By Nirukshi de Lanerolle
It has been 7 long years that I have known Radhika; I first met her when I visited Ma Sevena. This was the time I met Alia, I was working for Sarvodaya, and Ma Sevena was one of their shelters. Alia had to leave to the US and I was glad I had the opportunity to run the Emerge programme in Sri Lanka.
Radhika was an outstanding participant; she would be the first to meet me when I used to visit the shelter every Monday. Originally, we only had beading, the girls made jewelry right throughout the day. They were veterans, some of them used to have their babies in one hand while beading with the other, it was amazing to see these girls beading. Also, we did not have a shop and and a bank like now. I was the shopkeeper who used to distribute the beads; the girls used to be all around me and I was buried with the beads and their love. It was wonderful in the good old days. I always think that these girls are a part of me and I love them very much! Those days, I was at liberty to give the girl any number of beads for them to make as much jewelry as they would like to, not like at present- we have grown so much and there are restrictions at times! There were times that Radhika made necklaces during the week and would hand over 10 to 15 products! I was truly amazed how persistent she was. She was a girl who had not attended school, but she had a plan; I am so glad she achieved her goals. She learnt all the skills from Emerge and the shelter as well. They were taught how to cook, how to sew, and they learnt many skills in handcrafts as well. Radhika mastered them all. She left the shelter a few years ago and started her own little handicraft business; when she came to visit me once, she gifted me what she had created. A few years later, she married a man who was very supportive and caring; they had a beautiful little son last year. She even visited me with her son; I was so proud of her! Every time I speak with her over the phone (she lives in the central part of Sri Lanka), she seems very mature and very responsible. She has told me that her husband is a good man and that his family is treating her well, and that was the best thing that could have happened to her. I feel happy that most of the advice I had given her during the 7 years I knew her had not gone in vain, she has taken every bit of advice I gave into consideration and I am so glad. Radhika is the only one who had earned as much as Rs. 350,000 (USD 3500) with the earnings from Emerge! She was the only participant who stayed as long as 4 years in the shelter. I was happy to hear that she had utilised Rs. 150,000 to build a house and with the balance Rs. 200,000, she had put into a fixed deposit. I was overwhelmed that the advice I had given her with regards to the earnings she had received from Emerge had been used wisely. This is the advice I give every girl who leaves the shelter; nothing makes me happier than to hear a participant say I have utilised the money I earned from Emerge wisely!!