It has been fifteen years since one of the most destructive disasters in memory - the Boxing Day tsunami - struck South East Asia, but many of the poorest communities in Sri Lanka are still in recovery.
The children whose lives were forever altered by the disaster are now young adults, struggling to enter the job market in a ruined economy. One in five young people in the country are unemployed, and the numbers are rising each year.
Priyantha couldn’t find work after leaving school. Like with many of his peers, his lack of education and marketable skills was the biggest barrier to escaping the poverty which affects one fifth of families in Sri Lanka’s second largest city, Monaragala.
Although education is free in the country, children from poor families face many obstacles to continuing their studies and almost a quarter leave school at age 14 when compulsory education ends – most without any formal qualifications.
Priyantha joined the SOS vocational training centre in 2015 alongside 150 other young students from the impoverished region. He trained in welding, one of six specialist training courses the centre offers, and now runs his own successful welding workshop.
“This is an agricultural area, so I mostly make the trailers and grills for the farmers,” Priyantha tells us.
Now that Priyantha is earning enough to financially support himself and his elderly parents, he plans to expand his business and employ more people. He has recently purchased a plot of land where he intends to build a second workshop, and he is providing on the job training to another young student - his way of giving back to the training centre which helped him build his career.
“With the training you can get a good job and a stable position in life. And it teaches good discipline so you can go anywhere and work,” he told us. “Then you can support others, like I do now.”
Priyantha’s mother believes the training has set her son on a safer and happier path. “There are lots of people addicted to smoking and alcohol in this area,” she admits. “I am proud of Priyantha because he has stayed away from all that, and this is where he is now!”
SOS set up the Monaragala vocational training centre in the aftermath of the disaster to support economic growth – one of 59 centres we run worldwide. Supported by the fundraising efforts of our corporate partner, Alpha FMC, the centre helps up to 200 young people each year become financially independent and contribute towards their community’s recovery by employing and training other youngsters.
We have also helped thousands of families in the country to improve their livelihoods and offer their children a better start in life through our family strengthening programmes countrywide.
You can help us empower young people like Priyantha around the world by making a donation today.