Brighter Path is a UK-based charity which supports young people as they leave orphanages in Sri Lanka and take their first steps in the outside world.
At 18, but sometimes from as young as 16, children who have grown up in orphanages are told to leave. They have to take this enormous step without any help or support. The great majority have no family or contacts in the world, nowhere to live and no money.
Very few care leavers have been prepared for what to expect and this leaves them ill-equipped to deal with modern day life. For some the transition will be traumatising and more than they can cope with. Without help they may end up on the streets, as offenders, drug abusers, or victims of abuse. If they find work at all they are at huge risk of exploitation from unscrupulous employers who take advantage of their lack of support and need for food and shelter. For others their natural resilience means they will survive but their prospects remain blighted by their circumstances. Many possess huge talent but without support are forced to take poorly paid jobs just to survive.
At Brighter Path we believe passionately that young people leaving orphanages should have the same opportunities, ambition and support as children who have grown up in families with parents. We want to extend the same level of support, encouragement and financial assistance that most young people take for granted.
Our aim is simple: to bridge the opportunity gap faced by so many care leavers. No one should be disadvantaged by growing up in an orphanage.
In our experience it is possible to make a huge difference to the life chances of an individual care leaver. You really do have the opportunity to change the whole trajectory of someone’s life. That is why we are so passionate about what we do.
Brighter Path Foundation was founded by Caroline de Bono. For many years Caroline volunteered in an orphanage in Sri Lanka, teaching and running workshops for staff. In the summer holidays she was joined by her husband and four teenage children and they ran holiday camps. It was this experience that led to Brighter Path as Caroline realized that there was no provision for young people when they left institutional care.
Caroline started helping a few individuals – first of all finding safe accommodation and paying several months’ rent in advance, then opening bank accounts, buying work clothes and a mobile phone, and finally helping find secure employment. As more and more young care leavers contacted her asking for help the scale of the problem became clear. Caroline saw that not only did care leavers need practical and financial assistance but they were also desperate for emotional and psychological support. Drawing on her years of experience teaching in secondary schools in the U.K. and her experience as a mother of four children, Caroline set about trying to understand the different layers of the issue. A few years later Brighter Path was born.
In 2018 she registered Brighter Path with the Sri Lankan authorities and also started working with the 18+ Alliance, an umbrella group of local stakeholders who provide support and collectively advocate on care leavers’ issues. One of the biggest steps forward was the opening of Brighter Path’s first transition home in Colombo – providing free and safe accommodation for those leaving care.
Caroline continues to work one-to-one on a daily basis with care leavers, striving to ensure that they receive the same level of support and encouragement as others would from their own family network. Caroline is supported by a dedicated professional team in Sri Lanka.
In 2019 Brighter Path was registered with the UK Charity Commission. We raise funds in the UK to enable work on the ground in Sri Lanka. Brighter Path’s trustees review and make grants to both individual care leavers in Sri Lanka and to organisations working with these young people. Care Leavers remain a largely invisible group in society and there is much still to do.
Caroline grew up in Brussels and Paris before going to school and university in England. From an early age Caroline always knew she wanted to be a teacher. After completing her PGCE she began a career as a teacher and spent over 15 years working in secondary schools. She now lives with her family in Oxford.
Caroline’s natural affinity for children and young people, and a deep appreciation of other cultures, have been crucial to Brighter Path’s development and success. She refuses to accept that any individual should be consigned to a life of poverty and struggle simply because they have grown up in an orphanage with a whole system stacked against them. She has built a strong team around her who share her vision.
What has characterised Brighter Path from day one, and is testament to Caroline’s dedication, is the hours of one-on-one support she gives every young person she works with. Caroline always comes back to the question of how she would want someone to care for her own children. This real mission of love is at the heart of Caroline’s work and vision for Brighter Path.