She is absorbed with a picture book. The book is suited for someone much younger but she does not mind. “It’s about a bird that flies over the tops of trees to faraway lands,” she says, turning the pages to reveal a picture of a bird. At the Halfway Home Mulleriyawa, women seated on low [...]

The Sundaytimes Sri Lanka

Offering healing words

The newly-opened library at the Halfway Home Mulleriyawa opens a new chapter for its residents
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She is absorbed with a picture book. The book is suited for someone much younger but she does not mind. “It’s about a bird that flies over the tops of trees to faraway lands,” she says, turning the pages to reveal a picture of a bird.
At the Halfway Home Mulleriyawa, women seated on low stools read story and religious books from the newly-opened patients’ library. Previously attached to the Mulleriyawa Base Hospital, the Mulleriyawa Psychiatric Hospital for Women opened in the early 1970s.

In 2008, Halfway Home Mulleriyawa was brought under the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The home currently provides long-term care to approximately 500 women suffering from mental illness. The women live in acute, intermediate and rehabilitation wards and are engaged in a variety of programmes depending on their abilities and needs. In the past few years many improvements have been made to the home – also called Unit 2. Dedicated doctors have reintegrated over 200 patients into the community and there are various projects for the women at the home†such as horticulture and vocational training.

A resident engrossed in the beautiful world of a picture story book. Pix by Hasitha Kulasekera

A new addition to the hospital, the library aims to help the patients learn about life outside the hospital walls. “Not only were patients asking for books to read prior to the library opening, reading is a proven technique in rehabilitating people with mental illness, not to mention that reading has a positive impact on everyone’s mental health,” said Halfway Home Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO) worker, Shaun Humphries.

Occupational therapist at the hospital, Buddhika Ranasinghe, said that most of the patients could read and understand what they had read, but since they had no means to get a book they had neglected the habit. “Some patients have learning disabilities and through reading they can enhance their mental state. The sole purpose of the library is to help them gain a better place in society,” he said.

“We read many books at the library. I enjoy reading here,” said W. A. Chandrawathi, adding that even though she could read she was never provided with an opportunity to do so until now.

“Some of them can also read in English and are fluent in speaking the language too. We are going to make them get into reading starting with story books with pictures,” said another VSO worker from England, Stella Wragg.
The books to the library were donated by CandleAid Lanka. “We need more books. Especially audio books for the patients who can’t read but can understand when they hear a story being related to them,” said Mr. Ranasinghe stating that there are many other patients who could not read but like to listen to a story and learn.

The library has opened a window at Mulleriyawa to a different realm, a place where they can read and explore the world outside. They go eagerly to the small library, which is now theirs, and spend most of their time there.
If you would like to donate to the library or the Halfway Home call 0112578242 ext 218 or email halfwayhomemu-lleriyawa@gmail.com




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