Sonali Dinushika Gunasekara

I grew up in a small village located in an ancient kingdom called Anuradhapura. Since my childhood, I dreamt big though I was born in a village which was hardly noticed by outsiders. I had many ambitions which changed over time. At a very small age, I wanted to become a TV presenter and my parents still say it was great hear me when I read the news. When I started schooling, I wanted to become a teacher and to teach in a school in a rural area. Then, as I gradually went up with the exams in the school and obtained flying colours for my O levels, I thought of becoming a doctor. So, I selected the biology stream for my A levels Once the results were out, I realized that was not good enough to get enrolled in medicine. Later, I got selected for a government university and for an interesting subject: Health Promotion.   

I enrolled in the Faculty of Applied Sciences in Rajarata University in 2014 for a BSc in Health Promotion and it was a turning point of my life. I learned and experienced the beauty of community-based field work. I received the opportunity to serve people and to improve their health and wellbeing in different aspects including improving Early Childhood Care and Development (ECCD) practices, Reduction of Non-Communicable Diseases (NCDs), and Prevention of tobacco, alcohol and other drug consumption among rural and estate sector communities as a part of my undergraduate field work. There, I was able to work with women’s groups, men’s groups, children’s groups and youth groups in terms of identifying and prioritizing the health issues they are having, and in identifying and addressing the underlying factors which affect their health and wellbeing. All these experiences helped me to successfully carry out my research during my specialization for the Health Promotion degree.  

For this research, I selected the topic of bullying among schooling adolescents in a rural school setting. I was able to design and develop an intervention to address this issue among the students in that particular school. It was such an unforgettable experience to me. I completed my undergraduate degree in 2019 with best grades and I am grateful for all the communities I worked with, as they paved the way for that achievement. Returning again to my dream, I wanted to join an academic career path.  

I received a full scholarship to join the ECLIPSE family as a full time PhD candidate which is the best ever opportunity I have received in my life. I hope I will be able to make a difference in the lives of communities again. And now I know what I actually want in my life. It is about making a difference in others’ lives while enjoying it myself.