Photo/IllutrationSri Lankan children give the “OK” signal in a care program in Batticaloa, Sri Lanka, on Oct. 6. (Provided by Ashinaga Foundation)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A Sri Lankan disaster survivor who joined a Japanese support group has taken her healing methods to her home country to provide psychological care for children traumatized by bomb attacks.

Chandima Lakmalie, 31, held the care program for the first time in Batticaloa, eastern Sri Lanka, in October.

She tended to the needs of 82 children and their parents who lost family members or were injured in a wave of suicide bombings that mainly hit churches in April last year. More than 250 people died in the attacks.

“I hope that the children will become adults who will lead strong lives in society,” Chandima said.

On Oct. 6, the bright voices of children echoed through a hall. They played puzzles and hula-hooped with others, including local nonprofit organization members and church officials. Other were seen frolicking and running around.

The program aims to keep the children active as a way to release their anger and sadness. It also shows the children that others have suffered similar experiences.

Chandima is a member of the Ashinaga Foundation, a Tokyo-based NPO that provides financial and emotional support to children worldwide who have lost one or both parents.

Sri Lankan authorities have concluded that a local Islamic extremist group was behind the bombing attacks. Relations between different religious groups have worsened since then.

The appearance of Muslim members of the local NPO caused jitters among some of the Christian parents when the program started. However, the smiles of the children changed the tense atmosphere into a harmonious one.

“The scene was very peaceful,” Chandima said.

She started the activity because she also suffered from a disaster.

In December 2004, when Chandima was 16, she was shopping at stores near her house in Sri Lanka when the tsunami generated by a huge earthquake off Sumatra hit the island nation.

She escaped into the mountains with her mother and sisters, but her father was engulfed by the huge wave at his workplace and died.

Tormented with sadness and anxiety, she joined the care program organized by the Ashinaga Foundation.

The following year, in Japan, she shared her experience with children who suffered from the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake as well as young visiting survivors of brutal wars overseas.

She said that talking about the serious situation and her dreams set her mind free and allowed her to move forward with a positive attitude.

After she came to Japan to study, she became a member of the Ashinaga Foundation in 2014 to provide support for children.

As a victim of a tsunami, she took part in caring for children who suffered losses in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami.

When she started thinking about promoting a psychological care program in Sri Lanka, the bomb attacks occurred.

In the program held in October, she taught local NPO staff the importance and know-how of staying together with the children, respecting their humanity, and talking with them on the same level.

She said she hopes the local staff will promote care programs there, and she will support their activities.

“I want children to make Sri Lanka a better country with their friends beyond the borders of religion and ethnicity,” she said.