September/October 2014

Issue 59



By Patty Waltcher

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Our International Day of the Girl Campaign has been up and running since October 11th and ends in just a few days on November 11th. Through this campaign, we can reflect on over 20 years of service that Lotus Outreach has provided to thousands of girls living in deep poverty in India and Cambodia. Let us celebrate this accomplishment, and bring continual awareness to the countless girls that are still in profound need.

Through our secondary and tertiary education scholarships, bus and bicycle transportation projects, rice support, consoling of families and survivors of violence and human trafficking, construction of wells, and after-school tutoring programs, Lotus Outreach has been able to achieve real impact on the lives of so many girls and their wider communities. Many of these girls, though stuck in poverty-stricken conditions, are inspired to receive such support and are determined to diligently pursue such opportunities to overcome their hardships. Our collaboration with them marks an invaluable partnership, and is currently altering the general perceptions of what these girls can accomplish among their local communities.

Let us further our support during this year’s fall campaign and have double the impact!

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Two generous donors have pledged to match all funds raised during this campaign to reach our campaign goal of $20,000. Together, individual donors have currently raised $5,699, roughly 57% of the needed funds to secure the second matching $10,000 amount. Please help us meet our goal and see to it that Lotus Outreach, our supporters and the girls we serve, can further celebrate the impacts of a successful organization compassionately fighting for positive change in India and Cambodia!



Lotus Tailors Become Ambassadors for Their Local Schools

By Glenn Fawcett


On the 7th of September, our field team drove some 70 kilometers from Delhi to the rural countryside of Mewat and District of Tauru, along the way passing kharif crops of bhajra turned translucent green by the recent and much needed monsoon rains. Our mission was to educate 90 young Indian village girls in Lotus Tailors, one of our vocational training programs, on the subject of Right To Education (RTE). RTE is a curriculum that empowers girls to help ensure government schools in their villages are running properly. We arrived on a warm morning at 10am to find 38 girls and our three trainers, Kamlesh, Sonam and Om Wati, eagerly awaiting our arrival. There are 90 girls in three groups altogether and 40 in the group we were working with that day. Girls within our group aged from 14 to 22, ranging from grade 8 through grade 12 including 4 graduates.  

The girls come from village families in which women are viewed traditionally as housewives and given virtually no say in public forums. Our work in the LEARN program has helped increase women’s participation in the public sphere with the use of School Management Committees. Lotus Tailors is likewise accelerating this change while these girls become ambassadors for education in their home villages.

In order to further this positive change, we are training the Lotus Tailors in school management and how to assess to what extent a given school is running properly. In addition, they must learn how to approach the school and whom they should contact to propel a solution. Our visit marked the first training session for the girls, while they listened carefully and responded energetically.

Sangana in grade 9 exclaimed, “Due to the lack of teachers, the English class in my school combines 200 children into one class!” Another girl by the name of Kamal commented as well, “We don’t have a math teacher and have to pay 50 rupees a month for a private tutor hired by the school. There are toilets, but they are not clean and we don’t like to use them.”  

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These kinds of problems exist within many government schools and the training we are giving these girls will help them to identify problems and assist School Management Committees in taking action to solve the problems. The girls were very enthusiastic about the training and sat patiently in the heat as the sun rose toward midday. We planned to cover all the necessary information on RTE along with practical tips on how to deal with problems in three more two-hour sessions.

Three batches of 30 girls have just finished this 6-month course and we had a chance to ask Sonam, one of our graduates and current trainers, some questions in front of the group. Sonam came to us the moment she finished her training, and asked if we would support her to run a center. After assessing her sincerity, we delightfully agreed.

“My name is Sonam, I’m 22 years old and studying for my MA in Education as well as working as a trainer at a Lotus Sewing Center. I’ve already trained one batch of 28 girls and there are 20 in my next batch already, even though it has only just opened.”

We asked Sonam, “So, how do you like the work?” With a huge smile she replied, “It’s fantastic, I really love it and I’ve also learned a lot in the process. Some of the graduates are already working making clothes for their neighbors and of course, earning from their efforts, which affords them a big jump in status within their families.”

We asked further, “What will you do with your skills and education in future?” Sonam responded, “ I will complete my MA in Education and continue to work in making clothes, but will look to create a business and identify markets in the big cities and towns.”

This program has never been simply about income. We have wanted to give young women and girls from traditional, patriarchal societies, the opportunity to step out of the house and raise the presence of women in the public domain to ultimately help gender balancing in such communities. From what many of the graduates have reported, this aspect of the program has been highly successful. Parents respect their daughters’ ability to earn an independent income and also respect their relatively ‘educated’ viewpoints on education issues for instance, which they would otherwise not have without program support.

All in all, we are happy to see these girls developing as strong ambassadors and role models for girls’ education in traditional and rural Indian society.


Buddhist Global Relief: Walk To Feed the Hungry

By Jody Lippman

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On Sunday, October 26th, I had the great privilege of joining Buddhist Global Relief (BGR) on their Los Angeles Walk to Feed the Hungry.  In total, BGR has organized eight Walks to Feed the Hungry around the U.S. this year. Originated by the Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi and BGR in 2010 to raise awareness and funds for food-related projects around the world, the Walks have been a great source of funding for many of the organizations BGR sponsors.

BGR has been a consistent and generous contributor to Lotus Outreach’s programs; providing rice for families of girls in our GATE and GATEways programs, and funding non-formal education in the form of counseling and life skills for victims of trafficking and their families.  It was a great honor that LO was asked to attend the Walk and to speak about our organization.

Against the Stream of Santa Monica hosted the walk, which was led by Bhikkhu Bodhi and BRG Board Member Sister Ayya Santussika Bhikkhuni of Karuna Buddhist Vihara.  It was a wonderful morning filled with moments that filled the soul.  My husband, David and my daughter, Kelly, joined me on the walk that led us through parts of town that we had never had the occasion to visit before.  We walked passed a long line of people waiting for food at a homeless shelter. As we strolled past quietly, one of those waiting for food said, “you don’t look any more special then we are.” A lovely young woman in our group who had attended with her two small sons in tow, looked up and said, “we are just as special as you are.”   

Our walk continued past run-down areas and new building sites until we arrived at the boardwalk overlooking the ocean.  We soaked in the ocean breeze, snapped photos of our group and looped back to the streets of Santa Monica.  Our walk ended back at Against the Stream where there was a wonderful potluck lunch waiting for us.

As the participants ate lunch, we first heard from Sister Sanussika.  She described BGR’s work around the world and at home in the United States and she sang the praises of Lotus Outreach.   I was introduced to speak and I first thanked her for the breadth of work she had just described; in her humble way, she blushed as I told her that her work was extraordinary. After I had the opportunity to describe our projects and thank BGR for their generosity, Bhikkhu Bodhi shared his experiences and also expressed his admiration for LO and the great work that we do to help the needy.  In the words of a Buddhist prayer, together we can be “a source of treasure for those in poverty and need.”


Out of Brick Kilns Into School

By Suraj Kumar


Since 2009, Lotus Outreach has been supporting migrant child laborers out of work and into schools through scholarships that provide free transportation and a small stipend in the Indian districts of Mewat and Palwal. Through our initial work in education advocacy, we discovered that hundreds of out-of-state children were laboring in the region’s 30 brick kilns. In the area, children as young as five work horrendous 12 to 16-hour days in the brick kilns and cannot attend school. In addition to being of the lowest socioeconomic caste, they are excluded from local government incentives because of their migrant status.

Our program serves these migrant families by offering their children access to free, secure and consistent transportation to and from school and also a small stipend that includes 2 school uniforms, a book bag, shoes and tuition fees to ensure their children can stay in school. Jaiveer, for example, a local father of four, discovered Lotus Outreach’s program as he was forced to migrate his family to the brick kilns in order to secure work. Jaiveer’s story shows a migrant family that is both benefiting from our program and continually working hard to ensure education is a top priority.

Jaiveer lived in the village Kothia near Aligarh in Uttar Pradesh with his wife and four daughters. He had no land or regular job and desperately needed income for his family. A contractor approached him and offered him work at a brick kiln in the Palwal district.

Jaiveer was desperate for work to feed his family, but also concerned about his eldest daughter, Sonia, who was six years old and studying in first grade. He wanted to confirm his daughter would not be deprived of school in a new, unknown place.

When he expressed his concern to the contractor, he was surprised at what he heard. He was told that Sonia would be enrolled in a government school, and free transportation would be safely provided by White Lotus Trust.

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Jaiveer was thrilled to hear this and migrated to Palwal with his family two years ago. His daughter Sonia enrolled in the Bhanguri village government school. Sonia travels between home and school in a safe mini bus called Blossom Bus that our program provides and monitors.

Sonia is now in third grade and her younger sister Rachna also accompanies Sonia to school in the Blossom Bus to study first grade. Sonia is an excellent student and has made many new friends at school. Although most girls in the area work in the brick kilns after coming home from school, Jaiveer is working hard to make sure that Sonia, Rachna and his other daughters stay out of the kilns and study.

Jaiveer is very happy and thanks White Lotus Trust and Blossom Bus donors for their big support without which his children could never have continued their studies. According to Jaiveer, his children would have inevitably entered the brick kilns to work as child laborers without our program.