When we arrived at the GiveLight home, the clock was nearing midnight. The home stood as a tan, two-story building, distinct from some nearby structures with its windows and proper shingle roof. As I glanced at the windows of the reception room, I spotted children donned in white thobes and kufis, waiting eagerly for our arrival. Stepping inside, the children rose and greeted Ami and me in unison with heartfelt “Assalamualaikum.”
Throughout my visit, I interacted with children of all ages, from the eight-year-old Pawaz to the seventeen-year-old Osama. I made it a personal mission to learn all forty boys’ names. Throughout our time together, I grew closest with Osama and Shifan, who served as translators during my visit and helped me understand the lives of the children around me.
In the corridors and communal spaces, I shared smiles and fist bumps with the younger boys, introducing them to board and card games from my homeland. In return, they patiently taught me phrases in Tamil, and my simple water bottle trick brought them boundless joy. Several times a day, a younger boy would tap me on the shoulder, handing me an empty plastic water bottle. A small group would gather around as I expertly twisted the bottle at its midpoint, quickly removing the cap to release a burst of water vapor with a resounding POP! The boys’ cheers and subsequent offerings of more bottles filled the home with laughter and camaraderie.
With the older boys, I engaged in deeper conversations. They were curious about my life in the United States, and I was equally intrigued by their experiences in Sri Lanka. With the assistance of Shifan and Osama as interpreters, I gained a profound understanding of these boys and their lives within the home.
During the time at the home, the boys and I played board games, badminton, cricket, and volleyball. It amazed me how good they were at sports, I got beat in everything we did! The boys also taught me karate, and I in turn taught them some wrestling. We also visited the beach where we had water fights and threw each other in the ocean. My parents and I fundraised in the weeks leading up to the visit. Using the finds, we supplied the boys with new backpacks, and the home with numerous comforters, pillows, art supplies, and towels. We also used some of the money for a special Pizza Hut dinner!
One aspect of life at the home that resonated deeply with me was the absence of modern distractions. Despite having access to electronic devices, the boys felt little need for them. They spent their days studying, worshiping, or simply enjoying each other’s company outdoors. The time they spent together and the connections they fostered inspired me, prompting me to seek ways to integrate these valuable components into my own life.
All this is to say, if you are given the opportunity to visit one of the GiveLight homes, please take it! My visit was a profound and transformative experience that expanded my horizons, deepened my empathy, and left an indelible mark on my heart. As I looked out the window on my flight back, I saw the majestic island of Sri Lanka grow smaller and smaller, and felt an overwhelming sense of awe and inspiration from my adventures there. Alhamdulillah.