Photography by Nic Dunlop
Life is hard in the tea plantations of Sri Lanka, where working families struggle to survive on meager wages. Most children here don’t finish school. Education seems a luxury when parents need their children’s income to help support the family. But ChildFund’s programs in the area are helping many children stay on track with their education. Niluka, 17, has found a new path, and she’s sharing what she’s learned with others in her community so that they too can find a better way forward.
My name is Niluka. I live on a tea estate nestled among the foggy mountains of central Sri Lanka.
It’s 5:30 in the morning, a cold one as usual. My father is a laborer on the tea plantation and has already left for work. In our kitchen, Mom prepares roti, our traditional flatbread, for breakfast. My younger sister, Inoka, and I help her.
I wash pots and pans. Collecting and storing water is now off the list of morning chores because ChildFund’s water project in my community has brought water to our doorstep. Soon afterward, Inoka and I leave for school.
In the afternoons, I volunteer at the Child Learning Center three days a week. Children come there to do homework, read books and newspapers, learn about computers and play. ChildFund started this.
I help the children there with homework. In my community, most parents can’t read, so they can’t support their children with homework. I’m happy that I can fill the gap and help.
I’m also a health volunteer in ChildFund’s health program. Today, I visit five homes to teach community members about basic health practices and good hygiene. Elders now come to me asking for health advice. My parents are very proud of me.
On my follow-up visits, I see cleaner, healthier environments. I feel proud that I can make a little change in my community.