By Rachel Ringgold, ChildFund Staff Writer
It’s been five years since we met Anista. She’s a sponsored child who lives in Nuwara Eliya, Sri Lanka, and we took a peek into her daily routine when she was 9. Some things in her life haven’t changed much since then.
Anista still brushes her teeth in the morning to get ready for the day. Her sister, Stella, still washes up with her, out in front of the same robin’s-egg-blue house. To get to school, they still walk half an hour to school, down and then back up the sides of the same misty mountains covered with tea bushes.
But a lot has changed in the last five years, too. Anista is 14 years old now, and she’s at the top of her ninth-grade class. On this visit with the family, the kids were on summer break, so they were home from school. Anista drinks tea, washes up and plays with her sisters — their favorite game is jump rope.
Anista also helps her mother, Slatemary, do chores around the house. Five years ago, Slatemary wasn’t at home. In fact, she wasn’t even in the country. She worked abroad for years as a housemaid in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Jordan. But last November, after not receiving a paycheck for several months, Slatemary returned to Sri Lanka — and she says she won’t leave again. “I want to be here,” she says. “I want to be home with my children.”
Slatemary, along with Anista’s father, has worked hard to give her family all she possibly can. Five years ago, Anista and her siblings didn’t have electricity or running water in their house, but now they do. And they have a TV, which is something else Anista and her siblings enjoy on days off from school — but they’re allowed to watch only educational shows, Slatemary says.
And Anista has gone from being one of the little sisters to being the oldest child at home, as her two older sisters have jobs hours away in Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. Watching the siblings, it’s clear Anista takes her role seriously — she keeps a watchful eye when her younger sister, Princey, climbs a tree, and she holds brother Kabilash’s hand as they descend the steep stairs from their village.
Slatemary says that what she truly wants from ChildFund is not physical or tangible. What she wants for her daughter is “good knowledge, a good attitude and to learn to be a good human being.” And, she says, “I don’t want my daughter to be like me — a tea plucker.”
It seems that Anista’s mother’s dreams are well on their way to coming true. Five years ago, when asked what she wanted to be when she grew up, Anista said she wanted to be a teacher. And her dream has grown since then. “I want to teach dance,” she says with a quiet determination.
We can’t wait to see it.