It looks like a normal prize-giving ceremony at a normal school. Children are arranged by age on rows of seats in the barn-like hall. They wait patiently, a burble of chatter rising on the boiling air towards the tin roof. On a raised concrete dais is a small table on which sit the books to be presented as prizes. A teacher reads out the name of each winning child who moves shyly to the front to collect their prize with a gracious bow.
Room to Read, the educational charity that stocked Mullipothane’s previously bereft library – with 299 books, says the proud librarian in a green sari – normally steers clear of war-torn countries. But it made an exception for Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami that swept across the island, killing 40,000 people and reducing hundreds of schools to rubble. Room to Read, which the FT is supporting in its seasonal appeal this year, builds schools and libraries, publishes local-language children’s books and provides scholarships to girls in nine poor countries. So far, according to Glenfrey De Mel, country director, the Sri Lankan arm has built 200 schools, started 665 libraries and funded 1,200 girls’ scholarships.
Read the rest at FT Weekend online.