Born in Sri Lanka, V. Thenmozhi saw her world being shattered when she had, with her family, to flee the civil war on her island. They lost everything and on rickety boat they crossed the Palk Strait to reach Chennai, the capital of the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. There, she became a refugee in one of the numerous camps set up for fleeing Tamils by NGOs, one of them being the OfERR.
Then 18, she first thought about going back to school but soon the family having no income she decided to work for the OfERR where she felt at home among other Tamil refugee activists. Thenmozhi was young and people were doubtful she could do the job. How was she going to counsel men 4 times her age? How was she supposed to provide advice to a mother who had lost her children while fleeing?
Thenmozhi was persistent. She first finished her training as a counselor, learning precious lessons, and then started visiting the 117 refugee camps in Tamil Nadu. It was, and still is, a tough job because depressed or angry refugees would not easily tell their story, a crucial part of the healing process. Thenmozhi took the time to know them, get their trust and slowly they opened up, releasing memories trapped in their mind.
After that, she helped them get more confident, taught them to think positively so they could pick themselves up, start an activity and earn some much needed money. She particularly empowered women, pushing them to start small businesses which was against the traditional view. Thenmozhi, now 38, is teaching the next generation of counselors who step-by-step will take over. She feels a great sense of accomplishment even though it hasn’t been easy to take her fellow refugees from being nobodies to reclaiming their life.
Empowerment is everywhere. From the refugee camps to your own home, anyone can make a difference in someone else’s life. If you do it you will find meaning. Via oneworld.net