In May 2009, Sri Lankan government forces seized the last Tamil Tiger controlled area of the country, signalling an end to 25 years of violent conflict. Despite this, bitterness still remains in the country today and while the civil war has been declared over, Sri Lanka still contains a vast number of war veterans and victims who seek rehabilitation from their trauma.
Adding to this is poverty – poverty not only caused by the conflict, but also due to the high frequency of natural disasters which seem to doom Sri Lanka, the latest incident being the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami which claimed the lives of 40,000 people.
To relieve the mental stress of those who have been reduced to poverty because of the conflict and natural disasters, IRCT member Survivors Associated (SA) was established in 1996 alleviate the distress felt by thousands across the country.
Initially Survivors Associated sought to conduct psychosocial development activities at grass roots level in conflict areas. By attending to their economic, social and health needs, self-confidence could be instilled and a route for victims of war to attain their social aspirations could be highlighted.
The work of Survivors Associated now extends across the majority of the country and has broadened its focus once more, now aiming to cure the poverty – and the vulnerabilities to torture which poverty brings – caused by natural disasters.
In particular, Survivors Associated emphasises the importance of treating marginalised groups, such as female torture survivors, disabled war veterans, and children. Through community based holistic care, rehabilitation, education, economic empowerment and peace building, it is hoped victims of trauma in Sri Lanka can overcome their past.
The close ties Survivors Associated has built with the communities it works with has formed a solid foundation for building ethnic harmony in the country. Some recent positive developments include establishing creative therapy groups for women and children, group therapy programmes including a range of participants, and educational courses essential to many for living including cooking, woodwork, and weaving.
Through their work, Survivors Associated hopes Sri Lanka can continue to unite, move past their past and, ultimately, evolve as a nation.