Originally published: January 2015
Theepika, now 21 years-old, just graduated from nursing school in October. She is still riding the bike she received in 6th grade from World Bicycle Relief. She remembers how she felt the day she received her bike. I thought, I got a very big thing! I used it for school and evening classes up to 11th grade. My father took the bicycle to the seashore for fishing. My relatives used it, too.
Theepika described her life after the tsunami and before she received her bike. I didn’t go to evening classes. Teachers would punish me. So, I told them excuses for missing class. After she received her bike and started evening classes, Theepika believes she was able to study more to pass O-Level and A-Level exams (the US equivalent of a high school diploma). She has gone on to further her studies and is a recent graduate of a nursing school program alongside her girlfriend Dilshani.
Like her girlfriends (Dilshani, Krishanthini, Anushiya), Theepika is also a sports enthusiast. With the bike she could go to kabaddi and volleyball practice. Before she received the bike, she couldn’t pay the 3-wheeler (local taxi) fare to go to meets that were beyond walking distance from home. With her bike, the distance was no longer a barrier and she returned to her two passions–learning and sports.
Photos: Leah Missbach Day, Mike Weyerhaeuser