War in Ukraine leaves millions displaced
Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka

Learning to cope at 15

Renosha* was 15 years old when her mother died. As a young girl living in Sri Lanka, she didn’t know who she would live with next.

Her father was still alive, but he made his living by begging on the streets, often disappearing for days or weeks at a time. According to Mary Chryshanthan, one of CERI’s Case Managers in Sri Lanka, “It was not safe for Renosha to live in such an environment, with no relatives to support her. She could not live with her father.”

All this happened in 2019: Renosha lost her mother, experienced the stress of living with her father, and went to live in an institution (orphanage). This was just months before a virus would upend not only Renosha’s life, but the lives of people all around the world.

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka, with kids from the orphanage
Renosha with children from the orphanage. (2021)

During the pandemic, many children in institutions went to live with family, but not Renosha. Her father was her only living family member. And one day, she received the sudden, terrible news: her father had died of Covid-19.

“Even after her father’s death, she had to identify and release her father’s body as the only child,” remembered Mary.  

Renosha had experienced so much trauma and tragedy in the span of a few short months. And the longer she spent in the orphanage, the more anxious, depressed, and hopeless she became. She had conflicts with other kids in the orphanage and started pushing back against the authority of the adults in charge. She was navigating the challenges and stresses of her teenage years without the support of family or the stability of a loving home.

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka, watering the garden
Renosha watering the garden at the orphanage. (2021)

“She did not know about a family structure; she felt sad and confused [about] not having a family or relatives,” Mary said.

Around the time of her father’s death, Renosha was given the opportunity to work with our team in Sri Lanka. We began providing services to children in Renosha’s orphanage to help ease the effects of trauma and help children cope.

One program that made a world of difference for Renosha? CERI’s stress management group sessions. The program taught kids how stressful situations affect the body and mind, tips and techniques for relaxing even amidst stress, and small group discussions where participants were invited to share about their pasts. During these sessions, Renosha was able to process her pain, reframe her past, and gain the strength to take on the future.

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka, receives counseling
Renosha with her case manager, Mary Chryshanthan. (2021)

We also provided Renosha with one-on-one counseling sessions to help her deal with her trauma. Renosha has made huge progress. Now, she gets along well with others, and she understands how to process her emotions in a healthy way.

“She has less conflicts with children in the institution now,” said Mary. “She is more understanding and has control of her emotions. She feels comfortable to share her emotions with others, and she takes time to talk with other children [there].”

Renosha got the help she needed when she needed it.

But there are thousands more just like Renosha who simply need someone to care.

* Identifying details are modified to protect the privacy of the children and families we serve.

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