29th October 2000
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Healing touch in the home

By Mihiri Wikramanayake
When Celine Samarasinghe left the shores of Sri Lanka many years ago, she left her heart behind. Then she was swept up in a time-consuming lifestyle of taking care of family and home and a full-time job as a community care nurse in Barnet, England. 

By and by, with the children's independence and her husband's support, Celine found time for herself and decided to give something back to her own country. With her experience in nursing, Celine was on track.

Almost one year ago, in November 1999, she inaugurated the Kotahena Community Health Care Service through sheer personal effort and dedication.

Based on England's 124-year district nursing system, she set up a similar service in Kotahena to provide care and assist the elderly who are sick or recovering from illness. This service also provides skilled nursing to patients who are terminally ill and care for them towards a peaceful and dignified life in their home environment.

"With my experience, I wanted to make a difference for the poor and the needy," she said.

Over the past 11 months, the Kotahena Community Health care Service has provided valuable nursing care for over 100 patients. 

With a staff of seven, consisting of a full-time nursing sister, two staff nurses, two part-time care-givers, one physiotherapist and a social worker they visit the patients at their homes on a daily basis. The medication is dispensed and advice willingly imparted. No one is in a hurry to leave or unwilling to participate. "All of them are willing to do a little for another," says Celine, of her dedicated staff. They are paid for by funds from the World Health Organization, the Rotary Club, Colombo East and the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka. Celine ensures that her staff is well looked after and has provided them with a comfortable community centre and clean surroundings. 

"I nurture their needs and they in return nurture the needy," says Celine. 

This project also consists of a volunteer management of a parish priest, a doctor and a Buddhist monk. As such, the patients are of a multi-ethnic group and mainly from the slums. 

There is a criterion for referral where the patients should be over 60 years, having an illness or disability and be from a deprived social background with no income or care-givers.

"We have come across sons and daughters who will not look after their parents for selfish reasons," she said. "Then we talk to them and show them what's right and wrong and ask for their help towards the care of their parents."

Celine intends making this service available for another five years and hopes to mobilise more sponsors and donors to provide a similar service to other needy areas in the country. 

But for the moment, she is proud to have come so far.

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