Pahansila Scholarship Project

Pahansila Scholarship Project

Though casually started by individuals to help the needy children in Sri Lanka, today the Pahansila Scholarship Project has evolved into a streamlined mission on its own. The program is primarily aimed at helping the young learn and grow up to be good citizens. We contribute, find donors and volunteers, and raise funds to make this possible.


In the Sri lankan community at Portland, OR, there were a few individuals who were already assisting young children in Sri Lanka through personal contacts. From casual conversations we realized there are several others who would like to help in a similar manner, but found it difficult to coordinate the details in Sri Lanka. As a result, we coordinated with Pahansila General Coordinating Committee and ventured out our own Pahansila chapter. The response from the Sri Lankan community living in Portland area as well as other parts of US were very heartening and allowed us to sponsor nine students by end of the first 6 months.

What 'Pahansila' means

The literal meaning of the word Pahansila is the flame of the lamp; "pahana" in Sinhalese means the lamp and "sila" means the flame. The choice of the name is more about the cultural perception of what it means than its literal meaning. In Sri Lankan culture, light symbolizes knowledge and the darkness symbolizes lack of it. The goal of the Pahansila Scholarship Project is to help educate Sri Lanka's needy children hence bringing light into their lives.

Selection of Recipients

At the inception of Pahansila in 2003 at Urbana-Champaign, Illinois, we used mostly personal contacts to search for deserving students. Both economic need and academic performance were used as criteria to select the recipients, given the limited resources we had. From the initial search, we identified two candidates from the list of dependents maintained by the Prison Welfare Committee at Bogambara prison. In December 2002 Ishika Lokuge (2002/03 President of SLS) met with the Superintendent of Prisons, Asst. Superintendent and Welfare Officer at Bogambara Prison, and with the fathers (inmates) of the students. Arrangements were made for the welfare officer to provide some monitoring of the students with input from the respective school officials. The remaining recipients were identified through personal contacts, who provide the committee with periodic assessments of these children.

Scholarship Rates

Currently, under the Pahansila Scholarship Project students in Grades 8 and above receive Rs. 1000 (approximately $10) per month, deposited into a savings account in the child's name. Students in lower grades receive Rs. 500 (approximately $5) per month. In situations where two or more siblings are supported, each family receives an amount recommended by the supervisor of the project. The funds disbursed to primary and secondary school students are used to pay for additional coaching ("tuition") and to purchase school supplies. For undergraduate students a monthly payment of Rs.1000 or more will be made.


We maintain savings accounts at Sampath Bank, Kandy and National Savings Bank, Kalutara, solely for Pahansila Scholarship Project. The accounts are held jointly between a committee member and a volunteer in Sri Lanka to help administer funds. The committee submits biannual reports to all donors. These reports include a summary of financial transactions, progress reports from the principals/teachers and local supervisors of the students, letters from the recipients and their guardians, and a personal profile of each student. Donors are also encouraged to visit the students in person when visiting Sri Lanka.

We commit to a full year of funding for each student, with the understanding that continued support is subject to availability of funds, and proof of students' academic performance and economic need. Ideally we would continue to assist each child through his or her formal schooling, given a satisfactory academic performance is maintained and documented for our review.

For your perusal, detailed information regarding the Pahansila bank accounts in Sri Lanka and current recipients are available from Pahansila committee upon request.

Indirect Projects

In addition to the these direct projects, we facilitate a few sponsorships for individual donors. Besides laying out the groundwork to match donors and students, we provide any other assistance if required by either party, such as temporary fund transfers and facilitating communications. However, the committee is not responsible for monitoring progress of students nor regular maintenance of bank accounts for these indirect projects.

Other Chapters of Pahansila

First Pahansila chapter was formed in early 2003 at Urbana-Champaign, affiliated to the Sri Lankan Society at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Currently UC chapter supports over 75 students in Sri Lanka through this project

In late 2003, Ishika Lokuge, PGCC member, started corresponding with the Sri Lankan student body at University of Arizona at Tucson, to establish a chapter of Pahansila Scholarship Project at their university. The reasoning was to facilitate expanding the donor list by having several chapters spread throughout the USA.Currently the AZ chapter sponsors over 16 students with the generous contributions they receive from more than 25 donors living in Tucson and greater Phoenix area.

In order to expand the project outside USA, Ishika also corresponded with a few Canadian residents in August 2004. This resulted in the Pahansila Toronto Chapter. The main responsibility of this chapter is to maintain the Pahansila website, e-mail domain, and construct a database. Additionally they conduct two scholarship projects in Sri Lanka.

In 2006, our volunteers in Sri Lanka formed the Pahansila Sri Lanka chapter. The main responsibilities of this chapter include helping the chapters formed outside of Sri Lanka, with monitoring projects and helping with scholarship payment disbursements. However, in addition to volunteer work, currently they sponsor 4 stdents for education with generous donations they receive from 4 donors living in Sri Lanka.

While each chapter will administer its own projects, we will collaborate as a group to assist each other in times of need. Currently we are looking for other interested people in different states of USA and other parts of the world to form their own chapters.

Pahansila General Coordinating Committee (PGCC)

Due to the significant expansion of the project and the growing number of Pahansila chapters, Pahansila General Coordinating Committee (PGCC) was formed in September 2004. Chandana Karunatilaka from Arizona chapter, Sanjaya Amarathunge from Toronto chapter, Ishika Lokuge and Ruwan Jayaweera from US West chapter, and Shiral Devmal from Urbana-Champaign chapter currently serve on this committee. The main objective of PGCC is to ensure all chapters comply with the mission and goals of the Pahansila Project, carry out general operational work including informational and promotional activities, assist in coordinating activities between chapters toward mutual benefits, and to ensure the level of activity is standardized across the chapters. However this committee will not be involved in decision making of the Pahansila Regional Committees. Regional Committees retain the right to make their own decisions within the goals and aims of Pahansila.

Pahansila-Davis Educational Project

Pahansila-Davis Educational Project was founded with the kind generosity of Mr. and Mrs. Kelley Davis of Indiana and Mr. Kyle Davis of Sydney, Australia in funding several projects to conduct free Math and English classes to help Sri Lankan students to improve their knowledge in English and Mathematics. Because of the diversity of this project from the usual Pahansila scholarships, Pahansila General Coordinating Committee (PGCC) took the responsibility of working with Mr. Kelley Davis and carrying out these projects. The goal is to conduct these classes in different parts of Sri Lanka with each class consisting of approximately 20 students.

Currently two projects are conducted in Kandy and the PGCC has laid the foundation for another to begin in early 2007. A third project would be started in Ambalangoda for the benefit of Tsunami affected students. Each project has a local team consisting of supervisors, coordinators, and qualified teachers for English and Mathematics. The administrators submit bi-annual reports to the PGCC and Mr. Davis. These reports include a summary of financial transactions and progress reports from the teachers and local supervisors.

You can learn more about the Pahansila-Davis project from the the Pahansila general website

How you in the USA can join us

We are always in search for kind-hearted generous people to sponsor needy children in Sri Lanka. You can either pledge to sponsor a child for one year (renewed annually upon your willingness to continue) or make a one-time donation for the project. You can sponsor a student in fifth grade or higher by pledging US $10 (or multiples thereof) per month. If these donors are willing, we also encourage a direct line of communication between the donors and the students, in addition to the documentation the committee receives from the students. All pledges up to US $10 per month will be pooled into a common fund to sponsor selected students. However, we will attempt to match pledges of US $5 per month to individual students in grades 1 thru 4, depending on our ability to identify suitable recipients at the time of receiving your pledge. Donations are collected monthly, quarterly, biannually, or annually at the donors’ convenience. You will receive bi-annual progress reports and financial records from the coordinators.

You will be touched by the students' stories and moved by their heartfelt gratitude. The Pahansila coordinating committee greatly appreciate your help.

How you in Sri Lanka can join us

We are looking for counterparts in Sri Lanka to work with us in helping needy Sri Lankan students. The supervisors based in Sri Lanka are vital to the success of Pahansila Scholarship Project. They will assist the students to open bank accounts and act as our contact persons in documenting students' progress. The supervisors ensure that the committee receives a copy of the student's report, a letter from school officials documenting attendance and progress, and letters from student and guardian, every six months. The supervisors also make their own assessments and recommendations at the same time. All these documents will be included in the biannual report and will help the committee make a decision in continuing assistance to each student. When a particular student is sponsored by specific donors, we also ask for the supervisor's help in having the student write a letter to the donor at least every six months. However, beyond helping the students open their bank accounts, the supervisors will not be responsible for any financial transaction.

Please join hands with us to bring light to a child's future!

Pahansila Coordinating Committee