Lotus Outreach operates a range of programs focused on education, vocational training and sustainability.
Girls Access To Education (GATE program)
The Girls Access to Education (GATE) program in Phnom Penh district is the prime responsibility of Lotus Outreach Australia. This program currently helps 100 – 150 Cambodian girls from very poor families to get an education.
In addition to providing scholarships, uniforms, school books etc the girls receive health checks, and the Rice Support Program provides rice to the very poorest families. This encourages parents 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
GATE 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.
The Catalyst Program has been developed and implemented by Lotus Outreach International to help Lotus high school graduates access university or vocational training, and find accommodation. Catalyst also seeks out vocational opportunities that suit the girls’ needs. Girls in Catalyst are encouraged to ‘give back’ by helping their communities during their holidays.
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.