‘Life as Art’, an exhibition and sale of photographs by Chatrini Weeratunge in aid of Emerge Lanka Foundation to support girl children who have survived sexual abuse, will be held at the Barefoot Gallery from 28-30 November.
Chatrini Weeratunge is a photographer specialising in art, travel and humanitarian photography. Currently a scholar at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, she sees photography as an art and tool to promote awareness of various social issues. Her photography complements her career as a development specialist.
‘Life as Art’ will showcase a collection of photographs by Weeratunge that capture the intrinsic beauty of the world around her highlighted through the subtleties of light and colour. These images offer an insight into the lives of those she photographs, placing particular emphasis on movement and style. The photographs will be available for sale across a range of prices, with all proceeds set to go towards Emerge Lanka Foundation’s Reintegration Program for young survivors of sexual abuse.
Emerge Lanka Foundation is a charitable organisation that works with girls 10-18 years of age who have survived sexual abuse and are placed in shelters for their protection as they are testifying in court against their abusers.
The Emerge program includes Life Skills, Mentorship and its unique Beads-to-Business curriculum, which teaches girls to make high quality jewellery as well as the entrepreneurial and financial skills enabling them to become independent women as well as leaders of their communities.
Each unique piece of jewellery is sold in the United States, Sri Lanka – Barefoot, Buddhi Batiks, Selyn, Whatever Studio, Cozy Linen, White Walk and Cantaloupe Aqua – and online. 100% of the profits are deposited into the girls’ individual savings accounts, which they can use as adults to take care of themselves, and in some cases, their children.
Charuni Ranchigoda, Reintegration Officer at Emerge Lanka, said: “Our Reintegration Program is designed to provide support for the girls after they have left the shelter for a new start on life in the outside world. As part of the Reintegration Program, Emerge aims to establish an empowerment centre designed to increase employability of the girls as well as support them in the crucial three-month period after leaving shelters. In the frame of a halfway house, the girls are enrolled in curricula that increase their employability as well as connected with resources such as educational and vocational training and business opportunities while providing them with emotional support as well as food and lodging. Emerge Lanka also actively assists them to find jobs and/or get further education.”
Emerge continues to keep track of the girls even after they have left the nest however, the staff always available to offer advice, assistance or just talk, and meeting the girls every once in a while to make sure they are doing well, culminating in an annual reunion.
Commenting on her decision to donate the proceeds to Emerge Lanka’s Reintegration Program, Weeratunge said: “To help make a difference to the lives of these girls who have gone through immense trauma and been robbed of their childhood. The courage they have shown in taking action against their perpetrators and their efforts to get back on their feet is nothing short of being heroic.”
“It is our societal responsibility to help these girls, much in need, to get a foothold in life and emerge into adulthood safely and well. We have already let them down, as a society, in their childhood, and it is our duty to at least help them now, as adults. It is with reintegration that we can have the biggest impact,” said Mumtaz Aroos Faleel, Country Manager of Emerge Lanka, adding that the Reintegration Program is designed to assist the girls to create the future of their choice, to empower them to get back on their feet and begin their lives anew. Emerge currently works with 83 girl children ranging from 12 to 18 years of age who have survived sexual abuse.
“We are very thankful to Chatrini, for donating the proceeds of her photography exhibition to help these girls in need. It’s a beautiful gesture: beautiful photographs for a beautiful cause. We also thank all our sponsors who came forward to assist us to make this fundraiser possible,” she added.