'Synergy' co-counseling activities

Sushila Raja during Synergy counseling at Nava Shakti Rehabilitation of children like those of Pandiruppu whose lives have been plagued by poverty, conflict, and natural disaster is a central component of the Visions of Hope Project. Fortunately, one of our close associates from before the Tsunami, Sushila Raja, is a retired university-educated Jaffna Tamil woman who has returned from 35 years working as a social worker in the UK to serve and empower marginalized women and children living in former conflict areas.

Sushila Raja has been actively promoting 'Co-Counseling,' a set of skills used in a reciprocal peer counseling setting that was developed by Harvey Jackins in the USA in the 1960's. In the post-Tsunami Sri Lankan context, she has trained young co-counselors in several locations including Pandiruppu in a training regime called Synergy.

The Synergy curriculum consists of sun prayer, art, music, dance, yoga, meditation, in door and out door games. Through the aesthetic activities, children learn to relax and focus their thoughts. They learn to play in groups, learn leadership skills, and resolve conflict. The methodology incorporates Maria Montessori's "learning through play", Nancy Baron's "healing through story telling" and Patricia Mathes Cane's "body, mind, spirit practices for stress, trauma and compassion fatigue".

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Visions of Hope children during Synergy session
Visions of Hope children during Synergy activities, January 2008

The Project has been very fortunate to have Sushila Raja's involvement as a professional trainer and counselor who has also contributed by helping to train Visions of Hope staff in principles of office administration, writing job descriptions for individual staff, and helping to improve the Center's activity timetable to utilize its human and other resources better.

Synergy activities at Visions of Hope Center earlier occupied only 2-3 hours for those who would attend on weekends. Now Synergy activity is for all Visions of Hope children daily for one hour.

For more detailed information visit www.co-co-lanka.blogspot.com.