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Sunday, 4 January 2009

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The golden jubilee of Sarvodaya:

Dawn of a new era

The term Sarvodaya denotes the spiritual and the material development of not only the individual, but also the entire population. For this purpose, Sarvodaya is committed to share labour, expertise and resources. In 1958, a team of a few teachers and students of the Nalanda College, Colombo, under the guidance and leadership of A.T. Ariyaratne, then a teacher of that college, conducted a Shramadana (voluntary service) camp at Kanatholuwa, which was then an impoverished and marginalised hamlet in the Kurunegala district. This was the origin of the massive people-oriented development movement now known as the `Sarvodaya Movement' by the local as well as the international community.


Dr. A.T. Ariyaratne

Dr. Ariyaratne's relentless efforts in the field of development have invariably been focused on elimination of poverty amongst the rural masses through awakening of their latent capacities. His concept envisions making the lives of the marginalised poor rural communities more meaningful and sustainable by providing easy access to their basic needs. Various programs and activities have been implemented in the past to achieve this objective. Under his able leadership and guidance, many programs have been conducted throughout the country for providing the people with basic amenities and essential infrastructural facilities such as lavatories, roads, schools and drinking water wells etc. These programs had to be conducted within the limited resources available. Steps had been taken in the past to provide educational facilities and a nutritious meal to schoolchildren. Throughout this long period, the focal objective of the operations based on his vision has been the advancement of the human kind.

He is highly talented speaker who possesses ingenuinity for addressing any gathering with eloquence and clarity so that every body could easily comprehend the vital elements of his speech.

He cleverly designs his lectures to suit the perceptibility of the audience. Though highly occupied, he is an ardent rewader who is keenly interested on widening his perception and knowledge on ever changing trends of the local and international arenas. Dr. Ariyaratne has proved to be a source of inspiration. The views of grassroots communities reach him directly without intervention by any intermediary channel. He is familiar with the village and the villagers and is very quick in identifying the village problems. This is the clear reason why the village communities have accepted and welcome the development schemes conceived by Dr. Ariyaratne and implemented by the `Sarvodaya Movement'.

Facing various constraints, the Sarvodaya Movement has reached 50 years since its inception in 1958.

Sarvodaya is not something which can be or should be assessed through what is seen at the Moratuwa Headquarters. The innumerable benefits enjoyed today by the previously neglected rural communities are considered by many as the fruits of Sarvodaya efforts to empower the people to improve their capacities. They applaud Dr. Ariyaratne as an angel who had come to rescue them from misery.

Ghandian policies and Buddhist doctrine have inspired the Sarvodaya Movement, to a greater extent, to emerge as a people - oriented development organisation committed with the responsibility of stabilising peace and spiritual awakening, and improvement of the living standards and livelihoods of poor rural masses that form the majority of the population of Sri Lanka.

Sarvodaya is geared to empower and inspire the people to take the responsibility of planning their own lives and uphold self reliance in stead of depending on others to fulfil their needs.

Dr. Ariyaratne had very good reasons being influenced by tenets envisaged in the Buddhist doctrine in the implementation of the social development programs. The majority of the rural populace in Sri Lanka is Buddhist. Therefore, Dr. Ariyaratne visualised that the best and the easiest approach to the development of the rural areas is through the gateway of the village temple and mobilising the Buddhist Monks and local leaders, both young and old. This approach has been successful.

Dr. Ariyaratne's keen interest in fostering the traditional cultural values and utilising them in the creation of a new society is vividly demonstrated in almost all the development programs executed by the Sarvodaya Movement. He believed that transformation of the attitudes of the people is vital in effecting any reforms in the society and that it is no easy task.

Many multi-faceted social development programs are being conducted covering over 15,000 rural villages and urban areas. These programs, based on Gandhian principles and Buddhist doctrine, have been designed to achieve a comprehensive improvement of the society encompassing the spiritual and material advancement the individual, the family, the village, city, country and finally the entire world.

The successful achievements of the Movement could be directly attributed to the superior insight of Dr. Ariyaratne, and the commitment, diligence and the resolve of the employees and also on the extensive operational network.

Today, Sarvodaya has focused its special attention on furthering the concept of Grama Swarajjaya, a process which envisions empowering and inspiring the village communities to make their own liberal decisions for developing their respective villages and prevent exploitation of village resources by external forces.

Sarvodaya anticipates establishing a network of thousands of similar village Swarajjayas which will ultimately serve as the basic structure for the creation of a comprehensive system of participatory self-governance.

Chitra Weerawardane,
Co-ordinator,
Sarvodaya Central Library,
Moratuwa

 

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