My name is Preethini Roshika Perera. I am 27 years old, a third year undergraduate at the Univerisity of Kelaniya. I am from Yaya 2, Rajanganaya in the North Central Province. We come from a very poor family and my father is a labourer and mother is a house-wife. I have one sister who is two years younger to me. We live in a half- built house.

From my childhood I wanted to become a teacher and help the poor children like me in my village. I studied hard and passed the G.C.E. O/L exam well.

However, things changed rapidly and transformed all our lives to something which we never imagined.

I can never forget that day. It was Saturday the 17th of March 2007 around 7.30am in the morning, a very much an ordinary day, the day that my life was changed. I was sweeping the outside compound of our house and I was supposed to attend a class around 10.30 am. It started with a small neck pain and in the next 10 minutes my hands became paralyzed. Within half an hour, it spread to my whole body. I was immediately admitted to the Yaya 5 Hospital and from there I was transferred the Anuradhapura General Hospital. Within hours the situation worsened and I was sent to the ICU. For 2 months, I was attached with an artificial respiratory device. I was virtually a lifeless body.

I learnt that I was infected with a disease known as transverse myelitis, a neurological condition in which the spinal cord is inflamed. I became very weak and my limbs dysfunctional. I needed help in all the sense I could imagine. All my family members worked very hard to bring me back to life.

Months later, I had to go through physiotherapy at the Digana Rehabilitation Cetre in Kandy. I was trapped to a wheelchair and I became desperate and sad. It was not what I expected. All my dreams of the future turned upside down. My situation affected my studies as well as my family in many ways.

In 2011, we had our church feast and the priest who came to our parish visited all the houses in the area. He happened to come to ours to bless our house and witnessed my condition. He asked me, ‘‘Do you like to study further?’’ I replied, ‘’Yes’’. Later he arranged me a donor who sent me Rs.5000 each month and I started my A/L in art stream. Two teachers came and helped me with the subjects in political science and Sinhala while a Rev. Sister and a catechist helped me with the Catholicism subject free of charge. My exam results were 2 As and 1 B and was selected to the University.

However with that I expected more troubles and difficulties. As I am unable to do anything alone, my parents and the sister also had to reside close to the university and we rented a house for Rs.10,000 per month. In March I underwent further surgery and was told by doctors that after several years I may be able to recover. I feel that I still have a long way to go and the freedom of life is further away from me.

Then it came as a surprise, under a scholarship programme of Caritas Anuradhapura – Sethsaviya, I was selected and receive regular financial support to further my higher studies. In addition I receive support from the Welfare Ministry and my relatives. I am thankful wholeheartedly to everyone who supported me on my journey.

It is important to identify who really needs assistance and to reach out to them. I am thankful and happy that I am helped till this day.

Preethini was supported to further her higher studies under the Poland-Caritas Sri Lanka Scholarship Programme implemented by Caritas Anuradhapura – Sethsaviya under the guidance of Caritas Sri Lanka. This is a project supported by Caritas Poland.