An update from CandleAid Sri Lanka, from Jonny Vaux and Sam Quinn, friends of The LBW Trust.
We had an amazing visit to CandleAid on March 18th, 2017. The organisation's main focus is educational scholarships. They aim to cast a wide net in terms of the students they support, expanding their reach across Sri Lanka. Tertiary education is free in Sri Lanka, so the scholarships provide funding of around $16 per month for additional expenses incurred by the students. These expenses can range from accommodation, to food or loan repayments for educational resources. One student, Janitha, gave an example of how he's studying computer science and using the scholarship to pay off a laptop. The students are supervised by a local coordinator, who meets with them regularly and also account for receipts and use of monies. Sam and I were very humbled at the amount of effort that had been put into coordinating the visit. Around 20 students whom the Trust supports came and visited, travelling from up to 150km away - which is even more considerable given the colourful difficulties of getting around Sri Lanka. There was a real focus on making sure that everyone felt a part of the CandleAid family. The students introduced themselves to the assembled group, briefly telling their stories and what they're studying, as well as offering their thanks to the Trust for the opportunities that these scholarships have given them. A large number of the students also asked the Trust to continue their support so that future students could also receive the same much needed help that they were given. We heard from a recent graduate, Saliya Karunathilaka. He is a product of the previous batch of Trust supported students, having graduated from an engineering degree in 2016. His father, as the main breadwinner, ran away from his family and left the mother to support Saliya and his sister. Saliya spoke with an unbreakable smile, describing his family, education and current job prospects with a dogged optimism. I asked him what he most enjoyed about studying at university. His reply was that he didn't enjoy it - to him, university wasn't meant to be enjoyable. He did it because he needed to in order to support his mother and achieve a better life. I'd never heard a more pure motive for a university degree. Maybe most powerfully was that his mother was invited into the room. After he spoke, everyone gave a round of applause for his mother and what she's been able to achieve through him. Saliya is just one example from a room of many remarkable students. Each of their stories are one part hardship, one part resolve, one part accomplishment. Saliya mentioned that without the support of the Trust, all that he has been able to achieve at university and beyond wouldn't have been possible. Our visit was very much a celebration of the students and a bringing together of the CandleAid family. The organisation is under great leadership, it runs with the proper systems in place, and the students are achieving great things with the much needed support provided by The LBW Trust. See Candleaid for more information.