Providing Psychological First Aid to Children in the area
On Sunday 21 st April, during the Easter mass at Katuwapitiya Catholic church in
Negombo, there was a suicide bomb attack, causing immense damage to the lives of
the devotees who attended the mass. 110 + people lost their lives and 65 people got
injured in this bomb attack. More reported deaths and suicides were also reported.
Among the survivors, the children were the most affected, as they were injured, both
physically and psychologically. They lost their dear ones, they have become orphaned,
and some have sustained serious injuries.
In the long-term, these children may experience immense psychological and
emotional issues. Therefore, psychological first aid (PFA) for children is an immediate
need which the Hemas Outreach Foundation undertook along with the Katuwapitiya
A well known Psychotherapist / Dram Therapist was assigned by Hemas to assist the
children in need. He resided in the area and conducted many specialized programs to
uplift the moral of the children and families. It is note worthy to mention a special
Christmas celebration was arranged by Hemas Outreach Foundation in the area near to
the church in December 2019 and the children and families participated for an event of
this nature for the first time post the unfortunate incident. The HOF brand ambassador,
well knons cricketer Roshan Mahanama and other well known cricketers participated at
Over 500 families were the beneficiaries of this project which ended in December 2020
with the onset of Covid.
Psychotherapy combined with arts-based therapies
- This intervention promote safety, comfort, stabilization, practical assistance, connection with others, and practical information that facilitate survivors’ abilities to adaptively cope with acute stresses and acute stress reactions.
- Helped children to practice coping skills, and promoting calmness, connectedness, self- and collective efficacy, and hope.
- The intervention permits the children to engage in conversation, creative activities, and play, aiming to relax the children, and distract them from triggers.
- This subtle approach supported the child to engage in self-exploration, make meaning to life through re-scripting their narratives, and transform emotions to build self-confidence, self-esteem, and a positive self-image.
- Further, the intervention enabled the child to receive psycho-education and skills-building with explicit therapeutic exercises designed to decrease mental distress, facilitate adaptive grieving among the bereaved, promote adaptive coping, and facilitate adaptive developmental progression.
It is not only the children, who were the sole beneficiaries, of this intervention. This
intervention also had a positive impact on their caregivers, teachers, and priests in the
Parish. They were able to observe, and engage with children, in the therapeutic
process. The elders benefited by improving their coping strength, and transform their
trauma to a positive psychological state. This strengthened their relationship with the
children, and became a meaningful support network for children.
In addition to the above HOF offered a high-end scholarship for an overseas medical
student in Katuwapitiya area who was on her 2 nd year of studies when both her parents
were killed in this unfortunate incident. HOF undertook to fund her full education.