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 and Chair of the Board of Directors
Lotus Outreach International