Jacalyn Bennett
Jacalyn Bennett campaign leader

The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is a family of non-government, non-profit organizations which began in the country of Sri Lanka in 1958. The movement was founded by a high school teacher, A.T. Ariyaratne, who has since won international recognition ranging from the Gandhi and Niwano Peace Prizes to the Magsaysay and Hubert Humphrey Awards. Sarvodaya activities involve millions of people in close to 15,000 villages. Its reputation has grown out of a holistic, integrated approach to personal, family, village and national development over nearly five decades.


A word coined by Mahatma Gandhi. "The awakening of all"


This is the voluntary sharing of time, resources, thoughts, energy and labor.


The term stands for dynamism, the momentum of people motivated from within, and the popular support that is essential for successful and sustainable development and change on a national level.

To learn about current programs in thousands of rural villages and urban communities, visit www.sarvodaya.org the official web site managed at the national headquarters in Moratuwa.

But Sarvodaya is also a growing collection of stories, perspectives, ideas and lessons learned. It has a rich history of organizing, spiritual leadership and change. Rooted firmly in Buddhist and Gandhian principles, its respect for Sri Lankan traditions is clear. And both the process and achievements of this movement are meant to benefit everyone, regardless of religion, wealth or ethnicity.

Sarvodaya has a vision of a society with no poverty and no affluence, based on the Gandhian values of truth, non-violence, and self-sacrifice. This society is governed by the ideals of participatory democracy with decentralized power and resources. It upholds basic human rights and aims to satisfy basic human needs. It protects and nurtures the natural environment and resources.

Long before “sustainable development “environmentally-friendly” practices, “people’s participation”, “networking” and other such modern catch-phrases became mainstream, the Sarvodaya Movement was implementing all these elements in an “alternative path to progress.”

People’s development movements and NGOs have a complementary role with the state in the development process. Sarvodaya’s outreach capabilities and ability to mobilize human and material resources at the grassroots level has made its contribution.
Not only does the movement participate in development with a concentrated focus, it also facilitates the involvement of other NGOs in the process.

Sarvodoya advocates unprejudiced, unbiased progress, without partisan politics influencing decisions. For years it has described itself as “the only non-religious people’s organization still able to work the length and breadth of a country which desperately needs integration and cultural pluralism to survive.” With its extensive outreach, Sarvodaya’s potential for working toward multicultural integration and reconciliation is significant.

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