Kimmi and I are quite often the recipients of some amazing praise for our efforts through The Kindness of Strangers over the past couple of years. People from all walks of life have complimented, applauded, glorified and paid tribute in our honour for the ‘amazing work’ that we have carried out in our cycle across the globe.
We quite often offer a bashful smile in return, knowing in our heart of hearts that there are many more worthy unsung heroes for those accolades.
All Kimmi and I do is visit various projects and NGO’s. We determine whether it is real, whether it is credible, efficient and more importantly, whether any donation will go to the people that need it, or whether it will get lost in bureaucracy and administration. We don’t do ANY of the WORK.
The Lotus Education Fund is a prime example of an unsung hero, or in this case, a group.
Dianne Gamage, an Australian ESL teacher found herself doing a short term volunteer project in Savannakhet, Laos, in 2008, when she noticed young girls, aged six and seven, that were not going to school. Like all good teachers, Dianne dug deeper, only to discover that 47% of girls in Laos do not attend school. Destined for a working life from the age of six in assisting the upbringing of younger siblings and helping harvest in rice season, this lack of education leads to vulnerability to trafficking from as young as 12 years old.
Determined to intervene, Dianne rallied her friends and colleagues from Australia and started the Lotus Education Fund. Working with local Dr Phoudalay and the village chief of five neighboring communities, the poorest girls were chosen, totaling 44 and their books, uniforms and school fees paid for.
It’s one thing to offer a quick fix solution by buying some books and pens, but all too often, as soon as the back is turned, the children are back in the homes and fields working again. But not in this case. The Lotus Education Council thought this through and came up with the following conditions:
- The Lotus Education Fund will guarantee the cost of schooling each of the 44 girls for TWELVE years, provided the parents ensured that they fulfill the required attendance
- Dr Phoudalay and the village chief visit and check on the students every week through the school register and contact the concerning family if there are any issues
- Dianne visits the school, at her own expense, at least once per year, and sometimes up to three times per year. This year she was joined by three former colleagues who ran an English workshop.
- The Lotus Education Council will try to assist in supplying native English teachers to help the children learn basic communication skills. This year Campbell Vearing has generously donated his skills and experience to this project.
And it is with these conditions and agreements that the Lotus Education Fund ltd can boast a 100% return attendance rate since 2008. A record rarely matched in this field.
The original 44 girls are now aged 12 & 13 and are ready for secondary education, supported by the Lotus Fund. It is through this amazing success story that the Lotus Council have decided to commit to financially supporting a further 40 girls aged six years old for the next twelve years of their academic life.
There is no vested interest, hidden agenda or financial gain for Dianne or her colleagues to offer their personal time and money to this cause. Dianne has no relation to Savannakhet, does not live in Laos and has never met any of the girls or their family before the beginning of this project. They are all strangers to her, from a foreign land, yet the determination and passion for educational support is the same as if they were her own children.
So what makes an ordinary person go to such extraordinary lengths to help people that she does not even know, and who may never even thank her?
Every one of the true unsung heroes we have met on our trip, just like Dianne Gamage, offer time, commitment, love, dedication and true heartfelt care. And they almost always do it for little to no return, because that is who they are.
When people say to us that they believe we are doing something amazing for humanity, we know in our heart of hearts that it is people like Dianne that are the true heroes in this world.
The Kindness of Strangers is proud to contribute AU$1000 to the Lotus Education Fund and in full confidence that every cent will go towards the children. Lotus have no administration fees or expenses. This is a rare find grass roots project and one that we are very excited to be a part of.
If you would like to read a blog from Dianne herself and read more about The Lotus Fund, click here
If you would like to support our good friend Helen, who is cycling over 3000km from Vientiane to Phuket to raise money for Lotus, then click on this link.