The Blossom Bus: Help Rural Girls Get To School!

by Lotus Outreach
Vetted
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.  

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!
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.
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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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Aptos, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.lotusoutreach.org
Project Leader:
Alexandra Land
Sacramento, CA United States
$99,581 raised of $120,000 goal
 
2,092 donations
$20,419 to go
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