The morning drive through the town of Warakapola in the Kegalle district, takes us away from the busy city, through lush green paddy fields and into the village of Narampola. Tucked away in the hamlet, is Ajantha Weerasooriya’s home; small, organised and swept clean for her guests.
As we enter her home, Ajantha eagerly directs us into a snug little room, decked with colourful rugs and carpets across the walls. She beams, as we look around the room admiring her pieces put together so carefully with definitive stitches. Impressed by her work, we ask her where she learned to sew. “To be honest I didn’t know anything when I began sewing, I can only say that God gave me the skill! she says laughing. “The demand is for the knitted variety which is a bit hard to do and takes time as well. The sewn type I sell for rupees 50 and the small variety of the knitted type sells for rupees 100 and the larger ones for rupees 200″ she says fingering one of the rugs she recently produced.
It’s hard to imagine that this vibrant woman of 44, wearing a warm smile and talking animatedly to us about the ins and outs of her carpet business, has a painful past. “I live with my 2 children. My husband left me when my eldest was 3 years and my youngest was 5 months old” she says, describing her family. Ajantha’s sons, who are now 14 and 18 years old, are the only members of her immediate family who is speaking to her since she became a Christian.
Now a Christian for three and a half years, Ajantha tells us of the very difficult past that led her to Christ. As a young child, Ajantha spent most of her childhood with her grandmother. She was passed onto her because her parents believed she brought ill luck to the family. “When I was cast away by family members and with nothing to hold on to, that’s when I came to know the Lord. My family does not treat me well so there’s no one other than God to help me”. After she became a Christian, the problems she faced from her family intensified. She tells us that they have asked her to leave the house where she now lives; a house that she was allowed to build on land that belonged to her niece. “They don’t like me going to church and they don’t like me bringing church people here either,” she explains.
Despite her circumstances, there are several reasons why Ajantha is grateful and is positive that her situation will turn for the better. From the very beginning, at different stages of her life help came to her when she least expected it and from the most unlikely places. She was surprised when a relative offered to contribute financially to her children’s education, but assistance for her children’s education didn’t stop there. “I met the school authorities and told them I had no money to buy the school books or clothes for my children. After that it was the school teachers that gave me and my children food to keep us alive!” she explains, recounting the miraculous way in which help came in her hour of need. She goes on to tell us how she was included in social welfare programmes that also helped her and her children to a great extent. “I was able to send my children to school but as I could not afford to send my older son for additional classes, the teachers gave him free tuition till he left school,” she said, looking back on her life and the many instances in which people she hardly knew, came to her aid.
As she continued to receive help, Ajantha also desperately tried to find a way to support her family by earning a regular income. Her first attempt however at supporting her family by weaving baskets from reed didn’t make headway. “I had no means to support my family, so I asked the Government for a machine. After I prayed to God it didn’t even take 3 days when he answered my prayer” she explained, showing us the industrial sewing machine that she received from the government and which now supports her livelihood.
When the NCEASL met Ajantha recently at a camp organised by Religious Liberty Commission for women who had endured persecution for their faith, they learned that she needed some assistance to help sustain her business. “I did not have any money at that time to purchase cloth for my business. I see it as a very big favour of God in my life and keep thanking God for it” says Ajantha grateful for the grant she received from the NCEASL.
Speaking about her experience at the camp, Ajantha tells us how she was “enlightened and encouraged at this camp and got to meet several others”. The camp was a cathartic experience for Ajantha, who found here several women like herself who were only too willing to listen to her, empathise and share their own story.
Having started her carpet business at the beginning of 2015, Ajantha has learned to work her way around getting a fair price for her goods. “There is a shop close by that purchases my goods for resale and I also sell them to other places when I have enough” she says.
When her immediate family wanted to have very little to do with her, support always came to Ajantha from caring schoolteachers to assistance from organisations like the NCEASL. Hearing Ajantha’s story of help amidst despair and resilience despite trials, explains the warm smile on her face.
A grant from the NCEASL helped Ajantha purchase much needed material for her carpet business and take it to the next level! To learn more about Ajantha, visit our website http://bit.ly/1TfU4N4