GATEways Scholar Soven Mealea Graduates College!
For Soven Mealea, whose parents were poor farmers, going to college was never a possibility she or her family ever dreamed of. Her parents took out loans just to afford the primary schooling of their five children. A few of those loans were from money lenders whose interest rate was three times higher than the bank’s, forcing Mealea’s parents to illegally migrate for work in Thailand so they could repay the debts.
Mealea’s parents’ impoverished circumstances oftentimes discouraged her from finishing school. From 3rd grade onwards, Mealea had to supplement her family’s income by selling fruits and cake near her home and assisting with the livestock raising and rice wine brewing at home. She says that she “often got to school late because of those chores and the long distance from home to school (2 mi.), but my school performance was not bad; I was always among the top 10.”
In 7th grade, Mealea’s luck changed when Lotus Outreach began offering scholarship opportunities in Banteay Meanchey Province. With the scholarship’s monthly stipend support and school materials package, Mealea gained renewed confidence that she could graduate high school. More critically, Mealea’s parents rejoiced and stopped pressuring her to drop out of school to supplement the family’s income.
The possibility of attending college entered Mealea’s mind as a high school senior. She knew that her parents could not afford it, but when she passed a challenging exam that awarded her U$300 a year for 3 years of university fees, she made a leap of faith and gained entry into the Vanda Accounting University at Phnom Penh. Mealea soon realized that surviving in the city was a big challenge. The living costs of accommodation, food, study materials, textbooks, and other daily expenses were overwhelming. Her parents, still working in Thailand, were by this point fully committed to seeing their daughter be able to make it through college and borrowed more money to help her.
It was at this critical point that Lotus Outreach offered Mealea a GATEways scholarship to secure her college degree. She says that “without the support so far, I would not be able to stay in school; I would have dropped out a long time ago and would have been nursing my many children by now!”
While in college, Mealea was always active in seeking out workshops, trainings, and internship opportunities in order to build her capacity and be ready for employment in a very competitive job market. She joined the Vanda Institute’s “Stock Exchange Workshop” which included several field visits to companies. As a senior, Mealea tutored sophomore and junior year students in accounting related subjects, greatly improving her presentation skills and building up her confidence. In 2012, Mealea got her first job at the Sunway Hotel group where she earned U$120 a month as sales clerk and received a U$30 raise after only 3 months!
In September this year, Mealea graduated from Vanda Insitute with a degree in Accounting together with nine other GATEways scholarship recipients. With assistance from Lotus Outreach, Mealea was offered an accountant position at Jeram Coconut Co. Ltd., where she is currently earning U$150 per month! Mealea, beaming with happiness, expressed, “I always believed that the effort would pay off someday. That’s why I’ve always worked so hard.” We at Lotus Outreach are extremely overjoyed for Mealea’s achievement. We echo her confidence that working hard and investing in these young women yields great results.
By the end of next year, another 42 GATEways scholars will graduate! And we can’t wait to see the great things they will accomplish as empowered, educated women in a new Cambodia.
LEARN Gets Coverage in Indian National Newspaper
On November 28th, Raj Kumar Bhardwaj, a journalist from Chandigarh, capital of Punjab and Haryana, covered LEARN’s success in motivating the women of Mewat to demand their children’s right to education be upheld by the Haryana state government. Suraj Kumar, LO’s project manager in India, has very kindly translated this exciting coverage for all of us to read and rejoice.
People of Mewat Getting Awareness on Education
by Raj Kumar Bhardwaj
People of Mewat, one of the most backward regions in India concerning education, are becoming aware about the education of their children. They are raising questions about their children’s education environment and the infrastructure in schools. The women who have been behind the veil for so long have now started to participate in School Management Committee meetings.
The literacy rate in the Haryana state is 76.10 for males and 59.61 for females. In Mewat district however, it is 69.94 and 36.60 respectively. White Lotus Trust (affiliate of Lotus Outreach International), working in collaboration with the state government for improvement in education in the area, conducted School Management Committee meetings in 48 government schools from September 20th to October 22nd and the results were amazing.
According to Project Manager Suraj Kumar, Mewat women and men participated in these meetings enthusiastically. The women highlighted the problems in the schools and requested to write to the government to get the problems resolved. Out of 48 schools, 43 had significant problems. Among the common problems cited were a shortage of teachers and a lack of drinking water, toilets and boundary walls to keep the children healthy and safe. Fake enrollment of students was also found and some children are enrolled in government schools but are studying in private schools.
The Project Manager Suraj Kumar shared that a change of mindset in the people of Mewat was clearly visible during these School Management Committee meetings. The parents now visit schools and discuss issues directly with teachers. They want their children to get a quality education and make progress in their studies. The participation of parents in the schools has greatly increased. Parents are now demanding that the government provide basic amenities in all public schools.
The impact of School Management Committee meetings on the people’s mind is huge. The people demand that the local administration should participate in the development of the schools and that the funds given to the village head also be used to provide children with basic amenities in schools. The Haryana Director of Education, Mr. Chandrashekhar, has also recognized that the people of Mewat are more concerned and involved with the current state of public school education. Mr. Chandrashekhar schedule visits to a number of schools in Ferozpur. He arrived considerably late but people were waiting for him until 9:30 at night. The Principal Secretary of Education, Mrs. Surina Rajan, says that the government has resolved many of the problems in Mewat public schools. However, she notes that people of Mewat, regarded by many as socially and educationally backward, are coming forward to voice their concerns and complaints wherever she goes.
Annual Report 2012
Lotus Outreach’s 2012 Annual Report is available! Since the incorporation of Lotus Outreach in 2002, over four hundred thousand people have been reached by Lotus Outreach’s work. Of those, 38,810 people have been provided with services directly through our programs!
In Economic Empowerment programs:
- 3,405 villagers received access to basic financial services for the first time
- 693 sex workers have been empowered through literacy classes and skills training
- 90 youth have started small businesses through vocational training and grants
In Reductions of Violence Against Women and Anti-Trafficking:
- 29,164 street children and migrants were educated on safe migration and human trafficking prevention
- 4,000 red-light workers protected through public advocacy
- 1,121 victims and their children started new lives through counseling, training, and financial assistance
- 100 at-risk homeless children received shelter and nutrition
In Education programs:
- 294,200 public school children in India directly benefited from our anti-corruption work
- 24,177 people were educated on the importance of investing in children’s schooling
- 2,304 children prevented from dropping out due to the provision of school bus transport or bicycles
- 1,250 children stayed in school as a result of Lotus Outreach scholarships
- 342 children improved their performance through tutoring and non-formal education
- 105 youths attend university – against all odds – with financial support from Lotus Outreach
In Health & Sanitation programs:
- 20,544 injured and sick people have been provided with basic healthcare
- 20,494 people received preventative health education
- 9,321 people provided with clean water
Microsoft YouthSpark Matches Your Donation!
Want to double your donation?
On December 3rd, this coming Tuesday, you can!
Four of Lotus Outreach’s programs have been selected to participate in the Microsoft YourSpark U$250,000 matching funds Giving Tuesday on GlobalGiving. One year ago, Microsoft launched the YouthSpark initiative as a global effort to create opportunities for 300 million youth over three years. Microsoft is seeking to support three trends:
- Offering youth with inadequate schooling a second chance at education and training.
- Supporting youth entrepreneurships as an end in itself.
- Equipping young people with a range of IT skills, from digital literacy to coding and programming.
So far Microsoft’s initiative has reached 103 million youth in over 100 countries. Lotus Outreach will add thousands to that number with your help! Lotus Outreach's programs that qualified to participate in the YouthSpark matching day are below. We will send out a mailing with links to each of the programs' donation pages on December 3rd so that you can easily take part in this exciting opportunity to multiply your generosity 100-fold!
Gypsy Jazz Concert Benefit for LO
This coming Tuesday, December 3rd, there will be a Gypsy Jazz Concert benefit for Lotus Outreach in London! Penelope Tree, Lotus Outreach International Vice-President and Lotus Outreach UK President, has invited her friends Francesca Bristol and Jose Fonseca to host the benefit with her. Francesca Bristol is a renowned English jewelry designer and she is extremely passionate about nonprofit work that aims to empower women. Jose Fonseca, founder of the foremost model agency in the UK, Models 1, has been a longtime and active supporter of Lotus Outreach UK.
The benefit will feature renowned jazz guitarist Robin Katz and clarinetist Giacomo Smith with four accompanying musicians playing Gypsy Jazz all night long. You can get a taste of their jazz mastery by watching the videos posted below. If you are going to be in London this Tuesday you cannot miss this hip, sweet and fun event!
Penelope Tree shares her inspirations and hopes for the benefit: “The Gypsy Jazz Benefit is about a small group of people coming together to fundraise and have fun. It’s not necessarily about putting on a costly benefit that takes years to plan with a hugely ambitious goal. It’s about raising awareness of Lotus Outreach’s GATE and GATEways scholarship recipients, spotlighting why girls in Cambodia have been neglected, why they matter, and highlighting their predicament to a gathering of friends. They may have many causes dear to their hearts but might nonetheless be open and interested and at the end of the evening hopefully be inspired to find out more about Lotus Outreach. It is an open-ended type of fundraiser.”
“Thanks to Francesca Bristol for her generous hospitality, and to Jose Fonseca for her extraordinary talent to connect likeminded people of all ages, and from every walk of life. And special thanks to Robin Katz and his friends for their fabulous free spirited gift of music dedicated to the trailblazing GATE and GATEways girls.”