News ≫ Berkeley Prep student uses book to capture Sri Lankan life through her heart

Berkeley Prep student uses book to capture Sri Lankan life through her heart

Feb 23, 2018
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Berkeley Prep sophomore Anuksha Wickramasinghe has published a book — Sri Lanka: Through My Eyes — that provides an intimate view into the homeland of her parents.

She presents the story with her photographs of Sri Lanka’s wildlife — such as turtles, parakeets, monkeys, storks, eagles, crocodiles, leopards, water buffalo, deer, boar and elephants — that she captured on sightseeing tours and safaris.

But the true narrative is told through Anuksha’s heart. Her parents came to the United States when a Civil War broke out during the 1980s in Sri Lanka, an island country in Southeast Asia. The conflict lasted three decades, transforming a tranquil paradise to a war zone. Then, in 2004, an Asian tsunami killed more than 35,000 residents.

While learning about the bloodshed and tragedy, Anuksha, 16, said she felt “very connected’’ to Sri Lanka after making four trips to the island. “From a young age, I have been raised (to appreciate) the culture of Sri Lanka, from how I look to the food I eat to the language (spoken by her parents),’’ she said. “It is a very beautiful land. But I have also experienced the people and that’s where I have learned so much more.’’

Proceeds from Anuksha’s book will benefit the Grace Girls’ Home, an orphanage. Anuksha said she met girls who “had to suffer atrocities that no human being should ever have to endure.’’ They witnessed parents being shot in the war. They begged in the streets. They slept in graveyards. Anuksha, a serious photographer since age 8, said she forged a deep relationship with the girls and will work to establish a library at the home.

“It was breathtaking and mesmerizing to see all the wildlife I was able to photograph,’’ she said. “But nothing was more amazing than those girls. For them to smile and be so kind and loving after all they have experienced, it truly made an impression on me.

“You’d think they would be down and disappointed, but they live every day to the fullest. It showed me that we all need to come together for a common cause, regardless of our ethnicity, religion or political beliefs. We’re all human beings at the end of the day and we should be helping other people.’’

Kim Lawless, Berkeley Prep’s Director of Community Engagement and Service Learning, said she’s impressed by the passion of Anuksha’s photography.

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