Kalutara (AsiaNews) - Dulanjali Ariyathilake is 17 years old and successfully passed her exams the last semester. She wants to be a graphic designer. Her life and her dreams are like those of any other teenage girls her age in Sri Lanka. However, she is not really "like any other girl." Dulanjali lives in fact in a wheelchair because she was born without arms and her legs are much shorter than average. "God," she told AsiaNews, "taught me how to use my legs and my feet as if they were my own hands. Although that is the way I am, I am happy with my life, with the love I receive from the people I love, learning new things every day."
Dulanjali lives at the Marc Sri in Karukurunda (Kalutara District, Western Province), a Catholic facility that has welcomed seniors and children in need for over 30 years. After she was born, her father brought her to Rita Perera, founder of the house, to take care of her.
"I am happy my father gave me to mummy Rita," she explained, "because otherwise I would not have had so many opportunities to improve my life. I feel fortunate to have received the love of mummy Rita and daddy Julian." Daddy Julian, as she calls Fr Julian Tissera, is the facility's spiritual director.
At the facility, Dulanjali is known as dhoni, "daughter". Over the years, she has learnt to use her feet as if they were hands. In fact, "With the fingers of the left foot I can hold pen, pencil, and use the computer."
She spends her days in a wheelchair, which she can manoeuvre on her own thanks to special commands. She is happy with her independence. Only in the evening, when she has to go to sleep, does she need someone to help her lie down in bed.
When she thinks about Dulanjali, Marc Sri director Rita Perera feels "very happy. We want to help her achieve all her desires, pass upcoming school exams and become a graphic designer."
Set up about 30 years ago, the facility includes 11 homes for people varying in age and sex, from new-born babies to 95-year olds.
"God's love gives us the strength to run the place," Perera said. "Sometimes we get donations, sometimes food and basic necessities. However, we do not have a steady income or property to pay expenses".
"Sometimes," Dulanjali said, "I feel sad looking at myself and my friends. They are beautiful. They help me a lot when we are in school. But this sadness I feel does not last. I try to think about the good things in my life, about the gifts, talents and opportunities God gave me. I always try to enjoy the finer things in life. And I want the same thing for my younger brothers and sisters (the other residents). You should always try to see the beautiful in what we receive, and be yourself."