A Look at Sarvodaya

This blog post is meant to share my internet explorations of the Sri Lankan NGO, Sarvodaya.  Before combing Sarvodaya’s website, I knew little more about the organization than its name, and that I will be lucky enough to be spending time there this summer.

Sarvodaya was founded December 6th 1958 by A. T. Ariyaratne.  As the largest NGO in Sri Lanka, Sarvodaya has 34 district centers, a presence in over 15,000 villages and an estimated 11 million citizens who individually benefited from one of their programs.  Sarvodaya works to empower Sri Lankans after a history of class and caste barriers, violent ethnic conflict, and the devastating 2004 tsunami.

Sarvodaya is operated through the principal of Shramadana which means “sharing work, knowledge, talents, and time.” The aim of the Shramadana Movement is to use shared work, voluntary giving and sharing of resources to achieve the personal and social awakening of everyone.  From the individual, to the village, and continuing up to the international level.  Sarvodaya has a unique philosophy because it has a very holistic approach to development.  The goal of Sarvodaya is not just to eradicate poverty, but to empower people through living the truths of compassion, loving kindness, joy in the happiness of others and equanimity. Projects organized by Sarvodaya empower people by exposing the mutual interdependence humans have on each other and their environment.  Sri Lankan men and women of all age, caste, and ethnicity worked side by side, to build roads, preschools, houses and more together.  They all shared a sense of ownership and the experience of working together and with the land.  This kind of work became invaluable to Sri Lanka following the civil war in the 1990’s.  Since the first Shramadana group in 1958, Sarvodaya has grown to address most problems faced by Sri Lankans in the twenty first century.

Current Sarvodaya projects include, the Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena Sandasaya ( Peace Brigade).  This is a club for Sri Lankan youth with over 100,000 members and a goal of peace building and community development.  Sarvodaya is also a microfinance practitioner, who offers small loans as well as financial consulting.  Prisoners are helped with rehabilitation through Sarvodaya organized meditations.  Sarvodaya helps communities in providing their own infrastructure such as water purification technologies, and latrines.  Sarvodaya also provides preschools, vocational training centers, special education units, projects for children living on the street, child development centers, homes for senior citizens, and homes for disabled women.  Unicef has partnered with Sarvodaya to conduct mine risk education programs.  Modern technology is being responsibly introduced into Sri Lanka through Sarvodaya programs teaching education empowerment through Smartphones and how to access to information through a Smartphone.  A. T. Ariyaratne descried Sarvodaya as living in the most modern era, guided by the most ancient value systems.

-Julia Jordan



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