Ojai Valley Guide Summer 2019

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better The passionate mission of Ojai-based initiative Lotus Outreach International

“An educated girl lights up the whole house.” These are the words written on the classroom wall of the Government Girls Secondary School in Aharwan village, Palwal, India. But being an educated girl in this region of the world doesn’t come easy. In fact, it can be downright dangerous. Without safe commuting options and secondary schools up to 10 miles from home, most Mewat girls don’t study past the fifth grade. This, combined with conservative local attitudes toward female mobility, has terrible consequences for an adolescent girl: if there is no school in her village, she is forced to drop out, leaving her vulnerable to the traditional institution of childhood marriage and early childbearing. Ojai nonprofit, Lotus Outreach International (LOI), is seeking to change this. Alarmed by the high drop-out rates and low literacy among the girls in Mewat, LOI started Blossom Bus. Blossom Bus is a free service that provides safe transportation to secondary school, making it possible for these girls to go to school. Riders develop a sense of autonomy before motherhood and increase their capacity to contribute to their communities and families. While LOI’s fleet of seven buses currently transports 300 girls in 2019, a new grant has doubled this capacity to 600 riders in 2020. Blossom Bus is one of 16 of LOI’s projects dedicated to empowering vulnerable women and children living in poverty. Their work spans grassroots initiatives and local partnerships across India and

Cambodia. In a recent interview founder, Khyentse Norbu, said of the 17,000 individuals LOI is serving in 2019, “One of them, out of these thousands, will end up a savior of a lot.” With affiliates in six countries and two locally based NGOs in India and Cambodia, this local nonprofit boasts a global community. Local Realtor and president of the board of Lotus Outreach, Patty Waltcher, has worked with the organization since 2004. She is passionate about bridging the chasm between parents’ legitimate concerns for their daughters’ safety and a girl’s right to education. “When you educate a girl, you educate a village,” she says. Lotus is dedicated to finding those girls and communities in most need of support and sustainable solutions. Blossom Bus’ sister programs Lotus Pedals and the 1000 Bikes Campaign are doing the same by providing access to education, while the ASHA program in Rajasthan is improving maternal and

children’s health through training and advocacy. The belief that threads and inspires their work is that empowerment is the heart of sustainable change. For more information, please visit www.lotusoutreach.org

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