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Volunteer Perspectives: First Interactions with the Women of Ma-Sevana

“Emerge Snapshot” By Dilini Warnakulasuriyarachchi, Emerge Volunteer

The 21st January of 2008 is a day that would forever stay with me in my memory. It began as any other day. Early morning rush to get ready for another day and another meeting. Yet, there was an underlying excitement as well. This was the day I finally got to meet the girls at Ma-Sevana. I have heard many stories about various girls at Ma-Sevana, but to actually meet them and to match a name with a face was enough reason to get me all excited.

To any other stranger who walked into Ma-Sevana, the 40 girls sitting around a table waiting for a lesson might not strike him/her as out of the ordinary. There they were sitting patiently waiting for Alia, Charlotta and Nirukshi to begin the day’s lesson. What was different on that day was instead of the 20 girls from Ma-Sevana, there were 20 more from the Vocational Training Center (VTC) run by Sarvodaya. Even more heartwarming was to see the smile upon the Ma-Sevana girls when they were told that they are going to be the teachers for the day! There were cheerful greetings all around when people addressed Miss Menuka, Miss Tiara, Miss Sindu, etc.

Each Ma-Sevana girl was paired up with one or more girls from the VTC. They were told that for that day they had to act as teachers. They rose to the occasion remarkably. They were careful during their explanations and made sure that each piece of jewelry was up to the correct standard. When I walked closer toward one group I saw the teacher using a lot of hand gestures. I was baffled for a second until I suddenly realize that some of the VTC girls had hearing and speech impairments. I realized for these girls words are not necessary to communicate with each other and to share their greatest passion. Each gentle hand movement was able to convey volumes.

With all the gentle chaos of beading there was another little mischievous character at loose. It was a toddler named Yohan. While his mother was teaching, Yohan had skipped day school in order to spend time with his favorite person in the world, Alia. His twinkling eyes and mischievous grin was able to melt anyone’s heart, even the strict matron’s.

Towards the mid afternoon, I stood near a corner and looked around. I was amazed and deeply inspired by the sight in front of me. There they were a group of teenage girls, lively and bubbly like any other teenager you would meet. There they were, a group of mothers, with love spilling out of their eyes for their only family, their own child. There they were, a group of teachers, patiently and kindly explaining an intricate maneuver in beading. There they were a group of young women with enough strength to face life’s bitter hardships, and enough courage to strive for a better future. Yes, 21st of January 2008 will stay with me for ever, for I will never forget those smiling faces, silent strength and their inspiring stories.