A Word From Our Executive Director
Dear Lotus Outreach Friends,
It gives me great pleasure to be writing this recognizing that Lotus Outreach has now been lending a helping hand to communities in most need for a quarter of a century.
Twenty-five years is a truly significant watermark for any business or organization; we’ve weathered many crises and challenges and we have always come back stronger. Lotus Outreach owes a great deal to our founder Khyentse Norbu for his undying support, always, but especially for finding ways to keep us afloat during the lean times. We also owe a great deal to the selfless and talented people that have given their time, energy and material support to making Lotus Outreach what it is today. Lotus Outreach has been able to attract some wonderful, caring people along the way with special thanks to board presidents who often acted as executive directors, to the other board members, and to the extremely talented staff. All of them share a deep commitment to social justice and to creating opportunities for the underprivileged and underserved.
Aside from the wonderful people that have served Lotus Outreach over the years, the organization itself has developed some very special characteristics. We are very proud of the fact that while we have had and still have many fabulous local partners, Lotus Outreach implements many of it’s programs through its own local NGOs. LOCAM in Cambodia and White Lotus Trust in India allow us to develop successful programs because we ourselves design the programs, have fiscal control, closely monitor activities, and track outcomes in order to maximize their impact.
Over the years we’ve always aimed to develop programs that would not just provide temporary relief but would also reach across the social structure by being both replicable and scalable. Within that framework, we developed programs to serve the most vulnerable and exploited women and children for the long term by enhancing their education, health and livelihood opportunities.
During the course of our work we’ve directly benefited tens of thousands of beneficiaries, and very importantly, verifiably impacted entire communities in terms of attitudes toward education and the importance of women and girls, thereby making those societies a safer place for them to live and thrive.
With our 25 years and the experience and the know how that come with it, we are looking forward ever determined to do more and do it better. We are acutely aware that we depend upon the kindness and generosity of our donors and supporters, and we will continue to reward your trust in us as custodians of your generosity.
A Letter From Our Founder & Chair
By Khyetnse Norbu
This year Lotus Outreach International is celebrating 25 years of service. Although I am supposedly its chair, I have to say at the start that all the achievements and successes of Lotus Outreach are entirely due to the outstanding work of our volunteers and donors. Still, I am moved on this 25th anniversary to tell you a bit of our history – where we started and where we’ve come.
What began as a small project aiding Tibetan refugees in 1993 has expanded to be an international organization with affiliates in North America, Europe, Asia, and Australia dedicated to helping some of the most forgotten, neglected, and suffering groups on this earth. Lotus Outreach believes that real change starts in the hearts and minds of individuals. Through transforming individuals, Lotus Outreach programs transform communities in ways that will reverberate for generations.
Working with local partners means Lotus Outreach can reach the most remote areas of north and south India, and many provinces across Cambodia. Here’s a few examples:
In Haryana, India, we have seen real change in the education sector, and in the increased willingness of parents to send girls to school. Lotus Outreach is now recognized nationally and internationally for its work in the fight against gender discrimination. Girls who never had the opportunity are now going to school.
In Mewat, Haryana, and in Rajasthan, for example, Lotus Outreach provides daily, safe transportation to girls and women who could otherwise not go to school. Without this safe transport, these girls would face early marriages, and rigid social restrictions. After many years of riding our bus, many young women are at the university level, and even pursuing masters degrees.
In Rajasthan, Lotus Outreach also trains health workers and teaches good nutrition practices to prenatal and postnatal mothers who know too well the devastating fact that one third of all the world’s malnourished children live in India. In Tamil Nadu, Lotus Outreach tutors the lowest caste child laborers so that they can stay in school instead of being forced to work in dire conditions.
Two thirds of Cambodian children receive only an elementary school education. So, young, poorly educated girls of families living in poverty are highly vulnerable to trafficking and many forms of exploitation.
Keeping this in mind, it’s heartwarming to reflect that we have provided post abuse counseling to more than 1000 victims of trafficking and sexual abuse since 2005, especially as most of them were children.
We should rejoice that Lotus Outreach has protected literally thousands of girls from the poorest families through its education and professional skills training programs.
The education, counseling and rehabilitation Lotus Outreach provides across Cambodia, transforms the lives of young girls and women who otherwise face lives in brothels, beer gardens, massage parlours, or working their entire lives in the fields.
These bright young women return to their communities with a passion to improve them. Because 90% of these young women’s earnings go towards their families and communities, Lotus Outreach’s investment in their education, health, and wellbeing nourishes sustainable wellbeing in their communities. When you educate girls, communities thrive.
In both India and Cambodia, students served by Lotus Outreach projects are getting education they would never have dreamed possible. And at the most practical level, Lotus Outreach’s Wells Project in Cambodia provides access to clean drinking water so villagers no longer have to walk long distances to get murky, disease-bearing water. They now have clear water at their doorstep and can bathe, shower, and drink without concern. In all these ways, Lotus Outreach changes people’s lives and social conditions.
I have worked closely with our Lotus Outreach volunteers working in both India and Cambodia and visited Lotus Outreach programs there and plan to do so again soon. In this age of confusion and aggression, it is inspiring that that we can do at least something to relieve at least some of the world’s suffering.
Again, I especially want to thank Lotus Outreach’s volunteers whose dedication minimizes administration costs and enables donations to go fully towards the actual projects on the ground. And I particularly want to thank the donors for their ongoing support that has made 25 years of creative, strategic, and thoughtful work possible.
I want to take this 25th anniversary opportunity to aspire for Lotus Outreach’s continued success to serve the needs of present and future generations.
Founder & Chair of the Board
Lotus Outreach International
1000 Bikes Campaign
By Kristi Hundt, Lotus Outreach Volunteer
On May 6, 2018 my daughter and I hosted a bike ride fundraiser for the 1000 bikes campaign and reached our short-term goal of 100 bikes. It was a great experience, one we are planning to repeat next May. Lotus Outreach made it easy! They helped with every step along the way. Together, we designed a model for other volunteers to follow. It began for us when my daughter's school assigned an internship at a non-profit as a school requirement. I had been wanting to support Lotus Outreach for years and decided to follow her school's motto "Carpe Diem" and seize the day! Choosing the day for the ride may have been the most difficult part. After 4 or 5 iterations we settled on May 6th. It was important to us that it was a kids' ride; a safe route that would be achievable for all cyclists. A friend from Sunstone Winery agreed to let us use their parking lot to begin and end, so we had our route. It was a 5.5-mile ride, mostly flat and on a seldom-used road. The local print shop donated the flyers and cards we helped the graphic artist at Lotus Outreach design; and with the help of some friends, we hung them all over town.
Lotus Outreach set up a page on their website for the 1000 bikes campaign and advertised our ride. They also created a "Donate" button and included helpful facts about Lotus Pedals and pictures of its recipients. My daughter Tsering wrote an email encouraging people to #RideWithUs and also donate. Her school newspaper wrote an article about the ride and Lotus Outreach posted about it on social media. I wrote my first-ever press release and there was a story published in our local newspaper explaining the fundraiser with a picture of Tsering on her bike.
I've heard people donate to fundraisers because they have a personal connection with those hosting it. While this was true to a larger degree, we also found that two local Rotary Clubs were very supportive after seeing a PowerPoint that we presented. Again, the Lotus Outreach team provided the PowerPoint and notes to read along with it. I enjoyed sitting at the computer helping Tsering draft emails and follow up with donors. Together, we experienced the feeling that comes from benefitting under-served people. It began an ongoing conversation about purpose. One day, I was frustrated about something unrelated and she said to me "But look at how many girls we are helping!" This fundraiser brought us closer and more importantly, helped 100 girls in rural India and Cambodia stay in school. In neighborhoods over a mile from the nearest school with a propensity for child labor, sex trafficking and arranged marriages at 12: keeping school within reach is critical.
If you donated, thank you! We are determined to continue raising funds for the 1000 bikes campaign until the long-term goal of 1000 bikes is reached. If you would like to follow our progress, please donate any amount at www.lotusoutreach.org/1000bikescampaign to stay informed. Next year's ride is already looking promising. Please consider joining us, we're just 30 minutes from Santa Barbara, CA, hosting a fundraiser for Lotus Pedals or by donating.
Enjoy the ride,
Kristi and Tsering Hundt
“Nutrition Day” at ASHA in Rajasthan
By Genevieve Waltcher, Global Giving Manager
In response to devastating systemic gaps in rural health care across India, Lotus Outreach International has developed a program that addresses the immediate and long term needs of rural village health in communities in Mewat, Rajasthan. We call the program “ASHA” standing for “Accredited Social Health Activist” and referring also to the Indian government ASHA program established by the National Rural Health Mission in India in 2005.
Under the Indian government health programs, local Anganwadi, health workers established by the Integrated Child Development Services in 1975, and ASHA health workers, support community health. ASHA and Anganwadi are young women selected from their villages and are meant to be the first place first-place villagers can go with any health related health-related needs. We work directly with these young women to ensure they have the training and knowledge they need to fulfill their responsibilities. At the same time, we model advocacy in communities to mobilize and shift behaviors around health.
In many cases, Anganwadi and ASHA do not have adequate training, education, or the resources they need to fulfill their roles. Yet, ASHA and Anganwadi workers possess intimate knowledge of their communities and their children. They have a unique vantage point and the ability to affect sustainable change in village life.
On the 2nd of July, I had the unique opportunity to visit “Nutrition Day” with project coordinators Suraj and Shakhwat, in the Kakan Khori area of Mewat, Block Kaman, District Bharadbur, Rajasthan. Both project coordinators are from this area, and so care deeply about the people and finding practical and genuine solutions to the challenges rural villagers face. Suraj explained to me that the Anganwadi we would meet had been trained to prepare nutritious meals for local village children, using easy to find local ingredients. In villages across India, Anganwadi have the responsibility to help look after children up to age six, and provide services to pregnant women, and mothers. This is a government strategy in response to devastating malnutrition rates across the country.
In April of 2016 the UN General Assembly proclaimed 2016-2025 as the Decade of Action on Nutrition. It is widely recognized that India has one of the worst malnutrition rates in children in the world, despite having the fastest growing economy. The National Family Health Survey III released data more than ten years ago that almost half of India’s children under five are undernourished. In August 2016, the Times of India reported that across the country, malnutrition is the cause of death for roughly half of the 1.3 million children who die before their fifth birthday each year. Underweight adolescents or women giving birth to underweight children is considered the main reason for devastating figures.
Suraj, Shakhwat, and Pooja are the team on site in Mewat. Pooja wasn’t present with us during this visit, but I was delighted to learn that much of our team’s knowledge about the ins and outs of the ASHA and Anganwadi systems is due to Pooja. She had herself been an ASHA in her village. The combination of Pooja’s knowledge of health care and Suraj’s extensive work on education in Haryana make a savvy team that knows how to advocate at the village and government level for the changes needed in these communities. In June, Pooja won a She Creates Change scholarship, training, and placement on the basis of this program!
The Anganwadi receive a stipend each month from the government to monitor the growth of children and prepare nutritious meals. While Pooja has trained 30 Angandwadi in how to prepare nutritious meals, Suraj advocates for these health care workers to mobilize themselves and their villages, helps register local children with health centers, and leads the coordination of additional skill training to the 30 Anganwadi in the 25 villages we work.
In the first year of our program we began working closely with seven Anganwadi assigned to an initial five villages. However, health care workers were extremely welcoming of our team and demanded our support in an additional 23 Anganwadi centers, and surrounding communities. We jumped from working with seven Angandwadi in five villages to 30 in 25! We’re also working with ten ASHA from these villages and are advocating for more young women to fill this important role
It’s not easy to give the exact number of children and pregnant women served in this pool of 25 villages but we estimate that each Anganwadi enrolls a maximum of 40 children. This means that we are catering at least 1,200 children. In addition to registered children, these 30 Anganwadi are responsible for 5,500 households or 45,000 individuals in their communities.
Since 2017, we have worked to ensure health programs are delivered at the most basic level. Healthcare staff were trained to fulfill their tasks such as measuring the height and weight of children to assess nutritional health. We also worked towards the mobilization and behavioral change of villagers and health workers through educational meetings, school events, and group discussion. We tackled hygiene, disease prevention, vaccinations, and best health and nutrition practices.
As we approached a central area of the rural village, perhaps 25 children rushed out of a cement building structure to greet us. They gathered around with inquisitive, delighted, and shining eyes. After a short period of looking at one another, I was ushered to a nearby outdoor stove where lunch was being prepared. Adolescent girls mingled in the background, chatting and looking on with interest. Jaffrina, the local Anganwadi and her assistant, were cooking. The sight of rice, dahl, tomato, potato, onion, garlic, green chile, and parlak (greens local to the area) lifted my senses. These were easy to find local ingredients Suraj explained, as the Anganwadi confidently prepared the ingredients.
We waited for lunch inside the cement structure while 25 children chanted the Hindi alphabet at top volume. One of the daughters of Jaffrina, who was perhaps around eight years old, was a natural leader. She bounced around the room directing the younger children in the chant. They shouted, swayed, and clapped to the rhythm
When the food finally arrived, Jaffrina and her assistant plated the food while her daughter passed out the meals to each child. The sound filled room went quiet as the children ate
We hold “Nutrition Day” once a week in 30 villages as a counterpart to “School Hand Wash Day”, which is also held once a week in the 30 villages we work. At Nutrition Day, local Anganwadi prepare nutritious lunch for registered children ages zero to six in her village. Prior to our work in these villages, the event was not happening, and the monthly government stipend was used in unhelpful ways.
Suraj expressed his belief that genuine change is possible in these communities through working in a direct way with village health workers and mothers. This year, we helped register 600 children to their local Angandwadi centers, as well as helped train Anganwadi and ASHA to monitor the health of young children. In total, 1200 children are now being monitored and provided services, including “Nutrition Day”, “School Hand Wash Day”, immunization and vaccination, play based learning, and hygiene and disease prevention awareness.
Many times, these young women have no knowledge of how to do their jobs. Their roles include bringing awareness to their communities around health issues such as the merits of safe delivery in hospital, the administration of vaccination for children, check ups on pregnant women and new born children, reproductive health, and nutrition awareness (including the identification of malnourished children). As we work directly with these woman, they in turn inspire their daughters and their community. Jafrina joyfully told us she has eight daughters and one son on the way. Her daughter, the charismatic young leader in the light blue dress, stood by glowing. I keep thinking how fortunate we are that our work will multiply through her by at least eight.
To date and since it was established in 2017, the ASHA program has been entirely funded by Lotus Outreach Germany. As we look forward to 2019, we anticipate the expansion of this program in Rajasthan. It is highly scaleable and replicable for communities in not only Rajasthan, but other states across India. For now, the team we have will continue to cultivate the skill and willingness in these communities to take responsibility for their own health. We are impressed with the potential of this program to affect village and community health for generations.
Glenn Fawcett, Executive Director at Lotus Outreach International says, the importance of grass roots work like Lotus Outreach International is responsible for, cannot be overstated. ASHA objectives are grounded in the reality of village life and achieved based on relationships built on trust and mutual understanding. In fact, ASHA program areas align with the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) Systems Strengthening and Nutrition Improvement Program (ISSNIP) Project established by the Indian government and World Bank in 2012. Working closely with community ensures successful objectives and sustainable community wide change.
See program areas below:
Component 1: Establish Best Health and Hygiene Practices to Improve Community Health
We teach best health and hygiene practices to fight preventable malnutrition and disease.
Component 2: Mobilize Community Mobilization and Behavioral Change Around Health
We empower community and local healthcare agents, Anganwadi, and ASHA, to improve health services and advocate rights based awareness, to mobilize communities and shift behaviors around their health.
Component 3: Collect Community Health Data to Enable Monitoring
We train Anganwadi and ASHA health workers to monitor community health data that will enable government and independent monitoring. Concrete data makes overt the need for government response, helps us to measure community health impacts, and in cases, saves lives.
Component 4: Advocate Nutrition Action and Best Practices Education
Moving into the second year of the program, we aim to support government nutrition strategies and train healthcare and community members in best practices for prenatal, breastfeeding mothers, babies, and children. Targeting these early years is observed to have positive outcomes for increasing long-term health and nutrition.
If you are interested in being a patron of this program or know someone who might be, please email Genevieve Waltcher, Global Giving at Lotus Outreach International, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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