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Colombo Branch of Sumithrayo:

Holistic approach for suicide prevention

In the past the ethos of befriending practiced by Sumithrayo was to focus on the emotional situation faced by the individual and thereby ensuring the caring, understanding and support needed by that person to overcome the situation.

During the out reach programs conducted by the Colombo South branch of Sumithrayo (at Ethul Kotte) they came to realize the pressures faced by school children who come from broken homes, others who have to achieve examination results better than the best and still others facing emotional problems and are burdened beyond their age. Keeping this in mind Colombo South branch of Sumithrayo organized an all island essay competition with the title "the importance of developing decision making skills and coping skills amongst school children".

According to their experience having good decision making skills and coping skills will help an individual to have greater self confidence to face the day to day challenges, keeping them from being lured by undesirable compulsions such as tobacco, alcohol, drugs, premarital/extra marital sex etc. all of which can lead to emotional problems.

With the auspicious of the Ministry of Education and the Social Services Ministry the Colombo South branch of Sumithrayo is now making a concerted endeavour to open up a new chapter in enhancing the lives of the rural communities with a view to reducing suicides in Sri Lanka.

Colombo South branch of Sumithrayo has risen from very humble beginnings and is now a leader in the field of befriending and Social Services.

The vision and mission of the Colombo South branch of Sumithrayo is to bring down the rate of suicides to a minimum number and if possible right down to zero and make Sri Lanka a suicide free country. They realize this is ambitious but the Director quoted the Chinese Philosopher Lao-Pzu "the journey of a thousand miles begins with one step" and to take it further quoted the American Politician Adlai Stevenson who said "the journey of thousand leagues begin with a single step, so we must never neglect any work within our reach however small".

In pursuance of their new vision they have carried out the following projects so far for this year:

a.Train the trainers; the first batch of teachers, hospital staff and police officers has completed their initial training program and further training programs are in the pipeline. b.Consequent to 5,600 schools from all over the island being intimated regarding the essay competition many schools had responded enthusiastically. It had been open to ordinary level and advanced level students and had been conducted in Sinhalese. The principals of schools had been very supportive. The Director (Sinhala) Rodrigue from the Education Ministry (Sri Jayawardenapura zone) and a team of teachers appointed by him had helped to mark the papers. The Council of Management and volunteers of the Colombo South branch are extremely grateful for their unstinted support. Sixteen computers were gifted by the Colombo South branch of Sumithrayo to the winning students from both the junior and senior categories, from the 8 provinces that participated, the funds being raised by the sale of raffle tickets and donations. In this regard they are grateful to all the sponsors.

Two hundred and fifty Merit Certificates were awarded too.

With Prof. Carlo Fonseka as the Chief Guest this prize giving ceremony was held on March 21, 2009. The keynote address delivered by Prof. Fonseka on the topic 'the importance of developing decision making skills and coping skills amongst school children' was extremely valuable to both students and parents. He ended the speech playing a song composed by him and sung by Pandith Amaradeva that gave much food for thought to all those present at the ceremony. Six hundred and fifty were present consisting of students, principals, teachers and families of the winning students. As the majority were from distant areas they were served breakfast as they arrived and lunch before leaving.

The highlights of the cultural segment were the dance items performed by the students of Ananda Balika Vidyalaya, Kotte and Mahamaya Vidyalaya, Nugegoda. The plea of Colombo South Sumithrayo is that they will have more assistance and encouragement to make their dreams come true.

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