Sri Lanka’s civil war, that tormented the country for 30 years, ended in 2009, leaving the country poor, lacking infrastructure and struggling to secure long-term peace and development. In addition to war, natural calamities, such as a catastrophic tsunami in 2004 and yearly flooding, devastated the Eastern Province of the country. War and natural calamities killed approximately 200,000 people, and left hundreds of thousands without economic and educational opportunities.
Batticaloa, the main city in Sri Lanka’s Eastern Province, was a heavily militarized zone, where search operations, death, injuries, destruction, mass arrests, detention, shooting, grenade explosions and landmines were a common experience. Even today, 8 years post-conflict, the Batticaloa district still struggles with a weak healthcare and education infrastructure. Government data indicates that 75% of the children and youth who grew up in that area lost some of their family members, and with them, their happy childhood, access to education and a good future.
Education is critical to breaking the cycle of poverty in countries like Sri Lanka, where vast numbers of children live in squalor, malnourished and neglected. Children Emergency Relief International (CERI) helps impoverished children receive a quality education to give them hope for the future, in Sri Lanka and other developing nations.
Meet Sripriya, a 23-year-old Hindu girl from Batticaloa, Sri Lanka…
When she was still a young child, CERI intervened to provide guidance, care and access to education, changing the course of her life forever.
When Sripriya was just 11 years old, her father died from an untreated, severe hernia. Then eight short months later, she lost her mother in the tsunami that struck Sri Lanka in 2004. Grieving the unimaginable loss of both her parents, she was forced to move in with her aunt. Her unmarried aunt was not able to properly care for a child – she barely earned enough money to support herself.
In 2005, Sripriya entered CERI’s Sri Lanka Foster Care program. CERI provided the financial assistance she needed, along with continual encouragement and counseling to help her succeed. Sripriya began to thrive and take more interest in her school studies, extracurricular activities and sports. She expressed an interest in playing tennis, so her CERI case manager gave her an exciting gift – a new tennis racket. Armed with a new self-confidence and the encouragement of the CERI team, she played in a tennis tournament and won in the finals! She also participated in a chess competition and won 1st place.
In 2010, she passed her General Certificate of Education examination with distinctions. She qualified to advance to the next grade level, instead of having to drop out of school as many Sri Lankan children are forced to do if they cannot pass this national exam.
In 2011, she participated in an accounting competition hosted by the University of Sri Jayewardenepura. She won the gold medal for the All Island Commerce quiz and received a laptop as a gift. She received the certificate and gold medal in October and was awarded a scholarship from Sunlight Unilever Private Limited.
Over time, Sripriya saved the equivalent of $800 USD with the savings plan incorporated in the CERI Foster Care program. With this money, she was able to buy the textbooks she needed and attend extra classes with a tutor. This helped her prepare for the big day when she finally took the Advance Level Examination. In Batticaloa, nearly 10,000 students took the Advance Level Exam. Sripriya ranked 18th out of these 10,000 students and obtained 3 A’s: one in Commerce, in Accounting and in Economics.
She was accepted into the business program at the Jaffna University in the northern province of Sri Lanka. Sripriya is currently in her third year of university. In addition to studying at the university, she took the Association Certificate of Chatted Accountancy (ACCA) course with money in her CERI savings account. Sripriya’s goal is to someday become a Bank Manager.
“Passing the exam gave me confidence and a strong desire to succeed in all my studies and activities,” Sripriya says. “If not for CERI, I wouldn’t have achieved this victory. I am happy to be a part of the CERI family and will walk forward with their guidance. CERI is a candle in my life and I am proud to be a CERI girl.” – Sripriya