By Kaitlun Gladney
The day I graduated from high school, one of my best friends gave me a necklace that said, “Everything great starts with a simple dream.” This phrase is a small, yet profound reminder that even the most significant accomplishments begin as a stirring in someone’s head and heart. Every great thing is born from that same place. It’s a testament to the power of determination.
When I first heard about Emerge, I was struck by the way the organization teaches girls who have endured unimaginable suffering and hardship the skills they need to follow their own dreams. Emerge’s programs give the girls it works with empowerment and it gives them hope— it gives them the chance to write their
own futures. Many of the girls bear scars, visible and invisible, dealt by the hands of dark and broken pasts. Emerge helps them with healing and finding the courage to author the rest of their stories.
This resonated particularly strongly with me because I believe that the potential to realize one’s dreams can change a life. In what can be such a broken, chaotic world, hope makes all the difference.
I had no idea what to expect the first time I piled into a tuktuk with the rest of the Emerge staff and headed to a shelter for the first time. I knew what the girls had been through, and I’d also seen their drawings of their dreams for the future— things ranging from being in a dance group to becoming a doctor to owning a business. I was curious to see what it would be like to interact with the girls and view the meeting of past and future in their present selves.
It was moving to see how excited the girls were to see the Emerge staff arrive. They crowded around them immediately, hugging them, holding their hands, and smiling. After some initial shyness, the girls soon became fascinated by the pale skin and curly hair of us interns, and despite a significant language barrier, we soon started communicating in broken “Sinhlish.” The girls got a kick out of our enthusiastic, yet completely incomprehensible attempts to speak to them in Sinhalese. Their beading
and Life Skills workshops began, and I saw the girls laugh, smile, and work towards something meaningful together.
Emerge started with a dream, and, in turn, gives those who have had nearly everything taken from them a chance to pursue their own dreams. That one act can make all the difference. I’m so grateful to have a chance to be a part of this, and I am really looking forward to the rest of my time with Emerge.