Rehabilitation for Sri Lankan Refugees
The September Peace Mail comes to you from the Okkur Refugee Camp in Southern India where Sri Lankan refugees are trained to be health workers to assist their fellow residents as well as provide them with skills that can be used once they return to their homes. Read all about Chaturi* and Shamini’s amazing story of care and recovery.
Chaturi and Shamini at the camp canteen
Let me tell you my story: I am Chaturi* and I am 31 years old and live in the Okkur Refugee Camp in central Tamil Nadu, in India. My family fled hundreds of kilometres from Sri Lanka when I was 6 and we have been in the camp here ever since.
OfERR (Organisation for Eelam Refugee Rehabilitation) has provided me with training and I was a health worker and studying to become a nurse when, two years ago at the age of 29, I had a stroke.
The stroke paralysed me on one side of my body, I couldn’t even raise my hands and was bed-ridden. Many people suffer strokes or know of a loved-one who has had a stroke. It is a time of fear for all and my parents and brother, who are with me in the camp were so sad – I am their only daughter! We feared there was no future for me.
My belief in God gave me strength and I knew about all the wonderful work done by OfERR as I had received their training. A friend and fellow health worker in my camp, Shamini, with the help of a nearby doctor, started me in the OfERR rehabilitation program. Every day I had a physiotherapy session. It was very hard but I knew I had to continue. It wouldn’t have even been possible if it was not for the financial assistance I received from OfERR. It cost 120 rupees ($AUD2.20) a day for me to receive this treatment and my family could never have afforded this alone.
“I hope I can give to someone in need as much as I’ve received.”
Almost a year after the stroke had left me lame I took my first steps! Can you imagine my joy and the joy of my family? Now in the morning I get out of bed and walk. Without the work of Act for Peace and OfERR I would have been bed ridden for the rest of my life. I am improving each and every day. I help my mother in the camp canteen now but one day soon I will again be a health worker and continue my studies to be a nurse. I hope I can give to someone in need as much as I’ve received.
My friend and case worker Shamini tells me “now everyone is happy.” And it is true!
* Names have been changed to protect identities
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Find out more about becoming an Act for Peace Partner
Act for Peace’s partner, the Organisation for Eelam Refugees Rehabilitation (OfERR) provides a holistic approach to health and hygiene for camp residents from basic services and nutrition supplements for children, adolescent girls and pregnant women, to counselling and prosthetic limbs for amputees. OfERR proves essential health services in over 100 camps in Tamil Nadu, South India.
OfERR trains volunteer health works and counsellors in the camp so they can provide aid where it is needed. In extreme situations OfERR can provide refuge for vulnerable children.
Many refugees yearn to return home to Sri Lanka when it is safe to do so. OfERR stands ready to assist with documentation and counselling. In the meantime, OfERR provides training and volunteer positions to refugees so they can obtain skills that will enable them to support themselves once they leave the camps.
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