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When Pastor Cassie Carstens came to Sri Lanka some years ago, he realized that this island was war-torn and many children were fatherless. As the founder of the movement ‘The World Needs A Father’ (TWNAF), he knew there was a lot of work to be done in this little island. There were two factors to his advantage; one was an urgent need for the programe to be implemented here and the other was that as a nation the people responded positively to his programe.

Playing father (3)Carstens, a South African, returned to Sri Lanka last week and carried out programes in Kandy, Galle, Jaffna and Colombo (Twice) where 1,000 volunteers were trained to make a positive input to families where the father was missing from the equation. As Carstens explained in an interview with Nation the prime goal of TWNAF is to train fathers to be better fathers. In the case where the father is missing from the family unit, a trained volunteer will make positive input to such families. “We are careful to ensure that the volunteer who plays the role of father shares the same values of the family he works with. Otherwise, we can run into problems,” explained Carstens whose programe is explained in detail in the website wwwtheworldneedsafather.com.

According to Carstens, at least 25 per cent of Sri Lankan families are fatherless, a figure he described as rather low compared to Europe where this figure might be double. He said that fatherless homes are created largely due to divorce and migration. Speaking with interest on the latter, he had this to say, “You be poor and happy rather than be rich and mess up your life.” He underscored the fact that where there is happiness, such families have experienced this blissful state of mind for generations.

His goal in life changed dramatically when in Tanzania where he observed how negatively the society is impacted due to fatherlessness.

He saw clearly how members of fatherless families can sow the seeds of violence. What he saw in Africa influenced him heavily to establish TWNAF in 2011. At present there are TWNAF volunteers in as many as 21 nations which include Asian countries like Indonesia, the Philippines, India, Singapore and Malaysia.

Playing father (2)Carstens believes a lot in the unit of family and likes to work his programe through the channels of a community. His programe demands a 24-hour commitment where volunteers are trained in three stages: Unlocking fatherhood, Unpacking fatherhood and Training trainers.

Wherever he can, he uses sport to bring back fathers who left their families. “Fathers need to be trained and sports coaches need to have good values and ethics. In sport we drive home the message ‘you are not a star, you are part of a team’, said Carstens.

Speaking the words of a pastor he said, “I am a follower of Jesus. I don’t live for myself, I live for others. When people are ego-centred, there is disaster in society”.

He has penned a book ‘The World Needs A Father’ which has been translated into 17 languages. He displayed the book in his hand and sported a smug look on his face before blurting out, “Fathers must be restored to their God-given place of
servant-leader of families”.

Carstens was overwhelmed by the response he got from a Sri Lankan audience. The state television channel, Rupavahini, gave him 45 minutes on a morning show. He said he was looking forward to returning to this island again this year. “From all the countries I travelled to, Sri Lanka gave me the best response,” he said.