For the past two summers, Gulliver Prep senior Anika Wikramanayake has gone to Sri Lanka to volunteer. There, she’s worked with Emerge Lanka, a charitable organiza-tion that helps young women and girls who are sexual abuse victims. The girls are in shelters because they are testifying against their attackers.
Unfortunately, even if their attackers go to jail, their ordeal is not over.
“They can’t be released to their family because there is such a stigma against sexual violence their families disown them,” Wikramanayake says.
Often, nothing happens to their attackers and the girls stay in the system. A big problem is that often the attacker is a family member, or a close neighbor, or someone they know, such as a coach.
“In the cases where there is incest, if there is another daughter, she is removed from the family,” she says. “There could be two or three daughters in the shelter because one of them was attacked.”
Many of the girls have suffered severe trauma and that affects every aspect of their lives.
“A lot of them have PTSD and you see it when you interact with them,” she says.
At the shelter they get counseling and education. They also learn different skills, such as making jewelry. She used her artistic abilities to design jewelry for the girls to make. Wikramanayake says she also did art activities with the girls and she chatted with them because they needed more interaction.
“The girls really like artistic things, they like drawing and dancing and singing,” she says. “They really are like normal kids.” She’s glad she volunteered both years, even though her parents were worried that the internship would be too emotionally dif-ficult for her.
“They thought I’d come back shell shocked, depressed,” she says. “I didn’t know I was going to come back for a second summer until I finished my first internship. Then I knew I wanted to come back.”
Wikramanayake says while she was there, the charity brought in a former Supreme Court justice, who talked to the girls about the tough issues they were facing and she even conducted a mock trial. Wikramanayake says she overheard some of the girls talking about their expe-riences in court, saying things like “the last time I was in court, I passed out,” or “I was so scared!”
Volunteering for Emerge Lanka affected her enough that if she ends up going to college in Boston she plans to volunteer at Emerge Global, the charity’s headquarters.
Here in Miami, Wikramanayake, who is Gulliver’s Silver Knight nominee in the General Scholarship category, volunteered at animal shelters but had to stop when she developed severe allergies to dogs.
She is a part of the Baby Bulls reading program, where she goes on Saturdays to an elementary school to work with children who are reading below grade level.
Wikramanayake is president of the Gulliver chorus and an officer in the Music club.
Club officers are working to increase the number of performances outside the school at places like nursing homes. They have a drive to collect musical instruments to be donated to music programs that are in need.
She’s considering minoring in music depending on which university she attends, and says she wants to keep performing.
She’s looking at several Ivy League schools such as Columbia and Penn, as well as the University of Miami, Barnard, Northwestern, Rice and U.C. Berkley. She’s still undecided on her major but she thinks she wants to go into humanitarian work.