Learning to cope at 15

Renosha, a girl in Sri Lanka

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.

Unlikely Pen Pals

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Once a month, a woman in East Texas sends a letter to a little girl in Sri Lanka. The two are separated by oceans, continents, decades, culture and language, but none of this can keep them apart. One writes in English, the other responds in Tamil. One has lost a mother, the other a daughter. Both are humble, and both rely on God to provide not only the things they know they need, but the needs they have yet to discover.
“I just have to see what God provides and what evolves, but I’m wanting to be there involved in her life, the rest of her life, in some part,” said Linda Frazier, a child sponsor. Linda has been sponsoring 12-year-old Selvika* for over a year, and already she is the reason Selvika has celebrated a birthday for the first time, the reason she has a table to study at when she gets home from school, the reason she has a bed to sleep on at night.
 
 
Like other child sponsors, Linda commits a monthly gift to Selvika that provides a loving home environment, counseling, education, food and clothing for her in Sri Lanka. Selvika lost her mother to cancer in the spring of 2020 and has lived with her aunt and uncle ever since. Selvika would like to become a doctor one day, to look after people like her mother and prevent losses like the one she has had to live through.
 
Selvika with her mom, who passed away in 2020
 
Linda is a house manager at Breckenridge Village of Tyler (BVT), where she lives and works daily to help adults with intellectual and developmental disabilities. She has worked there for 12 years and has been a foster parent for 20 years. Helping others is an important part of her life as a Christian, and she feels God has led her in many ways to be with the right people at the right time, enabling her to be a voice and force for good.
 
Linda with those she helps at BVT (2021)
 
Sponsorship is not only a gift but an investment. A sponsor changes a child’s life, but so does a child change a sponsor, and not always as expected.
Linda plans to keep supporting Selvika as long as she can, giving a portion of what God has provided her to provide for someone else. Meanwhile, Selvika plans to keep making Linda and her family proud. “Your prayers and assistance have been so supportive to me,” Selvika wrote to Linda one month. “I will accomplish my mother’s dreams and your expectations, and will surely become a successful person in life.”
 
Selvika with her aunt and brothers (2021)

There are many children waiting for a sponsor.

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