In 1995, a scholarship program founded by Bhante Wimala successfully assisted fifty boys and girls in furthering their education. In a recent phone conversation, Bhante revealed what compelled him to start a scholarship project specifically for girls. “I quite often come across girls working as servants or gardeners, many times working for nothing or perhaps for food. From personal experience I know girls do not get the same opportunities as boys for education.”
In 2002, motivated by his first hand observations of many girls’ degradation and suffering, Bhante started a girls’ scholarship project. His intention was to assist those girls who drop out of school because of financial difficulties, family conflicts, and/or social discriminations.
Bhante’s goal is clear. “Whenever I do these projects my goal is to eliminate needless suffering and help people live with dignity and respect. At the same time, I would like to raise people’s awareness and inspire them to be more compassionate. My goal for the scholarship program has the same two objectives. First, I would like to help as many girls as possible get a better education and, at the same time, raise awareness of this particular issue.”
Understandably, there are many applicants and requests for this program. According to Bhante, due to the small size and financial limitations of the Triple Gem Society, “even one scholarship is a really big deal for us.” In spite of these constraints, in 2002 Bhante was able to select twelve girls.
He spoke of five young women from Sri Lanka who have already received their scholarships and are currently attending a university. In January of 2004, five girls from Kenya will receive financial assistance to attend high school after application processing. In addition, two disabled young women from Kenya were selected to go to college.
In selecting girls for the program, Bhante weighs many factors and must ultimately choose the most needy. He spoke of following up a social worker’s request, and traveling to a village about 500km from Nairobi where there are a heartbreaking number of AIDS orphans. He personally met with the girls who had lost their parents to this devastating disease. After careful consideration, the five girls who will attend high school were chosen. These young people had no way of continuing their education without help.
In Sri Lanka, Bhante went to the rural and economically depressed district of Kantale (about 150km from the capital of Colombo). After meeting with their parents to discuss their dire financial difficulties, four girls were selected. Bhante said he also chose one girl from the Kandy district, also from an impoverished family. These families, like so many others, simply have no money to send their girls to school when they can barely provide food.
Bhante is confident that the scholarship funds will be handled properly. In both Kenya and Sri Lanka, bank accounts have been set up specifically for service projects. In Kenya, the account is managed by Raj Pandit and his wife Smritha. Both are students of Bhante’s and have helped him for several years with projects in Africa.
In Sri Lanka, the account is managed by Trish and David Williams. Bhante stated, “David is an American who works at the U.S. Embassy in Colombo. He is a trustworthy friend who manages funds for all our projects in Sri Lanka.”
Because of the scholarship project, these girls will not only have the opportunity to improve their current self-esteem. They will also be able to grow into educated young women, alter their financial status, and pass on their knowledge to encourage their own children to better their lives. In creating the scholarship project, Bhante has not only reduced needless suffering in the lives of these girls, but has also provided future generations with the possibility for a brighter tomorrow.