Chenda Brings Healing to Her Village
GATEways scholar Sim Chenda, who is just 21 years old and a recent college graduate, has been hired as a professional nurse in her home village. Her story demonstrates how education has the power not just to transform the lives of individuals, but to provide the most direly needed services to communities.
“I helped to deliver 4 babies during my internship. It was the happiest moment of my studies. I knew then I made the right decision.”
The youngest of 6 siblings, Chenda joined the GATE program as an 11th grade high school student. Her parents were so poor, they worked basically as subsistence farmers, eating the rice they grew from a small paddy by their house. Her parents borrowed a lot of money from their neighbors and went deep into debt.
In her two years of study, Chenda learned French to help with the pronunciation of medical terms and practices. She completed a 2-month internship at a hospital in Banteay Meanchey, and she learned the basic nursing skills that have made her one of the most medically educated people in her home village! As such, she hopes to open a small pharmacy to give her village access to modern medicines for the very first time.
All of the GATE and GATEways scholars come from the poorest households in Cambodia, which itself is one of the poorest countries in the world. Your donations and support help us to make their dreams become reality, and many of our students –like Chenda– apply their skills to supporting the rural communities from which they come.
Chenda’s new salary of $170 US Dollars per month is allowing her to pay off her parents’ debts and to help her mom save for a new house. This level of income precipitously higher than the mean income in Cambodia– around $60/month, and Chenda is still only 21 years old.
The World Bank Agrees that investing in women’s education is the best way to encourage the right kind of global development. Supporting a GATEways girl through college costs just $100 per month, and it pays dividends to their families and their communities for generations.
89 GATEways Scholars by Study Area
Support Lotus Outreach's work so that we can continue offering programs that create opportunities to women in Cambodia.
Morokot's Wish-Fulfilling Bike!
Sak Morokot, 12 years old and the third of four siblings, is a 6th grader at the Cambodian Volunteers for Children and Development Primary School in Phnom Penh. For the past few years, Morokot’s family has struggled to make a living, and the children’s education has been threatened. To help keep Morokot in school, she was selected as a Lotus Pedals recipient in early April 2014.
Morokot’s father, Savorn, works as a rickshaw driver. In 2011, he suffered a traffic accident that broke his arm. Since then he can only drive the rickshaw for a few hours a day. Some days he can make up to $2.50; some days nothing at all. Since the accident, the family’s situation has become increasingly difficult. To make ends meet, the family took a loan to start up a roadside food-selling business. Silen, the eldest daughter, was forced to drop out of high school and work in a garment factory to help repay the loan and supplement the family’s income. The shop income, around US$5 a day, and Silen’s income, about $4 a day, brings in about $270 a month. However, the family continues to struggle in covering their basic needs – the house rent, food, the loan repayment, medicine for the father, water and electricity costs – the bills threaten the family’s ability to pay school expenses for the three siblings still in school.
In the midst of her family’s struggle, Morokot tries to stay focused on her studies. She loves reading Khmer literature. She tries to study hard, but at the beginning of this academic year, her school performance was being affected by the fact that she had to walk 2 miles to school. Morokot describes her experience of getting a bicycle in her own words:
“Before getting the bike, I had to walk 2 miles on a road to get to school. Since I had to help around at home in between school and had to walk that far, I sometimes got to school late. Sometimes I had to miss school. And most of the time I felt tired when I got to school and couldn’t concentrate on the lesson. This had a very negative effect on my school performance. I came near last in the class. After getting the bike from the program, travelling to school has become so easy. I now arrive on time and am able to pay full attention in class. My school performance has improved too! I rank near the top now!”
Lotus Pedals gives girls in difficult circumstances a better chance at achieving their dreams. Morokot and her family wish the best of luck and great success to all the donors who so generously supported Lotus Pedals! We at Lotus Outreach second their best wishes!
Artist Nancy Joyce's "Bicyclette" for Lotus Pedals
Mixed-media fine artist Nancy Hilliard Joyce based in Asheville, North Carolina was searching Pinterest for inspiration for her painting series Wheels. She happened upon a photo of one of LO's Lotus Pedal's beneficiaries holding her drawing of a bicycle. Next thing Nancy knew, she was reading about the schoolgirls in Cambodia and how difficult it is for them to stay in school, their fear for their safety while traversing to school, and how bicycles are a simple intervention in ensuring they can get to school safely. Nancy was struck, “That little girl, who looks like she’s my daughter’s age, pulled my heartstrings and made me react in that way.”
In January, Nancy did an exhibition of 13 of her paintings inspired by historical women, from Joan D’Arc to Mother Theresa. She donated a percentage of the exhibition's profit to Girls on the Run, a nonprofit dedicated to helping build girl’s self esteem through coaching classes and organized runs. After learning about the Lotus Pedals project, Nancy has pledged a portion of the proceeds from the sale of her paintings in a Fall of 2015 exhibition to be called "Bicyclette". On a call with LO's executive director, Nancy shared:
"When I came across that Cambodian girl’s photo, I wasn’t really looking for a project; I wanted an inspiration for a painting. But learning about the Lotus Pedals project was so exciting; it made me feel like this is exactly what I should be doing. I feel so motivated. Art can be a narcissistic pursuit. It makes me feel much less narcissistic if I’m giving back.
I am deeply inspired by Susan Anthony, who was a big force during the women’s emancipation movement in the United States in the 1800’s – fighting for equal rights for women. She said: 'Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.'
It’s terrible to think that in some developing nations women and girls are still going through hardships that women in this country faced and surmounted over a century ago. But a bicycle can help them overcome their environmental constraints.
Before, when people saw my paintings of women on bikes they would ask me why I painted that so much. And I didn’t know the answer. They’d ask if I was a big-time biker. But I’m not a huge cyclist. For me it was more about the cycle of life aspect - what goes around, comes around. When I came across the Lotus Pedals project I understood; this is the reason." - Nancy Joyce
“Let me tell you what I think of bicycling. I think it has done more to emancipate women than anything else in the world. It gives women a feeling of freedom and self-reliance. I stand and rejoice every time I see a woman ride by on a wheel… the picture of free, untrammeled womanhood.” - Susan B. Anthony
Art & Therapy with Naropa
In February of 2013, Lotus Outreach and the Naropa Community Art Studio (NCAS) established a partnership for our Counseling and Reintegration program in Cambodia. The Counseling and Reintegration program provides trauma therapy and social assistance to survivors of violence and human trafficking. Our local partner for this program is the Cambodian Women’s Crisis Center. NCAS would provide support to the program through theoretical and practical trainings offered to the counselors working in the program. The NCAS team conducted a first week of training in mid 2013, and returned to Cambodia for a second intensive training this summer. The Naropa Community Art Studio therapists once again shared their wealth of knowledge in two ways: through theoretical classes about the use of art therapy with trauma, and through practical interventions that can be used with the women and girls served by the program. The program counselors who instinctively had developed their own ways of approaching art therapy found it very reassuring to learn that their techniques have a theoretical base and are used by other therapists. Below are a few excerpts of the inspiring firsthand accounts of the Naropa Community Art Studio therapists:
“We introduced the concepts and invited the art making process to begin. I never could have imagined it would end up with everyone having tissue paper flowers in their hair, tissue paper jewelry, and some of the most beautiful handmade decorations strung around the room I’ve ever seen! Butterflies were hung in front of the windows, flowers on the back of every chair, and mandalas hung around the room filling the walls. By the end of the day, we were all decorated and the room was full of color and laughter. I left that day feeling thankful for the opportunity to do this work, anticipating how wonderful the rest of our time together would be.” – Chelsey Langlinais
“Does drawing pictures of objects and enlisting clients as translators count as Art Therapy? When viewed from a Relational or Feminist perspective, I believe it does. As therapists, one of the greatest gifts we can offer clients is our presence, our relationship. We communicate that they are seen, heard, recognized, and appreciated. Only in the context of trust, safety, and relationship can true healing begin.”- The Team
“Staff training is an integral aspect of our work here. We are only working with CWCC for ten days, our visit is a blip on the radar. We are not here long enough to establish the trust necessary for the work of trauma therapy. In fact, it would be unethical to attempt to go into such deep territory with a client under these time limitations. Our work here is to help staff access important tools that can empower them to be more fully present to their clients, to endure the weight of their work, and to not suffer overwhelm and burnout. I will share a story from Friday, when a few of our team members introduced a Yoga based activity. Our superstar translator, Panchena, explained the directive in Khmer, “When we work with clients, we feel it in our bodies and we carry it with us. When we don’t work on that energy, it becomes trapped, and can hurt us.” Participants were lead in a twenty minute Yoga routine, and were asked to create two drawings; one to represent how they felt before yoga, and one to represent how they felt afterward. One staff member depicted a figure whose chest was full of blue dots. In the second drawing, the figure was surrounded by blue dots, with only a few remaining inside his silhuette. When asked to describe the difference between the two drawings, he responded, “Before, I was very anxious inside. Now, that worry is outside of me. There are some worries that I will always have with me, but those are just a part of me.” This was a simple but profound example of how a combination of somatic experience and art making can be used to both inform and alleviate vicarious traumatization.” – The Team
“Last Friday was our closing group at CWCC. Our work with the residents and staff focused on art therapy within Bruce Perry’s Neurosequential Model of Therapeutics and Trauma (Perry, 2006). This approach can help the nervous system calm down, especially after trauma, and can allow people to more fully open to their own creative process with its innate capacity to heal. It also allowed me to drop into the creative process with the group. We laughed, played, cried, heard stories of struggle, and learned about each other through creating art together. The simplest connections were often the ones that stood out the most to me: passing scissors to help a girl cut her shadow puppet just right, laughing in surprise as a woman teases me because she knew English all along, gently taping the art on the walls of the building as I think of the person who created it, and sitting with a traumatized woman as she watched the group in silence. “ – Aiya B. Staller