A word from our President and Acting Executive Director
Dear Lotus Outreach Friends,
In our tumultuous world our experience continually shifts from happiness to sadness and back again. For some people, conditions are such that suffering becomes a way of life. All human life is precious and all the girls, boys and families of Lotus Outreach deserve to live in an environment where their basic human dignity can be expressed.
Lotus Outreach is trying to make a dent in the suffering that some Cambodian and Indian children experience. In 2017, it is outrageous that young girls are sold as sex slaves and that children are delivering diseases to their families in buckets of water. Access to education is a key strategy in improving lives of vulnerable children. Our programs in India and Cambodia delay marriages of twelve-year-old girls and prevent situations where girls have five children by the time they are 18. Our bicycle programs support thousands of girls in getting safely to school instead of being accosted or raped on their way. Our well programs provide economical sources of clean water for entire communities. These are just a few ways that Lotus Outreach directly touches lives.
Lotus Outreach strives to expand and educate young girls. An awareness of the power of education as an avenue to a healthy, safe, prosperous life is expanding each day. LO is still in existence after all these years because we believe that changing the life of one girl at a time is beneficial to the whole world.
I want to thank you all for the tremendous generosity and support you have given to LO through the years. In 2018 we will celebrate our 25th Anniversary! Our track record speaks for itself and your support allows us to keep striving for real benefit in the lives of at-risk children.
Please continue your wonderful participation in keeping Lotus Outreach vibrant. Your involvement has a profound effect of the quality of life experienced by the families we serve and, by extension, the world at large.
Acting Executive Director
Getting Well in Kampot
By Glenn Fawcett
After conducting a baseline assessment of Dang Tong, Totung and Khcheay Khang Tboung communes at Dang Tong district in Kampot province in 2016, we found the area ‘drought prone’ and suffering from lack of clean, readily available, potable water.
Following this assessment, we established Well committees and with cooperation from local governance in 6 villages, we sent the drilling crew in to drill the wells. Much to the profound disappointment of the almost 400 villagers, we were not able to establish wells due to the ground being too rocky. The contractor expressed that the hard rock would break his equipment. We decided to change the locations back to Chuuck District where we had established many wells in the previous year and found the ground suitable for the equipment we were working with.
However, it was our intent all along to bring clean water to the wonderful community of Dang Tong. We knew the families of Dang Tong were desperate and disappointed so we approached Mujin from Douglas A. Campbell Foundation. Being one of Lotus Outreach’s most loyal donors she immediately agreed to the funding of those 6 wells in Dang Tong even at the extra cost required to bring in bigger machinery capable of drilling into the difficult rock stratum.
In March 2017 we visited most of the well sites, some of them complete and a couple that were waiting for the concrete and the pumping device. Meeting the families that make up the well committees was beautiful beyond our expectations. They shared with us the suffering and hardship they had endured for many years. Each day they struggled to gather enough water only for cooking and drinking.
In our best efforts to connect you with these vibrant and valiant communities, we have brought you these stories that document the hardship and the extraordinary joy and relief in having clean, drinkable water right on your doorstep.
The villagers of Tropeang-Weng West Village were assembled when we arrived so we sat down to chat in order to get to know their situation better. Dispersed in the crowd was the water management committee. The water management committees are set up as part of the program logic to ensure the community resource is properly cared for in terms of cleaning, maintenance and to guarantee everyone in the village has access to the water resource.
Most of the well committees are comprised of women as the men are often away working in the cities or foraging for livelihood materials in forests. On this occasion, we were provided lively responses from three women. Here are a few accounts of the committee members.
55-year-old Ang Reut tells us, “I’ve been carrying loads of water every day of my life since I was a girl. It is very, very hard, I cannot tell you how hard my life has been (due to lack of water). I get up at 6am and carry loads of water till I have to make lunch (around 11am) I cover the bucket with leaves so the water doesn’t splash out. I feel pain in my chest when I carry heavy loads”
56-year-old Ngor Ruen confirms Ang’s testimony; “I’ve also carried water in the same way, every day since I was 16, some 40 years!! My shoulders are numb; I have no feeling across my shoulders any more."
A third woman, Sevran, 56 years of age, tells us with tears in her eyes, “I’ve also been carrying two and three loads of water over 5 kms, two buckets either side of a bamboo yoke, every day since I was married."
We joke about the menfolk not being around to do the work and which brings some hilarity and lightness back to the mood of the meeting. They are all simply amazed and cannot believe we came back to finish the job after so many stops and starts and especially after being told in the middle of the previous year, the equipment we had access to could not drill a well for them. Their joy is overwhelming.
Blossom Bus continues to serve
By Jon Saalfield
In rural districts of India, girls and women face extremely high rates of sexual harassment and abuse. For many girls in these areas, the seemingly mundane activity of walking to school represents a real hazard to their physical and psychological well-being. Parents often choose to hold their daughters back from school rather than subject them to these risks.
Through the enduring generosity of the Guru Krupa Foundation, Lotus Outreach’s Blossom Bus program is working to combat these conditions and facilitate education for girls and young women by providing safe, reliable, female-only transport to and from school. So far during the 2016-2017 school year, the program’s seven buses have made education possible for 310 young women, including 270 primary and secondary school students in Haryana and Rajasthan states, and another 40 college students in the city of Palwal! Twenty of our secondary school students are to graduate grade 12 this year, and will continue their education at the tertiary level.
Furthermore, in 2016, LO’s Indian affiliate White Lotus Trust was selected from 30 of the country’s preeminent civil society organizations to receive a research grant from Harvard University and TATA Trusts. This grant allowed our field staff to compile a comprehensive report on the Blossom Bus program, with a focus on gendered behaviors and their impact on educational access. In depth interviews with 25 of the 250 Blossom Bus families reinforced our understanding of the issues at hand, and strengthened our belief in the efficacy of our current approach. With the support of our partners at Guru Krupa, we will continue to facilitate the educational empowerment of these courageous young women, so that they may raise themselves up as leaders within their communities, and confront damaging gender norms at the societal level.
Transitioning from GATEways to CATALYST
By raksmey Var with Input From Glenn Fawcett
This year Lotus Outreach has replaced GATEways, the tertiary scholarship award program we developed to serve the Girls’ Access To Education (GATE) Program, with a program that not only offers assistance to ensure that the girls finish tertiary studies and/or training and further education programs that lead to certain employment, but will also provide seminars and mentoring with emphasis on leadership, professional development and self-development, health, as well as social and gender issues that will prepare these young women to be agents of social change. We are calling it the ‘CAmbodian Tertiary Education And Leadership, YouthS Training program’, (CATALYST).
The CATALYST program visits girls at their high schools to provide timely employment and further education orientation for high school girls under GATE scholarships supported by Lotus Outreach at Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Preparing them at this level will ensure they understand what subjects they should be studying to match their further education and training choices. This preparation will also deliver the skills needed to apply to universities and training institutes. Often these students are eligible to receive partial/full scholarships.
Back in March 2016, Lotus Outreach Cambodia (LOCAM) identified a group of volunteers called Career Advising Services (CAS), based in Royal University of Phnom Penh (RUPP). CAS was founded in 2011 with the objective to provide guidance and resources to Cambodian high schools and RUPP students to achieve their career aspirations relevant to their academic interests. After meeting with the group to find out more about their activities, LOCAM connected CAS with our CATALYST Project (formerly known as GATEways) to set up a workshop for our high school scholarship recipients on the 5th of June 2016 to provide them an orientation on career counseling. There were 16 scholarship recipients who attended the training which was held in Phnom Penh.
The training lasted for a half day and provided the participants with various kinds of information including university information, experience sharing from current university students, scholarship information, and games to reflect decision making based on three main factors—abilities, opportunities and interests.
The team also guided students through a personality test, which helped them to understand more about themselves and enabled them to get a better idea of what types of job matches with their personality. The hopes in this exercise was that the students would choose the right university and major that would caters to their strengths and interests.
Based on the result of the test, each student may fall into one of the 6 groups of job: realistic jobs, conventional jobs, investigative jobs, artistic jobs, social jobs, and entrepreneurial jobs. The workshop also enabled students to see how they should prepare themselves for the career they aspire for (what subjects in high school they need to be strong at in order to get a place at the right university afterward). For example, if their test result shows that they are best for realistic jobs—engineer, architect, mechanic, IT specialist, electrician, electronic specialist—they should be good at these subjects: mathematics, physics, computer, English, French, and chemistry.
Having seen the importance and benefits of this workshop, the CATALYST project invited the CAS team to provide another workshop to our high school scholarship recipients in Siem Reap Province on March 5th, 2017 at Dom Dek High School where 22 scholarship recipients attended the workshop. Students whose test results fell in the same group of jobs gathered together to further discuss if the types of job suggested by the test result are of their interests. After that, one representative from each group came to share with the rest how they felt about their results, whether it fits with their own interests and how they will prepare herself for that job.
Students found this workshop very interesting and beneficial. This is what Sophea, 12th grade, feels about the workshop, “I’m very happy and excited about this workshop because I got to know many things such as my personal interests, opportunities, and my ability to realize my dream as an accountant. I got to understand much better than before. I will do my best so that I can become an accountant as my dream.”
Similarly, Sothearoth expresses “I have learned a lot from the workshop about making plan while in year 12 in order to pass the national board exam. I also learned how to get scholarship as well as how to focus on certain subjects that will be related with my future career. I think the workshop is very important because we, students, are young so we don’t know much how to study to prepare for future career, so the workshop does assist us to start thinking about it.”
Besides organizing the workshops mentioned above, CATALYST also cooperated with Passerelles numériques Cambodia (PNC) and GATE Project to arrange for 13 high school scholarship recipients and 5 non-scholarship recipients in Phnom Penh and 22 high school scholarship recipients in Siem Reap to attend an information session at PNC on February 5th and March 6th, respectively, on how to apply for a scholarship to study 2-year IT training (Web Programing OR System and Network Administration) with accommodation provided and 99% job guarantee after graduation.
Following the information session in both areas, 13 students in Phnom Penh and 16 students in Siem Reap applied to this opportunity with PNC. CATALYST also assisted 5 students from Banteay Meanchey Province to apply for IT training with PNC, of which 4 of them were formerly supported by Lotus Outreach until end of 2015 and one of them is non-scholarship student.
CATALYST also collaborated with the computer training school school Passerelles numeriques Cambodia enroll 10 students in Phnom Penh (5 CATALYST recipients, 2 GATE PP recipients and 3 relatives of CATALYST recipients) to do computer training for free at PNC on every Sunday from 1pm to 4pm for 3 months starting from March 12, 2017. The training is provided by senior students of PNC’s Solidarity Group with the support of PNC’s Education Department. The course covers Word, Excel, Power Point, and Internet/Email. The knowledge from this training is very beneficial for their studies at the university and their future careers.
In conclusion, we are very excited about this transition from GATEways to CATALYST. CATALYST will not only ensure that the girl students finish their tertiary studies and/or trainings but will also support the students with seminars, mentoring, professional development, self-development, health, as well as exploring social and gender issues that will prepare these young women to be agents of change!