In Session 9 of our Course Journey on “Unleashing the Power of Home to Pioneer Planetary Regeneration”, as the earth was enjoying a Full Moon, Sarvodaya, exemplary Home for Humanity in Sri Lanka, celebrated its 64th birthday. The name of the remarkable organization and national movement “Sarvodaya" translates to “The Awakening of All”, which is realized by “Shramadana” - “Sharing of Time, Thoughts and Energy”.
Due to its long and rich history, Sri Lanka is blessed by a particularly diverse landscape of different cultures and religions: Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Christians are living alongside each other. Sri Lanka has faced many adversities such as colonial eras and reclaimed its independence only in 1948, followed by a 26-year long Civil war. Once the war ended in 2009, Sri Lanka was still faced with instability due to political leadership, natural disasters and a terrorist attack in 2019. Shortly after, the Covid-19-pandemic hit the entire country, which is now faced with an economic crisis.
These national circumstances lead to a vast field of activities curated and implemented by Sarvodaya. Development is always at the center of Sarvodaya’s work – their holistic approach integrally addresses the physical, spiritual, moral, cultural and social needs of the local community. Sarvodaya invites and welcomes all people from all diverse backgrounds to in some way contribute either by sharing their time, land, knowledge, finances or other resources available to them, to innately empower the community.
The current focus lies on the construction of roads to close transportation gaps for communities which were previously excluded from access to basic facilities such as health centers and marketplaces. Community engagement is encouraged through facilitating conversations and conscientizing communities which then leads to empowerment, which in turn will generate economic prospects and opportunities.
Following the motto “Village-to-Village, Heart-to-Heart”, Sarvodaya greatly supports the creation of independent village organizations which facilitate their own economy and societal infrastructure. By now, 5,400 registered village societies have been established. While Sri Lanka is currently facing a multidimensional crisis with shortage of medicines, lack of secure access to nutritious food, inflation, and gender based violence, Sarvodaya is providing humanitarian assistance with a general outreach to over 15,000 villages all over the country. During the Session, participants are captivated by the organization's perseverance and altruistic aim to empower the nation “from the inside out”. Kajsa Liedén from Sweden applauds the integrity of the approach: “I resonate deeply with the focus of education and inner, spiritual development both on the individual, family and local level and as a preparation before engaging in economic activities.” Esther Waigumo from Kenya is grateful for witnessing the pioneering spirit at display: “Thank you Sarvodaya! You are a real reflection of what empowered community should look like. I am inspired!"
We are grateful to Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne for the invigorating presentation, as well as Nimali Kumari, Udesh Fernando, Inoshi Jayajilake, and Damith Kulanayake for sharing their precious insights of Sarvodaya with us!
Read some of the participants’ insights and reflections:
“Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne together with his team did a fantastic job, introducing the Home for Humanity Community to the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement – Sarvodaya being itself a Home for Humanity. Despite the limited time, they were able to create a picture of its role in contemporary Sri Lanka and let the story of a beneficiary be living proof of the impact it has achieved. While focusing on systems change and elaborating on the many layers that Sarvodaya engages, the strong integration of the other realms (Grounding in Nature, Emerging through Culture, Navigating with Knowledge Creation) became apparent. Most striking is the dimension Sarvodaya has achieved. Tackling countless tasks, the government would be intended for, Sarvodaya shows what can be accomplished over 60 years of persistence. Although I observe many parallels to the government, it seems to me that the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is the exact counterpart to top-down legislation, namely a bottom-up grass root leadership body. What does that mean for our Home for Humanity community? It means that if our governments fail to truly cooperate with each other and commit towards transformation, we can make up for it as united grass root leadership bodies.” by Andreas Helfer (Switzerland), University of St. Gallen (HSG), Sarvodaya
“We tried several times to strengthen the structures but the continuous war destroyed everything. I am optimistic about the projects that Sarvodya has implemented and I have hope for the future that we will be able to implement these experiences after the end of the war. Afghanistan is currently in a worse condition than Sri Lanka, where the war has finally ended and where the people are trying to build and strengthen the country. The works of Sarvodaya for the reconstruction of the society's infrastructure are honorable and serve as an inspiration. In a diverse country like Afghanistan construction works and reconstruction of infrastructures that are done with passion and love, as in Sri Lanka, are a necessity. We need to learn to consider diversity and inclusion in structures.”
byHoma Alizoy (Afghanistan), Former Judge / Kabul Supreme Court
“This course has brought about a Bi perspective, as the world goes through crisis and failure there’s another side of it that is creating new life, Systems, Culture, Nature, Knowledge, Wisdom, all the important pillars that make up a strong community and l can’t help but notice a balance of that there’s never an empty space (where nothing is happening) and l am honored to be here!” by Muziwanele Ngwenya (Zimbabwe), Visual Artist
“It's simply overwhelming to hear from Sarvodaya and what they do. Thank you so much. What a strong guiding image.”
by Martina Dinkel (Egypt), SEKEM