Lotus Outreach operates a range of programs focused on education, vocational training and sustainability.
Girls Access To Education (GATE program)
Lotus Outreach Australia currently helps 150 Cambodian girls from very poor families to have a chance to get an education.
We provide health checks for the girls, and with our Rice Support Program, we provide 30 kilos of rice per month to the very poorest families, supporting parents to be able to allow their daughters to stay at school instead of having them go out to work to supply family income.
How the girls are chosen
Lotus Outreach Australia works alongside our In-Country partner Cambodian Women’s Crisis Centre (CWCC) who in turn work with Local Education Working Groups to identify girls most at risk in our target communities and help keep them in school. Both monitoring and regularly meeting with students and their families means that the girls attend school consistently and achieve their grades.
Working with the Community
We underpin this by helping to run Community Education Sessions on Human Rights issues: the value to families, communities and the country of educating girls: and the consequences of trafficking, domestic violence, and child rights.
Real, positive outcomes
Girls whose families are illiterate, are becoming the first high school graduates in their families. Mothers are coming forward to tell us how important schooling is for their daughters. Many of the girls are starting to see themselves in a new light – focusing on graduating, going on to further education and a good job, and in turn making sure that their future children will be educated and independent too.
Lack of transport prevents many girls getting to school. Some girls walk up to 8kms to school in the early dawn, or after dark, with a real risk of being assaulted or even kidnapped. Providing girls with a bicycle & repair kit reduces time travel time, so girls have more time to study.
English Language Program
Girls from families living in a tiny one-room hut, with no books, no help with homework no electricity let alone a computer or the internet. These girls don’t have anything like the same advantages as those from affluent middle class families. Yet they will still be competing with those same more, advantaged students for a place at University or tertiary training.
Lotus Outreach Australia recognized the need to provide the 150 girls in our GATE program with the best possible chance of further education and training after school to secure good jobs, meaningful lives and economic opportunity. Universities mostly expect a certain level of English Language, as do many other post high school vocation opportunities. So in 2011, LOA introduced free daily English language classes for the girls at their local schools.
Progress has mostly been outstanding with some girls who had never heard English spoken before, now able to write about their lives, and read essays aloud in class. Others achieved over 90% in exams.
LOA is very grateful that initial funding for ELP has come from AusAID through AFAP.
Girls in Lotus Outreach Australia’s GATE program are now beginning to graduate high school. 2 girls graduated in 2010 and 3 in 2011 entering university, vocational training or the workplace. Over the next three years we have many, many more girls expected to graduate.
The GATEways Program has been developed and implemented by Lotus Outreach International to help Lotus high school graduates access university or vocational training, and find accommodation. GATEways, also seeks out vocational opportunities that suit the girls’ needs. Girls in GATEways are encouraged to ‘give back’ by helping their communities during their holidays.
If our Lotus Outreach Australia’s GATE graduates can’t fund tertiary training or university themselves, they are less likely to secure meaningful, well paid jobs, settling instead for menial underpaid work, which sadly can lead to them becoming vulnerable to trafficking once more.
Lotus Outreach Australia is looking at ways to find extra funding to cover GATEways in the immediate future. Once these girls are in good well paid jobs, they may be in a position not only to be of help to their families, but perhaps to help the other little girls in their communities needing assistance to stay at school.
The Wells Project
According to UNICEF’s 2006 report “Progress For Children: A Report Card on Water and Sanitation,” only 35% of Cambodia’s rural population has access to improved drinking water sources, leaving the remaining 65% vulnerable to life-threatening infectious disease – with children under 5 at the greatest risk.
Often poor Cambodians have to buy water or spend valuable work hours fetching it. The cost is up to $30 or in-kind labour per month for a typical family. This expense has a severe impact on communities, where 80% of families cannot afford to pay for more than two days of rice at a time.
Wells drastically reduce the financial burden on the rural poor, and mean villagers can grow vegetables during the dry, drought-prone season, which can last from eight to ten months per year. Availability of fresh vegetables has helped reduce malnourishment. Plus wells help villagers through frequent and extreme drought and flooding due to climate change and deforestation.
Lack of safe drinking water poses a serious threat to the lives of millions in Cambodia. Young children are most vulnerable to water born diseases such as typhoid and amoebic dysentery. When a family member is sick, it’s usually the girls who have to drop out of school to care for them or earn a living. In the poorest families, this may see a young girl entering a trafficking ring, where she can end up in the worst forms of child labour, including the sex trade.
Lotus Outreach Australia (with the Cambodian Organisation for Children and Development)has built six wells, providing clean, safe water to over 1,600 people in seven communities.
Current monitoring shows that communities using the wells already have significant falls in cases of typhoid and diarrhoea, and a much higher school retention rate for young girls. In conjunction with the wells, accompanying training of the community, particularly in hygiene and use of water filters, has had a fantastic impact.
The project has provided positive financial outcomes too, which sees women setting up income generating projects such as growing mushrooms, mung beans, vegetable gardens for the home, and crops for sale.
Lotus Outreach Australia and COCD are currently researching new locations for wells, where we can achieve maximum output for communities most in need.
As a further incentive to keep young girls out of the work force and in school, Lotus Outreach Australia has increasingly focused on the sustainability needs of the girls’ families and communities.
Research is being done on projects such as establishment of small community saving groups and small business training programs enabling families who have previously relied on irregular outside employment as labourers, to develop their own businesses and become more self sufficient.
Already we have seen women who have previously needed to stay home to care for children and do the chores, take advantage of new sources of fresh water to grow viable crops. This is allowing them to participate in income generating opportunities, giving them a stronger say within the family.
Supporting the girls’ families to take on these new opportunities means that in turn we may expect the parents themselves to provide more support for their daughters, and begin to consider future education and vocational opportunities for their girls.
(Initial funding for this program has come from AusAID, through AFAP).