Children and Communities transfer their experiences to “experts” on Health at the International Symposium held in Colombo

May 2010: Children and communities from the Districts of Hambantota, Polonnaruwa and Ampara in the remote areas of Sri Lanka presented their experiences in health promotion in an international pre-conference symposium on health promotion held in Sri Lanka
today. The presenters were children and communities who are already voluntarily involved in promoting health within their own communities as well as others.

The Pre-Conference Symposium was held on Sunday 23 May 2010, at Cinnamon Grand Hotel in Colombo amidst of a well attended audience of community members, children, academics, epidemiologists, policy makers, health officials, university staff and students from Sri Lanka and overseas.

One of the highlights of the symposium was the remarkably inspirational presentation made by three members of a children’s club from Ampara, some 300Km away from the capital Colombo. Their presentation was based on the variety of health promotion activities they have initiated and successfully carried out in their community. This included, upgrading health facilities, promoting hygiene, good eating habits, physical exercises, community work, improving family well-being, which they have identified as key to promoting good health in their

Following are some of the highlights of the presentation:

We could change the way our elders perceived us

“We saw the need for a proper place for the midwife (Public Health Midwife) to carry out the monthly weighing of babies. She used a jack tree to hang the weighing scale. We collected timber and other material from the village and the jungle to put up a shelter. When we asked our parents for help, first they did not have confidence in us. But as we progressed, they willingly supported us and now our village midwife has a permanent child care centre”

We should let parents feel our love

“We wondered how we can improve our relationship and respect to parents. Therefore, for our birthdays we thought we would give a gift to our parents in appreciation of their efforts and hard work put on us. We were able to bring happy thoughts and good relationships” explained one of the 10 year old child presenters.

“We learnt how to calculate the BMI (Body Mass Index) and calculated the BMI of our mothers and told them what they should do to keep fit. We told them what they should eat and when to do physical exercises. After three months, we are happy that our mothers who needed to gain weight did so and others who needed to, lost weight”.

Symposium background

The Pre Conference Symposium on “Health Promotion” was jointly organized by Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, Health Education Bureau of the Ministry of Health and Plan Sri Lanka, as a premise to the 10th South East Asia Regional Scientific Meeting of the International Epidemiological Association (IEA) from 24th through 26th May 2010.

The event was aimed to provide insights as to how community participation could enhance, and the extent to which empowered communities can contribute to, the overall improvement of health status of populations. This was based on a concept put forward by Plan Sri Lanka.

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Comment by Kalana on July 27, 2010 at 2:01pm
Thank you Laurence and Gaston for your encouraging comments. Gaston, I too think that we should meet if you happen to be in SL. I will be able to arrange a meeting with these children and a few others who made presentations on similar experiences at the symposium.
Laurence, unfortunately these children are from a very very remote part of our country. They do not have internet (or many other even more common) facilities. We have been able to establish a network of over fifty similar community members from across the country last month. One of the things that we are trying to achieve through this is to make more facilities, forums and opportunities available for them to share their continuing experiences directly with others in-country as well as across borders (across seas, for that matter!)
Thank you both once again for your comments.
Comment by Laurence Gilliot on May 26, 2010 at 2:50pm
Dear Kalana,

Great to read your experience. I feel a certain pride for these children to be standing there in front of the 'adults' and sharing what they did. They do believe that they can do it. I think it is when we grow up that we sometimes loose that belief on our own capacity to make our dreams come through.

Would you like to invite these children to our online community? It would be great to learn directly from them. You can cc me and tell them I can help them with subscribing if needed.

Comment by Gaston on May 26, 2010 at 8:10am
Kalana! What a wonderful posting and great to hear from you again. It is touching what the children said. I would like to learn more on how you started getting these children and their communities involved and taking ownership of these issues.

Also, there is a slight chance I'll be going to Sri Lanka this year around August. For holiday, but then we certainly should meet up and exchange more.


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