Adventist youth in Sri Lanka focus on special needs children
One-year-in-mission volunteers learn life lessons during a series of visits to special education schools
October 14, 2015
Gay Deles with additional reporting by Janath Dananjana
Twenty year-old Gobi Krishana and eighteen year-old Mohan Raj are among the One-Year-in-Mission (OYIM) volunteers for the Adventist church in Sri Lanka. They’re used to leading out in compassion activities, mentoring youth and being spokespersons for OYIM locally. However, as they interacted with groups of special needs children during recent community activities, Gobi and Mohan didn’t know how much these children would teach them. OR Gobi and Mohan didn’t know how much they would learn from these often overlooked children.
They first visited the Ozanam Centre for those with special needs on September 21. The school is located in Batticaloa on the eastern side of the island country. Soon after, word spread of their weekly activities on Fridays at Ozanam. In response, a deaf orphanage invited them to begin regular visits there on Thursdays.
For their most recent visit to Ozanam on October 2, Gobi and Mohan planned a coloring activity and celebrated the birthday of one child that day.
Reflecting on the day’s activity, Mohan who is described by his friends as gifted with organization skills and kindliness said, “The moment I saw the children who need help in expressing what they need or want, I thanked God for making me special-even though there’s many things in me I need to change. [paraphrased]
Gobi, whose generous and self-sacrificing spirit gained them friends at the center, said, “God’s love can change everyone and everything. Money is not a matter. When they [the children] smile and hug us, we can feel the trust they have in us.” [paraphrased]
Assigned to Batticaloa, Gobi and Mohan are half of the OYIM-Sri Lanka team. Norisha and Anjalika, the other two team members, are assigned in the capital city of Colombo.
To better prepare for these recent outreach events, OYIM-Sri Lanka coordinator Janath Dananjana arranged an autism awareness seminar early this year for the entire team. Ms. Victoria Liyanage, former principal of Ceylinco School for Autism and author of Practical Guide on Autism, provided training on February 19. She shared sobering facts such as that “for every 93 kids in Sri Lanka, 1 is autistic.”
As a result, Janath’s dream is to have an Autism awareness program but that hasn’t been realized due to lack of resources. Janath’s spirit, however, remains high when he sees the OYIM volunteers live compassion in their lives.
“During my OYIM training, we experienced how it is to follow Christ and show God’s love in practical ways… and this experience has transformed our lives and Others’ too through Christ,” he observes.
Earlier this year, the group caught the attention of Sri Lanka’s popular news network, Hiru TV, when the group of youth visited a cancer hospital on February 4 during World Cancer day. In the cancer hospital, the youth leaders led in a short devotional program, spent time with the patients while reading them story books, and gave away gift packs.
OYIM-Sri Lanka focuses their time and resources on community service. The team believes that compassion has to be felt through kind words and action.