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Last updated: 19 March, 2010 - Published 15:22 GMT
 
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Cricket for rehabilitation
 
Young people who grew up amidst three decades of civil war got involved in their favourite sport in an attempt to heal their pains.

The government of Sri Lanka, along with international agencies, recently launched a cricket programme to rehabilitate former child soldiers.

rehabilitation camps were set up after the war
Former child soldiers and their families were involved in rehabilitation

"This is an attempt to rehabilitate youngsters who were recruited by armed groups for combat". Commissioner General for rehabilitation, Brigadier Sudantha Ranasinghe told the BBC.

painful past

Organised by "Cricket for Change", the programme includes 24 youth.

Eighteen former combatants graduated as Cricket ambassadors after a week's training.

"These children needs to come out of their painful past and face the future" says Brigadier Ranasinghe.

"My daughter was abducted while she was riding a bicycle. They shaved her hair. Now the things are different. They have a future. I like the way the children are treated". Said Sathyawale Angamma, mother of one of the young girls involved in the programme.

kept in camps

The former child soldiers are kept in camps on the outskirts of the capital and receive vocational training. Others were given a chance to pursue their education.

SRi Lanka cricket team
cricket had always travelled beyond ethnic boudaries

"Our athletic talents were stunted when we were young. At the college, UNICEF came to us and encouraged us to play cricket. We have learned a lot through this programme," Gopi, a 16-year-old former rebel fighter, told the media.

International child protection agencies and the government repeatedly accused the Tamil Tigers of recruiting thousands of children to fight in the war, some of them by force.

Sri Lanka Cricket teamed up with UNICEF, the International Cricket Council (ICC), the government's rehabilitation agency and the ministries of justice and sports to launch the programme.

 
 
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