During almost five months working with Emerge in Sri Lanka I have had the great opportunity to witness on a daily basis the impact of the dedication, passion and support of the Emerge community. The experience has been unbelievable. As we greet the holiday season and you consider where your generosity will make the biggest impact, I hope you will consider contributing to Emerge . There are countless stories that I’d love to tell each and every one of you about our work. Hopefully one day I’ll get to do that in person (over some delicious hot chocolate!), but until then there are a couple of things I’d really like you to know about Emerge, our staff, our volunteers and– most importantly– our girls.
The girls truly love Emerge. If you ever visit a workshop that is the first thing you’ll notice. When we arrive, the girls run out to greet us laughing, calling out our names, holding our hands, and snuggling up for a hug. When we leave, the girls wave goodbye until we are no longer in sight. It’s the kind of love that only a child can give, and it is impossible to articulate the feeling we get when we drive up and see smiles overtake their faces as they excitedly call each other out of their rooms and announce our arrival.
Emerge makes a difference. I want to tell you about one girl, a girl who had been through incredible trauma and who upon entering the program never spoke, never was spoken to, and would spend an entire workshop trying to get a few beads on the wire. Today, a few months later, she is treated as an equal in the home, speaks her mind in the group, smiles whenever she sees us, makes necklaces with the help of her peers, and loves taking on leadership challenges in the life skills workshops. Iroshini, our Program Development Officer, wrote about the beginning of her transformation in a blog back in July. But this is just one story of change–we have more than 200 more. Thanks to Emerge, these are no longer stories of victimization, stigmatization, or weakness. Now they are stories of empowerment, growth, strength, courage and opportunity.
In October, I gave a presentation to the International Youth Foundation (IYF) and its partners in Washington, DC. After the session, one of the IYF Board members approached me and said, “Wow- you guys do it all. You’re a school of life!” It’s true. When Emerge participants leave the shelter, they leave with leadership skills, technical training, business and entrepreneurship skills, life skills knowledge, community engagement experience, close relationships with trusted adults, and enough savings to not only survive, but thrive.
Emerge is a one-of-a-kind organization. Emerge is run almost entirely by volunteers who balance full-time jobs, school and personal responsibilities while working with Emerge all hours of the day and night to make sure we are meeting our mission and giving our best to the girls we serve. In Sri Lanka, our Emerge team has become my family. About a month ago I became ill with typhoid after a trip to India where I trained another organization in reproductive health and met with bead suppliers. I was hospitalized for 5 days in Colombo, but I was never alone. Iroshini or Nirukshi was beside my bed 24 hours a day throughout my hospital stay (which meant that they had many 12-hour shifts of feeding me, talking to doctors and nurses, and shivering in an overly air-conditioned room). I can vouch for the love, dedication, and generosity Nirukshi and Iroshini give the girls because they give it to me as well, and I cherish it just as much.
We consider you an important member of our Emerge family. The needs of the girls with whom we work are immense, and for Emerge to continue to meet these needs our capacity must grow. We have the skill, we have the passion, we have the knowledge and we have the will- all we require is the financial means. With plans that include welcoming at least 150 more girls into our program and the Emerge community in 2011, our goals for the new year are ambitious. And, with sufficient support, they are attainable. From the bottom of my heart, I truly hope you will choose to contribute to Emerge this holiday season. Just as the girls depend on us, so too do they depend on you. Thank you for your generosity.
From our Emerge family to yours,
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for the New Year!
Sri Lanka Country Director, Emerge Global
P.S. Please feel free to contact me anytime with thoughts, comments, questions or messages to pass onto the girls (firstname.lastname@example.org ). I’d love to hear from you!