I am delighted to provide some details from the field for you all, our community and friends. It’s been an exciting year for Lotus, with the release of our new website and the growth of our international team. Even more tremendous, is that the support for our Blossom Bus program has expanded significantly in 2019!
Blossom Bus has been in service for nearly ten years, and that is thanks to the incredible and ongoing generosity of you all including the wonderful grant giving organizations that are our partners. We are thankful to the Guru Krupa Foundation, Impact Giving, The Fred and June MacMurray Foundation, our Global Giving platform, and the individual gifts that have made it possible for us to serve over 800 young women and girls up to this point.
In 2019, thanks to a generous new grant to be announced at a later date, we are doubling our rider numbers! That means that while during the 2018-2019 school year we transported 328 young women to school, in 2019-2020, we are expanding our fleet of buses to support the transportation of 600 girls! We aim to be driving 1,000 girls to school in 2020-2021.
The bus service makes it possible for young women and girls in the region of Mewat, Haryana and Rajasthan, India to reach school. In this regressive area in terms of female mobility, women and girls frequently do not attend school past the 5th or 8th grade. While boys are typically allowed to travel to neighboring villages to complete their education, teenage girls are prevented from doing the same because of the violence they could be exposed to traversing rural backroads.
Thanks to Blossom Bus, this demographic of girls is continuing their education at regionally unprecedented levels. Sheetal, who is 16 years old and in grade 10, has been a Blossom Bus rider for the last four years. She told us that when she completed 5th grade she worried she would not be able to continue because the high school was five kilometers away and no public transportation was available. When her father visited Aharwan Girls High School in Mewat, Rajasthan he found out about the free service and since then she has been riding the bus.
“Now I’m in grade 10 so that’s four years on the bus. I am studying Science and am very hopeful that I will become a doctor. My father is very supportive and has promised me that I will be allowed to continue following my dream. A very big thank you to Blossom Bus for giving me this hope.”
Over the nearly ten years that Blossom Bus has been in operation, parents in Mewat have shifted or are shifting their perspectives on girls’ education. Now that the girls have a way to complete their studies and even continue on to college, parents are largely supporting this. Recently, the Haryana State Government released confirmation that the Mewat district is now in 5th place among 22 districts in the state (jumping 17 districts in terms of board exam result of grade 10 and 12!). Another report shows enrollment in the state including 948 girls in grade 12 in the Mewat district. When we initiated the program in 2009, there was only one girl from the Muslim community in grade nine in the 84 villages we surveyed.
Nowadays parents in Mewat are motivated as well as feel pressured by their peers to send their daughters to school. The girls themselves will come forward and push their parents to allow them to complete their education. We are proud of the important role that Blossom Bus has played to shift attitudes in the district towards female mobility and education. Known as one of the “most regressive in terms of female education in all of India”— this is changing.
While our goal is for as many girls to graduate high school as possible, accomplishing one more year of school for girls in these areas is a stand out victory outcome. No matter what level of school these girls reach, if they go back to school on our Blossom Bus it is a win, a victory, and of huge benefit to them. Over the years we see an increase in the number of girls graduating and moving on to higher education and employment, as well as the transforming of local attitudes towards female education and mobility.
Here’s a breakdown of the riders per grade in the 2018-2019 year by year, (divided by location).
In Haryana, Blossom Bus transported:
20 girls 6th grade
24 girls to 7th grade
30 girls to 8th grade
54 girls to 9th grade
78 girls to 10th grade
2 girls to 11th grade
22 to 12th grade
In Rajasthan, Blossom Bus transported:
13 girls to 9th grade
10 girls to 10th grade
13 girls to 11th grade
22 girls to 12th grade
In College, Blossom Bus transported:
40 girls including 7 studying at the masters level.
We are delighted that in 2018-2019 all of the girls studying at the 12th grade level have passed their final exams.
The education Blossom Bus riders receive transforms their lives. It supports their earning potential, independence, and confidence. Educated women mean educated households in traditional male-dominated societies such as Mewat. We believe that facilitating these girls’ security and self-reliance through access to education activates their social and economic potential. As Blossom riders become leaders and role models, they advocate for one another, combat devastating class and gender norms, and pave the way for generations to come.
We could not be more encouraged by your support. We want to, again, celebrate that it is the ongoing generosity of this community, including our foundation partners, ambassadors, and individual donors that makes all of this possible.
Of special notice, is that of the granting foundations listed here Guru Krupa Foundation also supports our Buddha Smiles program annually. In 2019-2020, Buddha Smiles will serve more than 500 children of some of the poorest families in Tamil Nadu, with after school tutoring and education. In this program, children are supported to remain in school for as long as possible, which nourishes and empowers their lives.
Feel free to write to us with any questions or to request information about Blossom Bus, Buddha Smiles, or any one of our 18 grassroots programs. Our solutions are based on our belief that change spreads fastest from the ground up. With your support, we are helping to empower some of the most vulnerable groups in the world today.
With best wishes,
Grants and Global Giving, Lotus Outreach International