Our partner in Sri Lanka:

The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is an organisation developed around a set of coherent philosophical tenets drawn from Buddhism and Gandhian thought; it has been operational for almost 50 years and was founded by Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne, originally a teacher in Colombo.

Beginning in just one village, the movement has now extended to a total of more than 15,000 villages and being boosted by foreign aid from all over the world.

 Sarvodaya is Sanskrit for “Awakening of All”, and Shramadana means to donate effort. Over the years, this “service learning programme” has expanded into a full-fledged development movement in hundreds of villages, with the goal of a comprehensive and non-violent social transformation. During its first 15 years, Sarvodaya grew with hardly any foreign aid or state support, relying on volunteer labour, mostly from the beneficiaries themselves.

Thousands of young women and men learned how to motivate and organise people in their own villages to meet the ten basic human needs, ranging from a clean and adequate drinking-water supply to simple housing and sanitation, communications facilities, an energy supply, education and ways of satisfying spiritual and cultural needs.

The movement’s work now includes peace building, conflict resolution, appropriate technology and programmes for children at risk, elders and those with disabilities all the while focusing on a holistic approach to social mobilisation through empowerment of people beyond mere economic development.

It has always been a goal to teach the communities’ self-sufficiency rather than dependency. The organisation is committed to improving the standard of living of all citizens through efforts towards development. This allows the people to have a direct influence on their lives and future. The Sarvodaya philosophy is to strengthen families and the community by ensuring volunteers are correctly deployed and that developments required on a national and global level are prioritized.

A vision for the 21st century

Sarvodayas vision finds its roots in the country’s religious identity and unique multi-ethnic character. It is a society free from both extreme poverty and extreme opulence and uses Gandhi’s basic values of truth, non-violence and selflessness as guiding principals. It is Sarvodayas vision to identify an acceptable political framework that devolves power to the most local level. It guarantees fundamental human rights and strives to fulfil the most important basic needs.

The natural environment is protected and cultivated in this society.

The transformation of human consciousness is a necessity for the further development of a person, a society or a country. Consciousness can be achieved when people work towards the improvement of all as a whole. To attain such personal and social consciousness, Sarvodaya seeks the integration of spiritual, moral, cultural, societal, economical and political dimensions.

Why is Savordaya needed

Sri Lanka is a poor country. Despite increases in exports and the gross national product only very few have managed to improve their standard of living. Real progress has remained restricted to cities and the upper class. Many of those working in agriculture live close to or below the poverty level. And although poor city dwellers have seen an increase in their income due to industrialisation, they still do not have sufficient funds to purchase the food required. As a result, suicide, alcoholism and criminality have all seen an increase over the years. Many see themselves as outsiders, unable to penetrate prospering sectors and are thus left exasperated. In desperation, they turn to acts of violence and destruction. The civil war, ongoing since 1983, is one consequence of this effect. At least 60,000 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in the crossfire. More than one million are refugees. In an attempt to gain some control over this situation, Sarvodaya began working with people indiscriminately of age in the villages. The idea was to build a feeling of change and responsibility not only in the individuals but also in the communities as a whole. The movement has a dual approach to achieving success. On one hand it works from the bottom-up, supporting all forms of development where possible. On the other hand it works top-down, focussing on talents and peoples skills. Locals who have been put through Sarvodaya training manage the various projects. Sarvodaya is convinced that sustainability can only ultimately be achieved through ways of harmony and non-violence. The Sarvodaya People’s Peace Initiative invests most of its resources and power to end the war. In 1999, Sarvodaya began a new phase of peace initiatives with a Peace Meditation that drew 170,000 participants. The new phase recognised that the war was the result of more than political causes and required more than political solutions. The current Initiative articulated a long-term plan to seek a solution to the problem of violence in Sri Lanka.