The Butterfly Peace Garden Batticaloa
BPG is an NGO, co-founded by Sri Lankan psychologist, Father Paul Satkunanayagam and Canadian artist Paul Hogan in 1996. PBG counsels and supports children traumatized by civil conflict and the 2004 Tsunami. Its mission is to be a unique, sustainable organizational model to serve traumatized children and adults of all communities, preserve their distinctive cultural identities and values, while partnering with progressive institutions and civil society through a creative, competent and dedicated team.
Trauma healing is achieved through the ‘Garden Path Process’, of contemplation/meditation and creativity to help children reconnect with self and the mystery of life. In Paul Hogan’s words: “Our method of ‘earth-work, art-work, heart-work and healing’ became the model for other peace gardens in Sri Lanka and Cambodia.
The Butterfly Garden was cited in U.S. Congressional records as an example of ‘best peace practice’ with war-affected children.” In 2003, he received an Ashoka Fellowship. Stories about some of the thousands of children reached by the Butterfly Garden include:
· The particular girl always was untidy. She always had a frustrated look on her face. She considered her younger sister as her rival. She would always say that she would commit suicide and then she would go somewhere to hide herself. She was an adamant type. There is a big change in my daughter. She is always tidy now. She does not have the frustrated look. She is always happy. She now happily offers things to her younger sister.” “But my worry is that she might change after the Garden events end”, said the mother. She will certainly show good qualities.
· Children numbering 6-8 selected for the program from the Paduwankarai area had the habit of chewing betel. Their teeth were stained. Their environment was the cause for it. Their friends too were addicted to this habit. After they came to the Garden, they completely gave up the betel chewing habit. At the same time, they have begun to make their friends too give up this habit.
· Tharmapuram is a village which is located on the seaside about 2 Km away from the Kalmunai main road, in the Kirankulum area. Out of the 50 children who came from this village to the Garden events, 20 children are girls in the age group of 15-17 years. There are children in the village belonging to this age group who have developed love affairs or married very young. This situation was worst in the village. However, the children who participated in the Garden events are pulling out of this appalling situation in the village and they are being saved.
· Ajith, a 12 year-old boy, was very quiet and never spoke when he came to the Garden. We all thought that he was dumb. Now he has become a very interesting talker. He also comes forward to give various performances. When we went to his house to observe the situation we found that, from his early childhood, he had remained isolated. Nobody listened to him. Therefore Ajith, who had been lost in himself and become silent, identified himself in the Garden and has begun a new life. He is progressing day by day. This is evidenced by his activities both in his house and the garden. This boy entered the Garden event half way. It was the other participants of the event who informed us about this boy. He never stayed at one place. He would not concentrate on anything. It was a common occurrence for his mother to lock him up in the house. But he would escape via the roof and the fence. Therefore, there was no place on his body which did not have any signs of injury. When he came to participate in the Garden event, he was in a pathetic state. Now he has changed completely. He is able to concentrate. He does not run about aimlessly. After the parents’ meeting in the Garden, his mother has not only begun to be less concerned about him but has also stopped locking him up.
By: Rev. Fr. Paul Satkunanayagam, sj, Executive Director, Butterfly Peace Garden Batticaloa.