1987 Ven. Bodhananda had come a long way from whence he came. He named his little organization the “Mithuru Mithuro Movement” (meaning Compassionate Friends) and sought out new premises. He purchased a 7 1/2 acre plot of land from the government with the greatest of difficulty due to heavy financial constraints.
But that was not all, Ven. Bodhananda was becoming popular in the area. For some this was too much to bear. Undesirable elements spread ugly rumors and created antagonism among the community. The disruptive force was led by a politician of the area, who believed that his popularity was at stake. He made two attempts on the Thero’s life. However, due to evasive moves upon receiving early information, he managed to escape unhurt. A third attempt was made by the JVP (Peoples Liberation Front), who were hardcore terrorists, whose area leader kept a gun on the Thero’s head. This instance too he survived by meeting the leaders face to face to clarify details. On realizing their error they apologized and left.
The monk was ready to proceed from his new headquarters, a 10 by 12 ft. mud hut with a thatched roof. This was not as bad as the first, few days and nights, which were spent under a couple of slanted galvanized sheets. He had with him 05 residents and 01 staff member. Life was hard. There weren’t even the basic facilities for him and his team. The villagers did not have electricity, drinking water nor sanitary facilities. There weren’t any proper roads. Rev. Bodhi’s first mission was to gather the people of area together, educate them on the importance of hygiene and together with the youth started building toilets and wells for drinking water. He coordinated with Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne of Sarvodaya fame and received assistance from the Embassy of the Netherlands for this project.
1988 More hazels were in store for Rev. Bodhi. There were still these henchmen of local politicians who were opposing his social work as the youth of the area were gathering around him. He was labeled as an government activist and harassed to extremes. But Rev. Bodhi is a “When the going gets tough, the tough get going” type of person. He kept going. He visited the illicit liquor dens and gambling spots in the villages to educate the people on the ill effects of liquor and gambling the repercussions and effects of it on family harmony and childrens mentality. The villagers started to accept him as their mentor. They brought their problems to him and sought his advice.
Meanwhile, Rev. Bodhi was progressing in the construction of the office and dormitory buildings and the Education center, the finances however, was hard to come by. His Village Re-awakening and Children and Youth programmes were not fund generating but were always with available resources. Finally he sought aid from diplomatic missions and other donor agencies and received support from;
- South Korean Embassy – Rs.1.5 million worth of Vocational Training equipment.
- Forut – Rs.1.2 Million worth of equipment for Vocational Training.
- Canadian High Commission – Rs.100,000/= worth of educational equipment and books.
In the meantime, Juvenile Crime and Child Abuse Prevention Units were organized in 350 schools in the Ratnapura District as a project to protect children. In the terrorist uprising of 1988/89, only very few youth from the district were involved. Of these, a majority surrendered to the government. As a result of the Ven.Thero’s involvement in social reforming activities he was appointed to the Independent Committee of Inquiry by His Excellency Ranasinghe Premadasa – President of Sri Lanka, and was responsible for organizing rehabilitation camps for these disillusioned youth, one of which was located at the premises of the Mithuru-Mithuro Movement.
The issue of drug abuse is a critical social problem and a development issue in Sri Lanka. Having extended its vicious tentacles to shatter the decent and peaceful lifestyles of citizens, it has also deteriorated the cultural, moral, human and spiritual values in a closely knitted Sri Lankan society, particularly of its youth. Nearly 40% of the inmates of our prisons are those convicted for drug related offences(NDDCB Reports). According to surveys conducted by our groups it is estimated that there are 100,000 heroin addicts and over 200,000 cannabis addicts(Mithuru-Mithuro Files).
Addressing the drug issue, both the Government and Non Governmental Organizations believe that it is a development issue. Hence, it is our opinion that not only drug prevention or demand reduction should be given priority, treatment and rehabilitation shall also be integrated into the programmes. Prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of addicts shall be the total components of the programme; Such an approach provides opportunity to consider habits and behaviors of individuals and also their functions in a subjective manner enhancing the quality and the effectiveness of the programme.
MITHURU MITHURO MOVEMENT
Mithuru Mithuro” which means “Compassionate Friends” was initiated in 1984 and was registered under government ordnance as an NGO in 1993 to provide assistance and support to the rural communities and its youth in particular. The actual reforming and rehabilitation of youth began back in 1987 with the youth offenders being directed by the judiciary to Ven. K. Bodhananda of Mithuru Mithuro & is the first ever of its nature in Sri Lanka.Prevention programmes became an integral part of the ongoing treatment programme.
Juvenile delinquency and youth offenders in crime grew at an alarming rate with these groups falling victim to drugs. Ven. Bodhananda opened the doors for all drug addicts who wished to reform and parents who desired support for their children. The rehabilitation programme with active participation of parents and family was launched with all clients in residence.
The year 1993 saw the Ministry of Justice legalizing Community Service by criminals as well as drug addicts as a penalty, whilst in the care of non-governmental organizations. This was based on the success achieved by Ven. Bodhi of Mithuru Mithuro Movement in the implementation of the Therapeutic Community System and was taken as a Pilot Project. His Excellency D.B.Wijetunge, President of Sri Lanka acknowledged the programme and honored the efforts of Ven. Bodhananda with a personal visit to the Institute to see for himself the achievements and to express his encouraging sentiments.
The Government and Non-Governmental Organizations soon recognized the programme for its effectiveness. Support and advice for it’s activities was forthcoming. The altruistic enthusiasm in protecting the vulnerable and providing hope for the hopeless, led to the sponsorship of Ven. K. Bodhananda Thero for a special training programme, by the Colombo Plan Secretariat, at Day Top International Inc. USA, on the Therapeutic Community System.
The Thero was the only member of the two NGO and 12 government officers who participated in the training programme, to impart with the knowledge and experience gained, to effect a Therapeutic Community System for the benefit of the so many victims of drug abuse. In effect, Ven. Bodhananda Thero brought the TC System to Sri Lanka and implemented it. And so the Therapeutic Community System was introduced for the Treatment and Rehabilitation of drug addicts and to date Mithuru Mithuro is the only organization in Sri Lanka to do so.
In view of the increase in the rate of addiction in the country and it’s dangerous consequences an extensive campaign was launched in the latter part of 1999, for the prevention of drugs abuse for children and youth and for the society in general in the form of rehabilitation and awareness using every conceivable method.
The Mithuru Mithuro Movement, which began with one center at it’s inception in 1994 has expanded its activities up-to 10 centers in three districts in the island. Rev. Bodhi has separate programmes for residents in different stages of rehabilitation. The 10 centers together have a total of over 800 residents in various stages of rehabilitation.