June 17, 2022
Chamodi lives in a small village in the northwestern province of Sri Lanka. The region often faces extreme drought and has struggled economically in the years following the country's lengthy civil war. But as a child, Chamodi was often unaware of the financial challenges her parents and community faced.
“I went from school to the temple and lived a happy life. I never thought about the future. My village was my whole world,” she said of her childhood.
When Chamodi began secondary school in 2012, her principal called for a parents’ meeting to announce that the school was selected to be part of Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program. Neither Chamodi nor her parents knew anything about Room to Read, and they certainly couldn’t have predicted that the Girls’ Education Program would help transform Chamodi’s future.
Upon enrollment, Chamodi met her social mobilizer, a local woman mentor, who became an important role model. Chamodi’s social mobilizer visited her house regularly, working with her one-on-one to learn life skills that would help her navigate key life decisions. She helped Chamodi create a study corner, set up a home library and taught her how to create a schedule. Her social mobilizer also spoke to Chamodi’s parents about the importance of creating a child-friendly learning environment at home. Throughout their time together, Chamodi became fascinated by the role of a social mobilizer.
During their life skills lessons, Chamodi learned how to set goals, how to communicate her emotions, how to work as part of a team, how to be a leader — skills that helped her grow into a strong and independent young woman. As a result, Chamodi developed self-confidence and social awareness.
“Slowly, I felt a change in myself. I was no longer afraid to speak in front of the class or express my opinions and feelings. I wanted to be a leader in group activities and give everyone equal opportunity to express their ideas,” Chamodi shared.
With greater confidence, Chamodi found herself more eager to take part in the extracurricular activities organized by Room to Read, like debate and drama competitions, even winning many of them. She also began writing more, starting with a short story about her friend who lost their life in the war.
As she progressed toward Ordinary Level Exams, Chamodi learned that her parents could not afford private tutoring classes. Because her father was a daily wage worker, making ends meet had been a challenge since the war, and perpetual drought hurt the local economy, which meant they lacked consistent income. Chamodi worried about how she would perform without individual coaching and support.
Thankfully, Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program provides exam prep classes. In the weeks leading up to the national exam, Chamodi received the support needed to face the challenges of the moment, which provided enormous relief to both Chamodi and her parents. In the end, she passed her Ordinary Level Exams with flying colors, moving on to the Advanced Level Exams.
Her family was thrilled by the transformation they saw in Chamodi throughout the course of the Girls’ Education Program. “At the time, we didn’t pay much attention to the program. But over the years, Chamodi changed a lot for the better. We wouldn’t have been able to fully support her education if not for Room to Read. They have been there with us throughout Chamodi’s secondary education,” Chamodi’s mother reflected.
After completing secondary school, Chamodi sought opportunities that would allow her to support herself financially and contribute to the financial health of her family. She reflected on how she had arrived at this point, and those who had supported her journey. She thought about the ways in which she had benefited from the mentorship of her social mobilizer. And she decided that she would like to provide the same type of mentorship to girls in her community.
Chamodi soon became the secretary for the Girls’ Education Program alumnae community, and later was hired by Room to Read Sri Lanka to be a social mobilizer at a school near her home village.
“Chamodi joined Room to Read at a critical time when schools were shutting down due to COVID-19. It was a lot of pressure for all of us, including the students. But Chamodi had a passion for her job, and she was resilient. She quickly adapted to new ways of delivering the program and has been actively working to look after her students. She is a true reflection of what we try to achieve through our Girls’ Education Program,” said Chethana, a Room to Read Girls’ Education Program officer.
Watch Chamodi deliver a life skills lesson in the following video, which was created as part of a video series to support students with life skills education during COVID-19 school closures:
“Room to Read brightened my life in every possible way,” Chamodi shared. “I probably wouldn’t have completed school had it not been for [the Girls’ Education Program]. They stayed with me throughout all my difficulties. The life skills I learned helped me get a skilled job rather than working for low wages. I learned the value of education and the opportunities it brings thanks to Room to Read. Not only do I support myself and my family today, but I also get a chance to change the lives of more girls like me by being part of Room to Read’s Girls’ Education Program.”