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An Interview with the Director of ClaSIKA

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ClaSIKA is an endeavour taken up by Claretians to help and uplift the Spirit of the children, who are especially in the areas affected by the war. Year 2018 marked its tenth year of service. Following is the interview that the Serendib had with Fr. Milfer Vaz, the Director of ClaSIKA.

Can you brief us on the beginning of this mission called Claret Siruvar Kathambam or ClaSIKA?

On December 26, 2004 tsunamis swept across the Indian Ocean, spawned by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. Aside from Indonesia, the island nation of Sri Lanka likely suffered the most casualties, with the death toll reported at 36,594 as of December 29th. Many of the dead were adults among whom a good number was the elderly. The toll of the tsunami on the children in the affected areas was huge but little help was available. At this juncture the Claretians started to concentrate on the welfare of these children. As far as northern part of Sri Lanka is concerned, it is not only the tsunami disaster that wreaked havoc on the people but also the 26-year civil war. ClaSIKA is a response emerging in that background with a special focus on the integral growth of the children. Fr. Albert Arulraja, CMF the first Director of ClaSIKA together with the Congregation envisaged a healthy society through the formation of children. This initiative was launched in the late 2007 in the presence of the then Vicar General and the current bishop of Jaffna Rt. Rev. Dr. Justin B. Gnanapragasam.

What is the level of reception and acceptance for this program?
ClaSIKA reaches out to all parts of the Northern Province. We focus on the affected children and we give equal opportunities to all. Actually, the majority of children who take part in our programs are non-Catholics. During the last 10 years around 21,500 individuals have benefitted from our programs. Therefore, there is good acceptance for our project and programs.

What are main activities you carry out under this mission?
In a nutshell, they could be listed as follows: we organize and conduct both weekend residential programs and one-day programs for children from parishes, schools and institutions; we conduct awareness programs and workshops for the school-going children; and additionally, do some programs for the youth, teachers, and parents. This latter component was added quite recently keeping in mind the important impact these categories of people have on children’s formation and growth.

In which way you think that this ministry is relevant?
ClaSIKA targets the integral growth of the participants. We have different modules for the different participants. We too have follow-up programs. From the evaluations that we get, I am pretty sure that our programs are beneficial to the participants in many ways. There aren’t too many programs available in the Northern Province which focus on the integral growth of the children. In a certain sense, we fill this gap.

What are some of the challenges you face?
During the personal and group counseling sessions, we come to know that there are several issues that affect the children: relational issues, problems related to the family, sibling rivalry, sex-related and other social ills. Therefore, we need the resources in terms of personnel and others to sufficiently deal with them. Furthermore, some issues affect the children because of others like the parents or even the larger society. We need also to work with them. Unfortunately, we find it very difficult to gather the parents for programs conducted for them.

What are your future plans?
We are in the context of a post-war situation. But 10 years have passed since the war came to a close. What may be more relevant now is value-based education as children are exposed to distractions of all kinds which can ruin their lives unless the folks are guided. We hope to do better and evolve innovative ways in the future after serious evaluation and need assessment.

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