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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!

Since our last update, the world as a whole has faced very difficult circumstances. In India, where the Blossom Bus program operates, there is a strict lockdown in place to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Schools have remained closed since the second week of March due to the current COVID-19 crisis and subsequent lockdown.

Anticipating a long lockdown, the government of Haryana started online classes for all students in grades 1 through 12 beginning in the second week of April. Classes are being telecasted daily for two hours through TV channels. School teachers have also created WhatsApp groups and are able to support students when they need help. The school teachers have stated that classes are running smoothly and are being supervised by an education officer of the precinct where the Blossom Bus girls study. The education officer appreciated our contacting him and said that he is getting messages from students even late at night and answering them with pleasure and pride.

While these remote classes are far from perfect under the difficult circumstances of the current lockdown, we are happy to know the children's studies are continuing and that teachers are committed to these new ways of learning. We are reminded of the old saying "necessity is the mother of invention" as now, out of necessity, even in the rural villages of India, technology can be used and online education is possible. We thank the government of Haryana for this initiative on behalf of students and we hope and pray things will get back to normal as soon as possible.

During the 2019-2020 academic year, 650 girls from 37 rural villages in Mewat, Haryana were able to achieve an average of 90% attendance due to Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus program. There has been significant increases in the number of girls attending the seven high schools served by Blossom Bus. We take heart in witnessing the visible impact of the program for these students.

 

Thank you for supporting access to education today and every day. 

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Blossom Bus riders at school
Blossom Bus riders at school

The Blossom Bus program has continued to run smoothly from October to December 31. We are delighted to report that during this quarter the program has again been able to overcome safety issues, gender biases, inclement weather, seasonal responsibilities on the farm and sibling care, to ensure full school attendance rates for 681 girls from 37 villages attending seven high schools, including 40 attending colleges. 

Even while education department and school authorities continue to applaud this initiative, during this academic year there has been no further provision of affordable public or private transportation available to ensure girls from these villages might reach school safely. Provision of these buses is therefore crucial to the continuing education of the hundreds of girls served by the program.

While the numbers plying on the buses have remained the same for the program during the quarter, the demand for seats on buses among the village communities where the program operates has continued to grow. We are keeping a list of applicants and hope to add 300 new applicants to the current riders before the end of this current academic year on March 31, 2020. 

Every girl that remains in school another year not only becomes an inspiration and role model for her sisters and all the girl children of the villages in which this program is working, she is also adding to the development of her community for now and generations to come.

Nobel laureate and girls’ education activist, Malala Yousafzai, famously said, “One child, one teacher, one book, and one pen, can change the world.” An enormous body of evidence supports her conviction. For starters, educated girls realize higher wages and greater upward mobility, contributing to economic growth. Their rates of maternal mortality drop, as do mortality rates of their babies. They are less likely to marry as children or against their will. They have lower incidence of HIV/AIDS and malaria—the “social vaccine” effect. Their agricultural plots are more productive and their families better nourished. They are more empowered at home, at work, and in society.*

Teachers, principals and education department officers in our work area continuously remind us how inspired they are by our efforts and that by enabling regular attendance of large numbers of girl students at local high schools, the Blossom Bus program is keeping their schools open. This contribution to the overall vibrancy of education in the community is a testament to the deeper impacts of this program on a society at large.

*Paul Hawken, Drawdown (2017)

Girls on the Blossom Bus
Girls on the Blossom Bus
Blossom Bus girls in front of the class
Blossom Bus girls in front of the class

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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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Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website:
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Twitter: @lotusoutreach
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Ojai, CA United States
$159,353 raised of $200,000 goal
 
2,813 donations
$40,647 to go
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