the upper schooling available to their brothers. Until their father found a job driving a truck that kept him away from home, he had accompanied the girls to an upper primary school in a neighboring village. Farana advanced as far as grade 8, but her father’s employment signaled the end of her and her sisters’ academic careers.

Murshida dreamed of reaching grade 12, like her eldest brother. When White Lotus Officer Suraj Kumar approached her mother this April about sending her and her sisters back to school, her heart leaped. Although her marriage was being planned, it hadn’t yet taken place - there was still time to take another path. Her mother refused, but Murshida spoke up in support of Suraj’s appeal: all four sisters wanted badly to return to school, and could travel together.

Suraj suggested a better solution.  He proposed supervised transportation, even allowing for one person from the family to serve as the chaperon. Amna still balked, but Murshida and her sisters argued that their brother got to attend school eight kilometers away while four daughters were being refused even with transportation available.  Amna relented, but left the final word with their father.

Suraj contacted Farooq by telephone to resolve the matter.  Learning that the organization offering transportation was the same that had been working in the area over the previous three years to improve the conditions in schools, Farooq gave his consent.  The work of White Lotus was esteemed in the community, and he felt safe giving its new program a chance.

Since this fall, Murshida and her three closest sisters have traveled to school together on the Blossom Bus, and feel confident they will each at least reach the tenth grade. Best of all, says Murshida, is that none of the four will be pressured to marry before she is 18. Lotus Outreach joins Murshida and her sisters in thanking you, our generous donors, for making the Blossom Bus possible.

Murshida and Babupur girls catch the Blossom Bus
Murshida and Babupur girls catch the Blossom Bus

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Dear friends of Lotus Outreach,

With your generous support, 46 girls in rural India are now back in school as a result of the Blossom Bus project which is currently providing them with daily chaperoned transportation.

We met one bus load of girls as they were returning from school on September 16th. The girls told us that it is exam time for them as well as all children in lower secondary school (grades 7, 8 and 9). All of the girls are very excited about going to school, some 3 miles (5 km) from their homes, and told us that their parents were previously not comfortable with them going to school outside their village, especially unaccompanied, so the Blossom Bus is a godsend.

Fourteen year-old Farhana Begum, in the 9th class, confirmed to us that all of the girls are first generation learners and that “after 5th grade we all stopped going to school due to lack of safe transport.” Farhana continues, “our parents agreed to send us but not without safe transport including a trusted chaperone.”

All of the girls then chirped in excitedly asking us, “Can we have a bigger bus? There are so many of our friends that wish to go to school too and cannot until they also have transport!” To watch the video, visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_c9m99oj8NI.

SAVE THE DATE!

Will you help us make their wish come true? Beginning midnight October 12, GlobalGiving will be matching all donations by as much as 50% (donations up to $499 will be matched 30%; $500-$999 will be matched 40%; and donations $1,000-$2,500 will be matched 50%) and we are using this opportunity to get more buses to out-of-school girls in Mewat, as there are hundreds of girls “ready to go” but lacking reliable transport. Please mark this event on your calendar (matching fund pool is limited)!

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Zarina
Zarina

Imagine: in your hometown, only three in 100 girls ever learn to read. Female students in high school are a rarity, and a girl’s reputation is so fragile that she is rarely permitted to venture beyond her village unescorted – not even to go to school. It may sound unfathomable, yet this is the universal reality for the young women living in the target areas of our Lotus Education as a Right Network (LEARN) program in Haryana, India, where tradition dictates that a teenage girl’s “marriage-ability” and manual labor take precedence over her human rights.

While cultural mores bear great influence in Haryana’s Mewat district, in the three years LEARN officers have been working with the local Meo people they have found that given the option, many of these families would like to see their daughters break with tradition and advance in the formal education system. But as is so often the case among the impoverished, the greatest impediment to social change is a lack of resources.

In Mewat, the immediate resource gap occurs in the form of transportation. Because few villages have secondary schools and it is generally thought to be imprudent (at best) to allow a girl to travel alone, female education commonly ends at the primary level. This low ceiling at school feeds into a downward spiral for the female population by diminishing the return on a girl’s schooling, and thus increasing the impetus to keep her at work in the fields and at home instead. To bridge the chasm between parents’ legitimate concerns for their daughters’ safety and the girls’ rights to education, LEARN officers brainstormed a new pilot program taking effect this month. The Blossom Bus is providing pioneering families with a bus and a parent chaperone to safely deliver 35 of their daughters to secondary school, postponing their marriage and childbearing a few more precious years.

Over three years, LEARN officers have earned the trust and confidence of Mewat’s Meo families through their hard work, dedication, and tangible results. The improvements they have brought to schools were instrumental in convincing these families to take a leap of faith and break with social conventions by sending their adolescent girls to available schools. Until proper secondary schools can be instituted in all villages, LEARN hopes to rescue girls at this transitional stage through this most recent innovation, leading the way in re-instating female education as a norm rather than an anomaly.

A Glance at the First Blossom Bus Beneficiaries…

Zarina is the daughter of a former village chief. She shows tremendous courage for a cloistered village girl, and happily sang a traditional song to the first foreigners she had ever met when LEARN officers visited to recruit candidates for the Blossom Bus. Although at 15 years old she has only completed the third grade, Zarina is calm and self assured with a bright, innate intelligence that animated her expression as she told the officers of her yearning to return to school since dropping out five years ago.

Although daughters of a village doctor in rural India, Tarranum and Rizwana dropped out at the end of primary school because there was no secondary school in their village. “My sister and I used to walk two kilometers to school but my father became afraid for our safety and asked us to drop out,” Tarranum tells us. “I wished I could have born a boy so that I could have completed my education.” Fortunately, Tarranum and Rizwana were among 35 girls recently selected to receive daily transportation to and from school, and are ecstatic to pursue their dreams of one day becoming career women. “I am happy to know that I will go to school again and want to study to become a doctor like my father. My sister Rizwana has already started dusting her books bought two years back hoping that she will go to school very soon.”

Chaperones from each village will accompany girls like Zarina, Tarranum, and Rizwana to school every day, and will be responsible for monitoring and reporting on the schools where they take beneficiaries. Lotus Outreach’s broader intent is to spark a wider movement in favor of girls’ education by demonstrating that with a little attention and effort, a few kilometers need not stand in the way of female empowerment.

We thank you for your support, which allows new initiatives like the Blossom Bus to become a reality. Please consider helping us undertake a greatly needed expansion of this project in the coming months and years by asking your friends to donate too: http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/the-blossom-bus!

Tarranam and Rizwana
Tarranam and Rizwana
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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
$163,407 raised of $200,000 goal
 
2,913 donations
$36,593 to go
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