Since 2009, BGR has partnered with Lotus Outreach to provide primary and secondary scholarships to high-achieving girls in Cambodia, along with bags of rice to their families. In 2010, the program expanded to provide 25 GATE program graduates with scholarships to college and trade schools.
The dusty border town of Poipet has been described as a wasteland. Much of the town was settled by refugees escaping the massacre of the Khmer Rouge genocide, and the shelters and and shacks in which much of the population still lives are a stark reminder that Cambodia is still recovering from those events decades ago. The streets have no sanitation services, and there is a serious threat of typhoid and malaria.
Norin Rotha’s family lives here. Their small home has tin walls and an earthen floor. One room has a small, raised wooden platform on which the family sleeps on straw mats. Just below the platform is a pool of black, stagnant water.
But from these inhospitable surroundings comes a ray of hope. Rotha, who attends 9th grade at Poipet Secondary School, is a Lotus Outreach GATE scholar. Piled on a shelf are her books and a small whiteboard she is using to teach her siblings to read and write. Rotha is completely committed to her studies, but managing the needs of her family and siblings is a considerable challenge.
Rotha’s older sister was married and divorced after having three children. She left Cambodia to find work in Thailand three years ago and never returned. Her family does not know what has become of her. Rotha dropped out of school in 8th grade to care for her sister’s children.
Thanks to BGR sponsorship and a grant from Lotus Outreach’s GATE program, she was able to attend school again. “Since I have the GATE scholarship, I am able to study from 7 AM to 6 PM and use my stipend to pay for a packed lunch that I prepare before I go to school,” she says. “Since November this year, I am now placed 8th out of 50 in my class!” Rotha’s family also receives 50 kilograms of rice support, which is enough to feed them for three weeks out of each month.
Rotha’s favorite subjects are physics, chemistry, and math. She dreams of becoming an engineer. “Ever since I was young, when I see bridges and tall buildings, I always wish I could build them,” she explains.
As GATE and its funders build bridges to brighter futures for these young scholars, Rotha is building academic bridges for her sister’s children, whom she tutors in reading, writing and math. With our continued support, perhaps Rotha will someday build brick-and-mortar bridges for Cambodia.
(Prepared by Jennifer Russ, based on Lotus Outreach’s report to BGR,
Three Years of Great Work, A Review of 2011-2013)