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Sumithrayo turns 29 years

Have you seen the advertisements in the papers both Sinhala and English? Some of you have phoned us or come to see us, e-mailed or written letters. Have you ever wondered who we are, and what we do?

Sri Lanka Sumithrayo has been in existence since 1974 and incorporated by an Act of Parliament in 1986. Today the organisation has expanded to 11 centres in the Western, North Western, Central and Uva Provinces. It is affiliated to Samaritans Worldwide, an International body working in over 35 countries with more than 350 branches.

Each country has adopted names in keeping with the unique culture of that country e.g. Sumithrayo in Sri Lanka, Sneha in Madras, India, Befrienders in Australia, Samaritans in the UK and so on. We in Sri Lanka receive no international funding and are listed as a Government approved charity. It is strictly non-political and non-sectarian.

What do we do? Sumithrayo comprises a group of committed, highly trained Befrienders...over a hundred and twenty in Colombo and lesser numbers in the other centres. The Colombo centre will be celebrating its 29th anniversary in June this year. We exist to befriend the lonely, desperate and suicidal. Sumithrayo Volunteers do not seek fame or recognition but work anonymously on a strictly confidential basis. They are dedicated and highly disciplined individuals who help their fellow men without any desire for remuneration or personal reward.

When a person is beset with negative emotions which arise due to various causes, he feels he has come to the end of his tether and cannot go on any longer. It is not that he really wants to end it all. But is looking for a way to ease the pain of the load he is carrying.

What are these negative emotions? Losses of any kind including bereavement and grief, broken relationships - martial or parent/child issues, educational, financial or work-a-day problems.

Take the case of the young man who cannot talk to anyone about his guilty secret, he thinks he is HIV positive, or the young girl who in a moment of indiscretion has had sex with her boyfriend and is now ready to tie the knot. What can she tell the anxious mother-in-law? How about the young student who has not come up to the parents' expectations at his exams in spite of all the expensive tuition classes?

The guilt, pain of mind, grief and anger experienced by a sexually abused girl is hard to describe and can cause total self loathing and a desire to end her life. She has nothing to live for as her parents too have rejected her. She has absolutely no support system. As a last resort either she calls or comes to Sumithrayo and surprisingly finds a compassionate, caring, non-judgmental human being who accepts her as she is, and is willing to listen to her, for as long as she wants to talk. It is like a cool balm on her heated brow. She now has a person to turn to whenever she feels low and in need of a sympathetic ear.

All these persons have a huge burden to carry alone. They cannot come to terms with their negative feelings. In short, they cannot cope and get angry, sad, lonely, feel helpless/hopeless and may think of suicide as the only resort.

Sumithrayo helps these people through their crises by befriending them, giving them our total undivided and benevolent attention, being absolutely unshocked and non-judgmental as they pour out their troubles and confidences. Much later when they are in a more coherent state of mind, with a balance of head and heart i.e. rational, we may discuss options, which they themselves would not have seen earlier.

Quoting from an article by a fellow Sumithraya "...Befriending, is a compassionate human exchange, which has been proven to be invaluable!"

A Sumithraya - Colombo.

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