This week we were delighted to welcome Nadeesha Chathurangani, Commissioner for Probation and Childcare in the Uwa Province. She visited two of our transition homes and the Brighter Path office. She enjoyed meeting our care leavers and commented on how impressed she was by the facilities as well as ‘the focus on wellbeing and helping care leavers become productive members of society’. She told us how much she liked ‘the concept and good practices of Brighter Path Foundation’. We look forward to working with Commissioner Chathurangani as we develop best practices for care leavers in Sri Lanka.
We were thrilled to open a new girls’ transition home in Colombo this week. Our first residents have already moved in and are settling into their new home.
We know that we can make a real difference to the lives of young women by providing accommodation, by funding training and further education, and by teaching life skills and providing high quality mentoring in a safe and supportive environment. When young women leave children’s homes at 18 they are particularly vulnerable. They usually have nowhere to live and no work. Our new girls’ transition home will provide the stability, safety, and community to our female care leavers that will allow them to flourish in the outside world. Beyond having a home base from which to study and work, the girls in our transition home will also participate in our life skills program to set them up for success.
Transition homes provide care leavers the chance to change the course of their whole life. We are delighted to be able to provide this opportunity to more female care leavers.
We were delighted to welcome British High Commissioner Sarah Hulton OBE to visit one of our transition homes today. Sarah was given a tour of the house by one of the boys and was able to spend time hearing their stories and learning about their training and work.
We enjoyed a delicious cake made by one of our care leavers who is training to be a pastry chef.
Caroline was pleased to give a short presentation explaining the Brighter Path model, our different programmes and the exciting plans for the new girls’ transition home.
We are grateful to Sarah for taking time to visit us and for the kindness she showed to all our care leavers and staff.
Although not the most obvious part of our work, in 2022 we have continued to provide significant legal support to care leavers. Many leave orphanages without birth certificates or other essential paperwork and court applications are required to produce ‘probable’ birth certificates. Others remain subject to court orders, often made without their knowledge, which have put them in the nominal care of siblings or other adults. These orders require a court hearing before they can be discharged.
Some care leavers find themselves caught up in historic criminal complaints arising out of their time in children’s homes. Too often they find themselves to be easy targets for law enforcement agencies and miscarriages of justice are common. Brighter Path provides legal support to young care leavers to ensure that they have access to proper legal advice during these investigations, something which is vitally important but rarely available through the state.
This week a young care leaver living in one of our transition homes graduated with an upper second class degree in Sociology from the prestigious University of Colombo. That would be a reason to celebrate for anyone but in Chameera’s case the achievement is even more special. Chameera came to us two years ago having been referred by the University. Born without any legs Chameera is a full time wheelchair user. He spent his whole childhood in an orphanage. As the pandemic struck Sri Lanka he found himself living in an old people’s home as nowhere else would have him. He was confined to a dormitory for many hours a day and he did not have the internet access he required for remote learning. This was a wholly unsuitable environment for a young student and Chameera was on the point of abandoning his studies.
We had to make some adaptations to Chameera’s transition home to make it suitable for a wheelchair user but as soon as the work was done he moved in and hasn’t looked back. He picked up his remote studies and when the local restrictions were lifted was able to return to studying in person. Whilst studying at university Chameera has been a valued member of the Brighter Path programme, participating in our mentoring programmes and contributing fully to the everyday life of the transition home with his housemates.
Chameera has overcome so much to achieve his academic dream and is looking forward to a successful graduate career. Brighter Path is proud to have been able to support him on this journey.
Brighter Path ran a successful series of workshops this year. They were very popular with our care leavers and provoked plenty of discussion. All of the care leavers in our transition homes attended and benefited hugely from these learning experiences. Some highlights were:
- Using the Internet Safely
- Using your Phone Productively
- Money Management
- I have the Power to Change my Life
- Healthy Relationships
- Star Qualities
The most popular workshops we held were those which focused on inner work. These included:
- The Benefits of Meditation
- How to Raise your Vibration
- What you focus on will Grow
- The Power of Prayer
- Daily Affirmations
Two Brighter Path care leavers were invited to take part in a UN Development Programme audit of disabled facilities in Nuwara Eliya, a large town in the tea country of Sri Lanka. Public facilities for the disabled are known to be poor in Nuwara Eliya: disabled access to government buildings, public library and banks as well as accessible public toilets and public transport are all lacking there. Both our care leavers are now working on a report setting out their findings for the UNDP. The UNDP has promised funding for modifications to these public areas so that they are accessible for those with disabilities.
In October 2022 Brighter Path founder Caroline travelled to the Eastern Province with the Brighter Path team to oversee an emergency food distribution project. The area between Dimbulagala and Welikanda is about six hours’ drive North East of Colombo. This is a very poor area which has been left badly scarred by the civil war. It is an agricultural area where subsistence farmers are engaged in a daily game of cat and mouse with herds of marauding elephants who previously had the land to themselves. Many children have been orphaned by the stampeding elephants who come into villages at night, trampling everything in their path and raiding isolated homes for food. This is an area which has also suffered from years of poor agricultural practices. The persistent misuse of fertiliser has left many adults with chronic kidney disease and their children disabled by congenital injury.
The aim of this project was providing essential food and hygiene products to those in most need. We focussed in particular on families where at least one parent had been in care as these families often lack a wider support network. We were also pleased to be able to help single parents looking after disabled children, or families where one or both parents are severely sick. Often in the past these families have been supported by the local community but with the desperate economic situation in Sri Lanka the ability of the community to look after those most in need has reduced dramatically.
Over the course of four days we distributed food aid worth £2,500 to 75 families. The key to the successful distribution was advance planning – not just in sourcing the food to be distributed and obtaining enough fuel for the trip, but also in working with local community leaders and the Divisional Secretariat to identify those most in need of help. Our team in the area visited every single family before the main food distribution to see for themselves the situation on the ground. This area is remote and many of the homes which we visited are isolated at the end of small tracks. They can only be accessed on foot or bicycle. There were some very dramatic moments, not least trying to find a route back to the main road as an enormous herd of nearly 100 elephants approached in the gathering dusk. The supplies we were able to distribute brought welcome relief to many.
It was striking just how difficult life can be, so often with a parent or grandparent single-handedly providing unstinting care to severely disabled children with almost no outside help. The dedication which they showed to these children in the face of such unrelenting hardship was humbling to witness.