The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!

by Lotus Outreach
Nikita and Babita
Nikita and Babita

Our Blossom Bus program continues to bridge the gap between parents’ concerns for their daughter’s safety and girl’s rights to education. Below is a story about how important education is to these marginalize girls and their families.

Nikita and Babita from Durgapur Village have been travelling on Blossom Bus for last four years and are appearing for their 12th grade exams this year in March. Babita told us that she has two sisters and two brothers. Her brothers are working and her elder sisters are all married. She is the youngest and first in the family to reach the 12th grade. Her brothers studied up to the 10th grade and her sister, Laxmi, was married after she finished the 8th grade. Laxmi stopped going to school because her father would not allow her to travel the two kilometers to Aharvan High School because of the harassment she received on the way to school. Thanks to the Blossom Bus, Babita has not been forced to drop out of school like her sister.

Laxmi, Babita’s sister, told us that because she wasn’t well educated, she was married to an uneducated man who earns a meager wage and suffers from alcoholism. He spends most of his earnings on alcohol and doesn’t care for his two children. As a mother, she is worried about the education of her children. Laxmi said that she is happy that her sister Babita will not have to face the situation that she has found herself in because she will receive an education and will not be married off young. Babita wants to go to college but her father is apprehensive about her safety and security. Babita told us, “if I can be accommodated on Blossom to College Bus, I will go to College. Otherwise I am afraid my future will be uncertain. I may not get a suitable marriage and have my life ruined like my two elder sisters who are both suffering because of alcoholic husbands.”

Nikita also wants to go to college but is uncertain as she said that her father is an auto driver and spends most of his earnings on alcohol without caring about the impact on his four children. Because he is an alcoholic he can’t drive properly, damages the vehicle frequently, and spends a lot on repairs. Nikita is terrified of not finishing school because she has seen many of her classmates get married after passing eighth grade and become mothers.

Nikita tells us, “I’m waiting for a seat on the Blossom Bus to College and hopeful of better days ahead if only I can get a seat on the bus to College!” Her mother wants her to study further so that she can become independent and earn money to support her own children’s education. She wants her daughter to get married to an educated person which she says is only possible when she receives an education.

Nikita and Babita are so grateful to the donors who have supported them. Thank you for encouraging these young women as they create promising futures for themselves and their families.

Nikita, Babita, and Laxmi
Nikita, Babita, and Laxmi
Blossom Bus to college
Blossom Bus to college
A Blossom Bus
A Blossom Bus
Blossom Bus beneficiaries
Blossom Bus beneficiaries

The Blossom Bus program continues to grow. Data from the Aharwan secondary school where we have 205 students in the program show that while many schools in the area are losing students, the schools in which we send most of the Blossom Bus girls has increased in numbers of girls from 180 in 2008 to 340 in 2016. These numbers are entirely reliant on Blossom Bus.

The Headmaster of the Aharwan school told us with pride that 45 out of the 54 girls in grade 10 have passed the exams in the 2015-16 school year which is vastly different from the 40% pass rate in the state. Blossom Girls attend school almost 100% of days in a school year which enables these kinds of results. Below is a story about a Blossom Bus GIrl named Suman. 

Suman is from the village of Durgapur and is studying in tenth grade at the Aharwan school. She has been travelling on the Blossom Bus for the last year after passing eigth grade from Durgapur school. She does well at school and wants to study as much as possible.  Suman said that she wants to be independent even after marriage. When asked why she is so keen to study until college she became silent. We asked, “Will your parents send you to school if there is no Blossom Bus?” She did not respond directly but only said, “please do not stop Blossom Bus or many girls will be out of school and will lead a bad life.” It was a serious statement and we wanted to know why Suman was so interested in education.

After a lot of persuasion, Suman opened up and told us, “My mother is illiterate and my father is a drunkard. He does not treat my mother nicely”. We asked her if she is confident that she will get a job after studying until grade 12. She said that she may or may not get a job but if married to a drunkard, she may not have to face domestic violence as it will be difficult for a husband to beat an educated wife. She said further that she knows about the helpline number 1091 for complaints against domestic violence and will call the police if subjected to such behaviour by her husband.

We asked her then why she does not ask her father to stop drinking. She said that she has seen her father drinking since she was a toddler and has many times asked him to stop drinking alcohol but he doesn't listen. He says that he will keep drinking as long as he is alive.

Suman is worried about her family as her two younger sisters are studying in grade three and five in the village school. The whole family is dependent on the earning of one brother and Suman wants to help her brother and earn more so that her sisters can also complete school education. We hope that her younger sisters will ride the Blossom Bus once they are of age.

During this discussion, Suman kept repeating “Please never stop Blossom Bus as this is the only hope for hundreds of girls who have reached grade 10 and 12".

Thank you to all that have supported this program. The beneficiaries are forever grateful! 

Suman is pictured far right
Suman is pictured far right

Blossom Bus update August 2016:

Since the new academic session started in the beginning of July 2016, we have increased the number of girls participating in the Blossom Bus to College bus service from 18 to 40. This was due to the high demand expressed by parents and girls who had previously rode the Blossom Bus. Blossom Bus is becoming very popular in the villages and parents are even approaching the school heads to request extending the transportation service to new villages. To answer these requests, we have added Rajpura village to the bus stop, a town where very poor families from the lower castes live.

Two sisters studying in ninth grade, Manisha and Babita, are new entrants on Blossom Bus from Rajpura village. Their mother Prakasho told us that her husband Bhim Singh died two years ago after suffering from some disease. Manisha is the eldest of six sisters with one brother and no male breadwinners to feed the family. After the death of her father, her mother started working as laborer in the village fields on daily basis and earns bread and butter for the whole family. The mother was worried about the continued education of her two daughters who graduated from eighth grade. She visited the Aharwan School with some villagers and was very happy to learn White Lotus had agreed to provide transportation to the girls from their village.

It is very difficult for Prakasho to pay school fees and buy books for her daughters but she is working overtime to earn a little more so that she can afford the fee, books, and uniforms for her daughters. She believes in education and hopes that once graduating they will become financially stable enough to support their younger siblings through school. She is very hopeful and thanks White Lotus for the support given to the village.

Two more sisters from the village Rajpura and Samana are in grade sixth and ninth grade. They are from a Muslim family with five older brothers. The brothers had studied as far as eight grade in the village school and then started working on their family’s local property. Their father, Jaan Mohammad, refused to send the daughters to high school because he was worried about the harassment that they would receive.

Samana insisted on furthering her studies and requested her brother to convince her father to allow her to go to school at Aharwan. Her brother was also apprehensive of the harassment but was well aware that if she didn’t receive a continued education, she would be stuck working in the fields with all of her brothers. The brother thought about it and argued with his father to allow his two sisters to travel together on the Blossom Bus. Jaan Mohammad met the school Principal and some other girls attending school traveling on the BB as he wanted to be sure that his daughters would be safe. He was very pleased after speaking with the principle and granted his daughters the opportunity to continue their educations.

Education Quality Addition program (EQ+):

In addition to our Blossom Bus Program, we will now be implementing the Education Quality Addition program also known as EQ+. The EQ+ program (Education Quality Addition) was designed because of the lack of remedial measures in government schools where teaching/learning outcomes have fallen behind. The graduates of the Blossom Bus Program have the chance to give back and become ambassadors and teach in their local villages and encourage other young girls to pursue their dreams in education. The EQ+ program is a pilot program that is being developed in collaboration with the government of Haryana. Currently the program is targeting 150 students from first to eighth grade in five different schools. These five different schools will be taught by five different Blossom Bus gradates. 

We want to continue spreading the practices of Blossom Bus because the pass rates show the immense impact that the program has on its students. For example, last year only one student out of 120 passed the 10th grade exam in Hathin village, whereas the school that the Blossom Bus girls attended had a 60% pass rate. These recent graduates will not only teach classes based on what information is necessary to be prepared for college, but the teachers will also be role-models for these younger students as they are provide proof of the fact that there is purpose in education.

Thank you to all that have supported the Blossom Bus Program. You have played a large role in its sucess.

EQ+ teacher, a graduate of BB to College.
EQ+ teacher, a graduate of BB to College.
An EQ+ teacher, a graduate of BB to College.
An EQ+ teacher, a graduate of BB to College.
Girls boarding the Blossom Bus to college
Girls boarding the Blossom Bus to college
New Blossom Bus entrants and EQ+ teachers
New Blossom Bus entrants and EQ+ teachers
Usha and her mother.
Usha and her mother.

Breaking news! 

  • All of the Blossom Girls in year 12 have passed and will graduate.
  • We are now identifying girls for a push to add around 10 new riders to the Blossom to College and would be up to 30 riders!

USHA is a recent high school graduate who was able to attend higshcool under the Blossom Bus program.

We are looking at Usha’s case along with all the nine others that passed the 12th grade in the 2015-16 school year and wishing to continue to college. Currently we have 20 girls in our Blossom to College Program and we are seeing if we are in a position to take on more girls. Some of these new graduates are from the same villages as the current girls of the Blossom to College Bus program so we are hoping that we can bring those girls into the program easily.

Below is a letter written by Usha in request of further assistance:

My name is Usha, daughter of Tejvir. My father runs a makeshift shop in front of a temple in Gurgaon selling offerings to devotees and feeding family of seven persons. My mother is a housewife.

I have graduated from High school this year travelling on Blossom Bus which is a great achievement for me. My father is very happy that his daughter is now a school graduate and another reason for his happiness is that his younger daughter has also passed grade eight from village school and has enrolled herself in High school at Aharwan and started travelling on Blossom Bus.

My father is a worried man as well at the same time because I am very much willing to go to college but we do not have resources to go to a college 20 kilometers away from my village. My father is capable of paying my college fee etc. but a safe transport is not available. Most of the girls from my village who have graduated from school never went to college.

I do not know what to do.

From,
Usha

 

We hope to support Usha along with all of the other Blossom Bus graduates who wish to attend college. It is with your help that we can continue to assist these youg women on their quest for an education. Thank you!

Usha with her brother and family.
Usha with her brother and family.
Letter written by Usha requesting transportation.
Letter written by Usha requesting transportation.

Currently we are providing Blossom Bus to 270 girls including 20 in college. Many of these girls are the first to reach grade 10 or 12 in their villages as no girl from their village has ever reached High school. The following is a storya about Khushboo who is on her decided pathway to become a doctor.

Khushboo is in the ninth grade nine and has been traveling on Blossom Bus for the last four years. She started coming to Girls High School Aharwan from her village after passing fifth grade. She has three siblings, the youngest a brother who is in 2nd grade. She is the eldest in the family with three other sisters and one brother. Her mother told us that it was not possible for her to send her daughter to a school four kilometers away from the village as they had no income at that time. The father of Khushboo is surffering from alcoholicism and does not work. Her mother was able to get a job recently as a village health worker with a meager salary. Blossom Bus is really a blessing for the family as Khushboo was very keen to continue her studies and her mother was very worried about being able to provide that education.

Khushboo is a very confident and serious student who performs well in her studies. When asked what she wants to do when she is older, she replied without skipping a beat, “I will become a Doctor”. This is why she is so adamant about her education. She wants to become a doctor so that she can help her family in their fight with the poverty. Her teacher also appreciates Khushboo for her keen interest in the studies and requested Lotus Outreach to continue supporting the girls by providing transport.

The school has informed us that the number of girls in this High School has increased from 180 in 2008 to 340 this year because of availability of Blossom Bus. Thank you to all of the donors who make education possible for these girls by supporting Blossom Bus! An education lasts forever.  

 

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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.lotusoutreach.org
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Sacramento, CA United States
$120,175 raised of $140,000 goal
 
2,197 donations
$19,825 to go
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