By Charu Ranchigoda
Emerge Lanka Office Manager
After many calls on Nirukshi’s part and a Friday night office sleepover in honour of Bryanne, the much awaited Saturday morning dawned bright and clear, ideal weather for a trip. While we were making various preparations and getting ourselves ready, the girls arrived. Some were dropped off by their parents and some came with their kids. Shy smiles and introductions followed. It was my first time meeting most of them, yet I felt like I knew them already. It was nice to see the faces behind the names that keep coming up in our conversations. Here were our success stories.
Emerge Lanka staff, ready for the reunion!
After many boxes and bags were taken down and pushed into any available space, our van was finally packed and we set off to Horana, for a weekend of fun and education, and catching up. Nimanthi’s little girl came up to me and settled on my lap for the drive. I was accepted into the family. After a few stops to pick up some girls on the way (including our brand new bride, escorted by her husband) we were finally in Horana, at Nature Lovers Resort. The girls marvelled at how difficult it was to guess that the mud track we followed lead to a holiday resort. As expected, they were thrilled to see the pool.
Rooms were assigned for groups of girls (largest room with extra beds for girls with small babies, the two rooms farthest away selected by the self elected noisiest group and so on) and we were happy to see the older participants taking the newcomers under their wing and making them comfortable (without being asked by us to do so).
Lunch was followed by some activities to get started. Everyone liked drawing their ‘Head Shots’ and signing each others posters and of course the balloon popping game! After several activities, it was time to relax and the girls enjoyed several fun filled hours in the pool. After much frolicking and a few swimming contests, it was time to get ready for dinner. A long table was arranged in a verandah of the restaurant and we had our meal as one big family. Many stories of old times were related. Much catching up done in between mouth-fulls of delightful food.
After dinner was a session of role plays and the agree/disagree/not sure game (a game based on personal values). It was very interesting to see the girls express their views, stand up for their values and discuss and accept others values. As we could see them getting drowsy after a full day, the session was wrapped up and a time for breakfast was decided. Getting ready for bed, (with a cricket of gigantic proportins in our bathroom, as if to insist this was a nature lovers’ place!) Bryanne shared with me some of her knowledge, hopes and dreams about the girls. Yet again, I was moved by what a lot they have been through.
Sunday breakfast was followed by more events including role plays and educational games, ending with a music and dance session. A quick plunge in the pool and all were ready for lunch. Afterwards, exit surveys were followed by signing our posters of ‘head shots’, taking them down and rolling them up safely to be taken home.
The van was packed yet again with bags and boxes and more bags. Lost hair clasps were found, wet clothes put away. Phone numbers were exchanged with promises to keep in touch. We were ready to head out of Horana with a feeling of warmth and contentment in our hearts. Getting off at Maharagama, I waved at the girls that I have come to know so well, in the course if just two days. Looking back, that weekend with the girls – our girls – invokes in me fond feelings of a weekend well spent. I have held their babies, laughed and played with them. I have seen their amazing personalities shine through and that of their children too. I know them better. I have seen the world through their eyes. I have seen their innocence, their sweetness and also their strength. I have seen them as the playful girls they are and the nurturing mothers they have become. Yes, I’m proud of ‘our girls’. Our beautiful, brave girls who have ’emerged’ and will soar into the future… I wish them courage and good luck with all my heart!
Some facts from our program alumnae who attended the reunion:
100% feel comfortable setting their own goals
100% know how to get help in an emergency
90% know how to make a budget
90% know how to get a national ID
75% say that they can change their communities
75% still use the individual bank accounts opened while they were in Emerge programs
58% still had all savings earned from their time with Emerge. Those who had spent savings used it for housing, transportation, education, food, supporting their husbands, and alms giving.