Taking into consideration the need for a “listening presence” among the people affected by the war, a group of young ladies were selected by Fr. Jeyabalan and Fr. Nerhu to be trained as ‘BeFrienders’. The Human Rights Office Kandy with the assistance of Sr. Christabel a psychological Counselor and a therapist from Mannar, trained the group in three sessions.
The first part of the workshop was held in Kandy at the Lewella Fatima Retreat House from the 03rd to the 08th of November 2012 and the second session from the 08th to 14th February 2013. The final part of the workshop was in Mannar Keeri Gnonothayam from April 19th to 23rd 2013. The award ceremony was held after the completion of the 03 workshops.
For nearly three decades Sri Lanka has been scarred by a bitter civil war driven by ethnic tension. Much of the Mannar district was under the control of rebel Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam for many years. The Mannar district was affected the most by the civil war in the North.
BeFriender training originated in the 1980s to provide skilled pastoral care and the importance of the BeFriender Ministry is that BeFrienders themselves are on a journey of developing and growing each day. BeFrienders are a “listening presence.” And there is a healing power in telling one’s story. BeFrienders know the value of active listening which is a critical component of training. BeFrienders listen with compassion and they understand the importance of hearing another’s story from another perspective. Respect and empathy allow them to listen and respond without judgment. BeFrienders are caring and not curing.
BeFriender Training begin with Physical exercises, Relaxation and Meditation. Life giving sources of the workshop were Input sessions, group Sharing, group activities and art therapy. One hour of games in the afternoon was not only for relaxation and socialization but also a means of value education and personality formation. At the final part of the workshop co-counseling and counseling practicum were facilitated with a group of children. BeFrienders were also trained in facilitating group counseling.
Towards the end of the workshop with the process of their inner healing Befrienders showed signs of steady personality improvements. The session on “Saying Good Bye to their unfinished business” brought a great relief to the many losses of their life. A sense of relief and a general tone of joy prevailed as they achieved the much desired closure at the end of the award ceremony on the last day of the workshop.
The awarding of the certificates was a landmark in the lives of the BeFrienders certifying that they are qualified to be in the BeFriender service in society. The Director of the Human Rights Office Fr. Nandana Manatunga, Fr. Jeyabaln and Fr. Nerhu and the superior of the Oblate House, parents of the awardees were present for the celebration that was organized by Befrienders.
Human Rights Office Kandy, Torture in Sri Lanka, Disappearances in Sri Lanka, Healing and Counseling
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