Chamini’s letter brings light to a village

A little girl's plea for electricity has caught the attention of the Minister of Power and Energy, Champika Ranawake and now a remote village has one of its dreams realized – the provision of electricity for everyone.

Dear Mister Minister,

"...I really don't know by whom or for what purpose electricity was invented. I have read that John Logie Baird invented the television and Thomas Alva Edison invented the electric bulb...but the bulb which Edison invented is yet to give us light...Siyambalawewa is still in the dark..."

Chamini's letter appeared in the Divaina news paper of July 29th 2010 describing in detail the hardships the children and her community in Siyambalawewa go through with no electricity.

Siyambalawewa, a remote village situated in Galenbindunuwewa (48 km from Anuradhapura) consists mainly of an agriculture community. Although rich in harvest, the absence of electricity was a major set back in their development. For any work which needed electrical equipment, even for a grinding mill, the community had to travel nearly 10 km.

"While the rest of the country is brought together through John Logi's television, the children in Siyambalawewa still continue to live as frogs in the well, being distant from the rest of the world... We study in the light of a kerosene lamp in the night to pass our exams...We too like to use Edison's electric bulb but we do not have electricity..."wrote the 17-year-old girl.

"This is the first time I ever wrote something like this," says Chamini, "When we were asked to do an article at the journalism workshop conducted by World Vision for our child society, the electricity problem was the first thing that came to my mind. When I handed over my work to the facilitators, they were so impressed that they said they would publish it in the newspaper."

Three days after her article appeared in the newspaper, engineers from the Electricity Board came in search of Chamini and her village leaders under the instructions of Power and Energy Minister, Champika Ranawake.

"They told me that the Minister had been moved by my letter and that the process was underway to give electricity to our village. I just couldn't believe it," she said "Our village elders had done so much – writing to politicians, staging protests – to get electricity but nothing worked. How could a small piece of writing I did make such a big change?"

Within the next two months the plans got off the ground with Chamini's participation every step of the way and within 80 days electricity came to Siyambalawewa and to the surrounding villages.

The grateful community has gifted a computer to Chamini in appreciation of her advocacy efforts.

In a special letter to Chamini and her community, the Deputy Minister of Power and Energy, Premalal Jayasekera recognized the effort of the young girl.

"This daughter has spoken on behalf of all the children and families who go through hardships without electricity and has proved how you can play a role in bringing about development in your village," he said.

Skills training workshops on journalism and writing skills for children was initiated by World Vision Lanka with an aim to create a space for the voice of children. The Project also aims to create a forum of young journalists from the rural villages where we work and link them with national media.