Tag Archives: Cambodia

Norin Rotha: Building Bridges for a Future Engineer

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.

A future bridge builder

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)

Chantha Luen: A GATEways Success Story

 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.

LOI-from the boar-2The road to Chantha Luen’s success was not an easy one. Luen’s father abandoned her family when she was in ninth grade, and her mother passed away in her final year of high school. She moved in with her grandmother, but she also passed away that year. Fortunately, Luen was able to live in one of Lotus Outreach’s GATE residential homes.

Luen graduated from high school despite these significant setbacks and began teacher training with the help of a GATEways scholarship. Thanks to her hard work and good grades, she graduated third in her teaching class and had the choice to teach anywhere she wanted. A testament to the tremendous community impact of educating women, Luen chose to return to the rural Row Lueh Commune in the district of Svey Check, right next to her home village!

Luen knows the people of her hometown area, and she was proud to return. “I am so happy to be working in my home village. Here, I can be a role model and will help the children and families here to value education and stay in school as long as they can.”

Luen’s story has a fairytale ending. Luen met a young man while in pedagogy school, and they are now engaged to be married. Her fiancé is teaching at another nearby school.

Just several years ago, this kind of story would have been very unlikely in a country like Cambodia. Thanks to BGR and its supporters, and our partner Lotus Outreach, more women like Luen are attending school, and they are paying it forward to the next generation.

  (Prepared by Jennifer Russ, based on Lotus Outreach’s report to BGR,  Three Years of Great Work, A Review of 2011-2013)

A New Slate of Projects–Part 1

Ven. Bhikkhu Bodhi

This is the first of a four-part series of posts giving brief summaries of the BGR projects approved for fiscal year 2013–14. Thanks are due to Patti Price, chair of the Projects Committee, and Jessie Benjamin, Carla Prater, Jennifer Russ, and Khanh Nguyen who all helped to prepare the material used in this series. Projects are arranged alphabetically by country, with the U.S. projects to follow the international projects.

DSC06272Over the first weekend of May, months of hard work by BGR team members came to fruition at the annual general meeting and projects selection board meeting, both held in the Woo Ju Memorial Library at Chuang Yen Monastery, Carmel, New York. The general meeting, on Saturday, May 4, was attended by team members from as far away as California, Colorado, Illinois, and Texas. At the board meeting on Sunday, May 5th, the board considered a slew of applications for partnership grants. Twenty-one projects were approved for the next fiscal year, at a total cost of $285,000. The projects are both international and domestic in scope. They include renewals of existing projects and a substantial number of new undertakings with partners both new and old. Their fields range from Cambodia and Vietnam, through India, Sri Lanka, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Cote d’Ivoire, to Haiti, New York, and California. Distinctive about this year’s register is the number of multiyear projects that are to be launched. Experience has taught us that projects extending over several years provide a better timeframe for accomplishing more ambitious objectives than is possible with a one-year project, our usual mode of operation. Here are brief summaries of the projects approved for implementation.

1. Bangladesh: Making Markets Work for Women           NEW

HKI-Bangladesh MarketsHelen Keller International, established in 1915, works in 22 countries to save the sight and lives of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged through programs in vision, health, and nutrition. BGR will be partnering with HKI on a three-year program in Bangladesh called “Making Markets Work for Women.” The program aims to uplift 75 extremely poor indigenous households in five villages in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), one of the poorest regions in the country. The project will train women in agricultural skills such as pest management, organic fertilizer use, and intercropping, as well as food processing techniques. It will also establish community marketing groups for women so participants can work together to process and sell their products, thus helping to combat discrimination at local markets. Courtyard sessions will focus on gender and nutrition issues relevant to both men and women, including optimal feeding practices for children from birth to two years of age. Year one of a three-year project.

2. Bangladesh: Educating Children in
the Chittagong Hill Tracts          NEW

Moanoghar 2013-GirlMoanoghar was founded in 1974 by a group of Buddhist monks to provide shelter to children of the Chittagong Hill Tracts affected by conflict or living in remote areas. There are currently more than 1,250 children sheltered at Moanoghar, approximately 40% of them girls. Many of the children were left homeless or orphaned as the result of a decades-long ethnic conflict. All children at Moanoghar receive free or highly subsidized education. BGR will be sponsoring a three-year project to establish a sustainable educational system that can generate income to support the institution and support the children being schooled there. The program has three components: (1) to build a computer lab to teach the children IT; (2) to provide stipends for the children for general and technical education; and (3) to plant trees and bamboo orchards that will provide economic returns to Moanoghar. Year one of a three-year project.

3. Cambodia: System of Rice Intensification

Rachana 2013Rachana is a Cambodian organization dedicated to improving the socio-economic well-being of poor and vulnerable communities in Cambodia. Rachana has been promoting the System of Rice Intensification (SRI), an ecologically sensitive agricultural methodology that increases yields of rice from an average of 2 tons per hectare to 4.75 tons per hectare. BGR has already partnered with Rachana over the past two years in spreading the use of SRI, with highly favorable results. The program has enabled farmers to feed their own families better and obtain a surplus to sell on the market. As a result, SRI has substantially boosted family incomes. The annually renewable program will promote SRI in eight villages, five old ones and three new ones, up to December 2013. 

4. Cambodia: Giving Girls Access to Education

GATE 2013Since 2009, BGR has been partnering with U.S.-based Lotus Outreach International in support of its life-transforming Girls Access To Education (GATE) program, intended to ensure that girls remain in school. In Cambodia the education of girls is considered unnecessary, but LOI and BGR are trying to promote a new perspective. To encourage families to keep their girls in school, Lotus Outreach provides 50 kg of rice monthly during the school year to the families of 50 poor girls in Siem Reap and Banteay Meanchey. Without such assistance these highly vulnerable girls would almost surely be forced to leave school for work; many would wind up in brothels. With support from BGR, Lotus Outreach has recently been extending rice support to GATE graduates who enroll in university programs. These graduates, who have risen up from poverty to enter university, are called GATEways scholars. The grant from BGR will enable 33 additional GATEways scholars to receive 15 kilograms of rice for each month they attend classes during the year or live away from home due to their individual circumstances. With continued scholarship support, we hope to see these young women rank among the exclusive 1% of Cambodia’s female population to receive post-secondary education. An annually renewable program.

5. Cambodia: Helping Women Escape the Sex Trade

NFE 2013

Driven by desperate poverty, with no other opportunities in sight, many girls in Cambodia find themselves compelled to turn to the sex trade to support themselves and their families. Lotus Outreach’s Non-Formal Education program offers these women and their children a light in the dark. By teaching them basic literacy, health education, life skills, and vocational training, the program helps young women escape exploitation while discovering their own strength, self-worth, and competency. The renewed grant from BGR will provide non-formal education, vocational training, and life skills to approximately 30 sex workers and their children. Daughters of sex workers receive scholarship packages so they can return to school. Many of these women and children will learn to read and write for the first time in their lives. An annually renewable program.

 6. Côte d’Ivoire: Enhanced Homestead Food Production       NEW

HKI Sweet PotatoesBGR will be partnering with Helen Keller International on a three-year expansion of its innovative Enhanced Homestead Food Production program in Côte d’Ivoire’s Bouaké District (Gbèkè Region), an especially poor district where families struggle with food security and lack access to food markets. The project is designed to improve the food security and nutritional status of vulnerable households, with special emphasis on women and young children. A model of enhanced food production through the establishment of year-round gardens and farms will be taught to community gardening groups comprised mostly of women. A key component of the program is growing orange-fleshed sweet potatoes, a food rich in micronutrients especially good for children and pregnant women. The project will improve gardening practices, irrigation systems, and income generation, while empowering women. Farmers will also learn marketing strategies for selling their crops. Successful small-scale irrigation systems will be of use not only to programs in Côte d’Ivoire but throughout the region, especially to areas vulnerable to climate change. Year one of a three-year program.

To be continued