What is Daya Mina?
‘Daya Mina’ is a Day Centre, run by the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary, for young people with learning difficulties or are known as slow learners. Daya Mina aims to prove beyond reasonable doubt that the so-called ‘disabled’ are in fact differently abled or differently gifted; functioning at different levels and having much to offer to society. They are helped to develop to the maximum their inherent potential and so taking their rightful place in society.
The Congregation of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary is dedicated to the care and education of the differently abled children of Sri Lanka since 1964. Daya Mina, which means ‘Jewel of love,’ was established in 1989, providing a number of differently-abled children and adults with a day care service, education and life training.
The child with intellectual challenges is a child/person like any other. There are latent and hidden talents which need to be discovered and nurtured. However the general norm is that they will not perform to a high degree of ability except in exceptional cases, it’s important to know and understand a child’s disability and learn to work within its confines, rather than expecting the disability to go away. Learning a child’s strengths and helping her compensate for weaknesses will play a important role in fostering success.
The History of Daya Mina
From 1984 onwards plans had been in the offing for an extension to Supem Uyana, Gonapinuwela (the residential centre for students with learning difficulties, run by the sisters). Parents and sisters had indeed discovered the need to care for youngsters and adults with learning difficulties and intellectual challenges. Initially, all attention went to the planning of a residential facility. As plans proved hard to realize the idea to set up a day centre gradually took shape. Such a centre would involve a smaller investment both in capital and staff. Moreover, the sisters had also discovered the great need for meaningful occupation and vocational training for these youngsters.
Eventually, Sr. Anastasia, at that time the provincial superior of the Sisters of Charity, in Sri Lanka, made available a small annexe at Rhineland Place, Colombo 03, adjacent to the home for elderly ladies. A name was chosen “Daya Mina’ refers to Jesus, the true Gem of Charity, who invites his followers to enter into his experience of the Father’s love and mercy. Thus the sisters and staff at the Centre are invited to show love to those in their care.
Daya Mina was informally opened on the 3″ March 1989 in a small ceremony at which Brother Alfred; provincial Superior of the Anglo/Irish province of St. Joseph, of the Brothers of Charity was the Chief Guest.
The centre started with 10 students on the role and two staff members; Seetha and Anne Marie. At the start, the students would come in batches for only two days a week. The activities concentrated on practical skills such as refurbishing furniture, needlework and craft work.
From September onwards the centre functioned six days of the week with each batch of students coming in for three days each week. At this time attendance was affected by the situation in the country. The JVP insurgency Gradually activities were extended to include Cookery, social skills, general knowledge and religion. The Centre was officially opened by His Excellency H.R.R.V. Froger, Ambassador of the Netherlands on the 25″ of November 1989. By that time the centre could already show its first fruits in finished products and more important in student behaviour.
By March 1990 the number of participants had risen to 20 and the staff comprised 4 members. Once again new activities were introduced. Some, such as woodwork were introduced for the benefit of the boys. The diversity of the possibilities manifested by the students also necessitated further diversification of activities. Finally, the need to make the centre less dependent on donations urged us to go in for income generating projects such as envelope-making, the sewing of bed sheets and the production of fruit juices.
From June 1990, we suppressed the Saturday session. On Friday both batches came together, allowing for programmes such as music and dancing in January 1991 it was decided to allow all students to come four days a week, while the centre was open 5 days. Another room was taken for classroom purposes. 25 students on roll at that moment stretched the capacity of the annexe to the maximum. It was clear that new premises had to be found so as to accommodate the ever-growing number of applicants. The need for larger premises became ever more pressing. Some prospects were given that Caritas Germany may sponsor the purchase of a building. Meanwhile, the Sudaya Trust was set up on the 6″ of December 1991 as an umbrella organization for both Supem Uyana and Daya Mina.
Later that year we had to vacate the premises but we also had the firm commitment of Caritas Germany to sponsor the new premises and so once more house hunting became a major preoccupation.
Meanwhile the programme expanded further with the involvement of several volunteers Divine Providence enabled us to purchase the house at Embuldeniya for exactly the monies we received from Caritas Germany.
We moved into the new premises on the 15 April 1993. The staff then comprised of three lay staff Gunawathie, Bridget and Seneviratne and three sisters, Sr. Harriet, Sr. Michelle, Sr. Anne Marie. Sr. Harriet was soon to leave for a formation programme in mental retardation in Ireland
The new location, situated in Embuldeniya required some form of transport and so on the 20th April; a van was brought to pick up students from different locations. The number of students increased. Some were coming from afar.
The group of students and staff settled down gradually into the new area and found the place good. Christmas and preparation for it was a lovely time.
Soon, however, Sr. Anne Marie was recalled to Belgium after the sisters’ General Chapter as she was elected to the provincial council of the Northern province of the Sisters of Charity in Belgium. Sr. Anastasia replaced her and the work continued.
“Daya Mina” offers educational, social and vocational training to young people. The programme carried out strives to underline and uphold the dignity of the young person, enabling them to develop to the fullest their inherent potential.
The programme provided includes among others :
- Self help and independence skills
- Communication and language skills with speech therapy (Special programs included the guidance of a psychiatrist (UK), medical advice from a board member, speech therapy and art therapy.)
- Vocation skill training: which includes Envelopes, carpentry, sewing, candles, chutney, wine making, carpets, cards, horticulture and other.
- Parent counseling
- Staff training
- Open to visits from the medical students and trainee nurses as part of their training.
- Interaction and participation with other centers and in public events (Often used as a base for student volunteers from overseas who present theses for doctorate or masters degrees.)
The child with intellectual handicap is a child/person like any other. There are latent and hidden talents which need to be discovered and nurtured. However the general norm is that they will not perform to a high degree of ability except in exceptional cases, it’s important to know and understand a child’s disability and learn to work within its confines, rather than expecting the disability to go away. Learning a child’s strengths and helping her compensate for weaknesses will play a important role in fostering success.