During her visit to Sri Lanka last week with the World Vision blogger team, Laura Tremaine met Mala and her daughter, Sewvandi, whose story she shares below. Knowing that education is key to helping Sewvandi escape from poverty, Laura made a special commitment to the girl.
This post originally appeared on Laura’s blog, Hollywood Housewife.
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This is Sewvandi. She lives with her parents and two little brothers in a hut in rural Sri Lanka.
Sewvandi is an excellent student. She loves going to school, even though she has to travel more than two miles each way. She studies often and recently sat for the scholarship exam, a test that requires extra (paid-for) classes that her family can scarcely afford.
Sewvandi’s mom, Mala, was the oldest of four, a twin, and the only one of her siblings to drop out of school in order to work and support her family. At 7 years old, she was sent to be domestic help for a family. She was paid roughly $3 per week, which her dad came and collected while she cried to come home.
When she was old enough, she followed her mother to Kuwait to work in domestic service, but returned to Sri Lanka soon. Because of her sacrifice, her twin sister was able to finish school, move to Sri Lanka’s largest city, Colombo, and secure a job and eventually a husband and family.
While Mala also got married, she and her husband have never been able to move from the very rural village where they are from, and neither are educated, which means their options are limited to day labor.
We heard a lot of stories during our week in Sri Lanka, most of them unfathomable to me. The poverty, the health and living conditions, and the complete lack of options were heartbreaking.
When I heard Mala talk about Sewvandi, I felt hope. It was clear during the conversation that Mala was a smart, strong woman. She was forced to start working when most little girls should be starting their schooling, and that set the rest of her life on a track that was half-step forward, 10 steps back.
But when she spoke of her daughter — also, you could tell, very bright — her jaw was resolute. She scraped everything together that she could to get Sewvandi into the scholarship exam, knowing that education was the only way out.
If she could just help Sewvandi go the distance in school, her chances improved greatly for the rest of her life.
I’m not totally sure why I related to Mala and Sewvandi so strongly. I’ve surely never been in any such situation. But someone very close to me has, and education was his way out of rural poverty as well. As his story goes, a single person’s higher education trickled into a next generation and into a community. It made a difference for many.
Mala told us her love story with her husband, and it was sweet and we laughed together as women do about such things. Suddenly, the stories I’d been wrestling with this week didn’t seem like half a world away. Sacrifice, love, motherhood — the universal themes of one’s life. We connected, the women in the cramped room.
In passing, our translator mentioned that Sewvandi had school friends who had been sponsored, but that she hadn’t been yet. I didn’t hesitate. I want Sewvandi to have the best shot under the circumstances, and I am someone who can help carry that out.
This is Sewvandi, my sponsored child. I have high hopes.
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Read additional posts written by members of our team of eight bloggers who traveled to Sri Lanka last week to witness firsthand the life-changing impacts of World Vision’s sponsorship programs on children, families, and communities in need.