Social Empowerment Division
Sarvodaya Social Empowerment division weaves an integrated approach to personal, family, village and regional development that extents far beyond mere economics. It is an infrastructure through, which flows an energy that cannot be described in economic or bureaucratic terms alone. Not government. Nor merely technical assistance, professionalism and the accumulation of business acumen, but all of those qualities permeated by a sense of purpose and meaning that bind people to people in ways that few in the United States and elsewhere have witnessed.

The dependent units fall under the Social Empowerment Division, which as the name implies, is responsible for the social awakening and mobilization of a community, leading it through a five stage graduation process. Basic development activities are carried out and a Sarvodaya Society formed. Sarvodaya identifies Pioneering Villages which, as they proceed through the five-stage process, are enabled to assist Intermediary Villages in entering into the development process, and subsequently includes Peripheral Villages. At present there are nearly 15,000 such villages going through this development process.

The Social Empowerment Division consists of the following units:

  • Community Capacity Building Unit
  • Community Health Unit
  • Early Childhood Development Programme
  • Disaster Management Unit (5R)
  • Sarvodaya Institute of Bio-diversity Conservation
  • Development Communication Unit
  • Sarvodaya International Unit
  • Sarvodaya Rural Technical Services

The Community Capacity Building Unit directly implements the Sarvodaya vision of an enlightened society using Shramadana. This is achieved through a programme of Shramadana camps which identify the common problems of the villages and establish collaborative methods of utilizing village resources. Leadership training programmes are conducted once young people with leadership potential have been identified during the camps.

The Community Health Unit co-ordinates primary health activities, public awareness campaigns and training of both local and foreign health care workers. It has three main programmes that focus on Reproductive Health, Mental Health and Nutrition and works throughout the country. Particular emphasis at this time is placed on the Mental Health programme, especially for children affected by conflict. Sri Lanka also has the fastest aging population in the world necessitating a change of emphasis to include additional Elders’ Programmes.

The Early Childhood Development Programme operates pre-school centres throughout the country and has as its goal “To promote optimal physical, intellectual and psycho-social development at early childhood through intervention programmes for the holistic development of the total community especially within the rural poor.” This is achieved through a combination of direct education and training of both parents and children at all levels of the community that focuses on child care, health and nutrition and also promotes food security and better nutrition at village level.

The Disaster Management Unit works primarily in the war-torn Northern and Eastern regions of the country and has as its goal “Meeting essential human needs and restoring life with dignity”. Its principal objective is to alleviate human suffering brought about by calamity and conflict through protecting life with dignity in ways that support durable recovery wherever possible. This is achieved through providing facilities or services to raise the standard of living for displaced communities in the form of improved physical infrastructure, water supply, sanitation, health care, agriculture, animal husbandry and household income. In this way commitment is shared with all the stakeholders involved in the intervention of humanitarian assistance to achieve the desired goals and objectives. Activities are mainly based on micro projects that sustain the relief and rehabilitation process of the internally displaced people affected by the war. They are implemented through the Sarvodaya network of District and Village coordinators using specially trained staff.

The Sarvodaya Institute of Bio-diversity Conservation is a special programme for environmental and bio-diversity conservation and bio-resource development in Sri Lanka. It uses organic agricultural methods and traditional techniques to demonstrate that it is possible to raise good crops economically without the use of artificial fertilizers etc. it is active in the promotion of Effective Micro-organism Technology (EM), an organic fertilizer substitute. It undertakes a major agro-forestry project in different region and provides education and training particularly for young people together with a public awareness campaign on the possibilities for environmental concern.

The Development Communication Unit supports the activities of all the units, providing media facilities such as video and audio recording of events, and press relations. The library and archives fall into this section together with the photographic section.

Sarvodaya Rural Technical Services was founded in 1978, funded principally by the Swiss organization, Helvetas. SRTS implements various Technological Empowerment schemes and has become a pioneer of community managed rural gravity water supply schemes. SRTS joins with the poorer sections of rural communities to satisfy their basic needs through strengthening the infrastructure of the village via community projects. This process strengthens the institutional skills of the villagers enabling them to act cohesively and progressively in the fulfillment of their own basic needs. SRTS activities includes, Construction of Gravity Water Supply Schemes, Wells, Latrines, Culverts, Footbridges etc. and
promotion of Solar Power and other alternative energy systems.


Economic Empowerment Division

Sarvodaya Economic Enterprises Development Services (SEEDS) was established in 1987 to focus on developing village level economies through providing training in business skills and financial services. It provides financial and non-financial resources to enable villagers to fulfill their potential. SEEDS believe that economic empowerment plays a crucial role in Sarvodaya?s approach towards sustainable development. By first building the economic capacity of the poor and then providing the financial and other resources (training, knowledge and skills) and creating the opportunity and an infrastructure that engenders progress, both economic and social growth can be achieved. Fostering small enterprise, rather than simply providing credit, offers greater opportunities for long-term sustainability. SEEDS do not target the poor only, as it believes this can further marginalize them within the society. It works with the community as a whole and focuses their efforts on the inclusion of all segments of the society. Participation of the people, the community and grass root level organizations is fundamental to the part SEEDS plays in achieving balanced development.

Sarvodaya Legal Services Movement

This legally independent Movement started in 1979 and operates through coordinating the services of volunteer lawyers who offer free legal mediation and advice to clients at the Movement’s headquarters and at the District Centres.
The Sarvodaya Legal Services Movement carries out the programmes in 22 districts providing free legal advice, increasing knowledge of the country’s legal systems, protecting and increasing awareness of human rights, women’s rights and children’s rights. To make legal aid more easily accessible to the public, SLSM conducts clinics that take legal aid almost into their very homes. Using the volunteered services of lawyers, policemen, labour officers, and Grama Niladharis (government representatives in the villages), the SLSM coordinators carry out days long legal aid workshops. SLSM programme designed to address the rights of children is considered one of the best in the country.

Sarvodaya Women’s Movement

The Sarvodaya Women’s Movement was founded in 1987 as a unit of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement and became legally independent in 1990.
The Movement seeks to provide women with opportunity and direction so that they can assume their rightful place in society and realize their aspirations, hopes and strengths. The aims of the Women’s Movement are > to realize the greater contribution of women in the empowerment of the family and to develop the country through strengthening the innate capabilities of women > to empower women by generating awareness among them, and by building their capabilities, through assisting them to acquire knowledge and skills, and enabling them t be more self reliant and responsible, > to make no distinction of class, race or social status, and to bring about the spiritual awakening of communities based on all the major faiths of Sri Lanka, > to bring about the total development of women as mothers, social workers, income generators and spiritual leaders.
These aims are achieved through a varied programme that includes, Skill training for self-employment, Rehabilitation programmes for street women and children, Rehabilitation programme for young women out of probation care, Bank loans to women for income generating projects, Organic farming projects in disadvantaged districts, Training of trainers for the elimination of violence against women, Gender sensitization programme.

Sarvodaya Shanthi Sena ~ Peace Brigade

Shanthi Sena Brigades were formed as a result of communal disturbances in late 1978 to safeguard life and property in villages and towns. It consists of young people working together in a peace programme of amity and friendship. It has formed its own programme of activities and its own participation network parallel to those of the parent body throughout the country. Shanthi Sena is a People’s Peace Organisation and its members are trained to use non-violent means in reconciling critical situations by persuasion and discussion rather than conflict.

The overall objective is to develop effective community leadership amongst young people by awakening their personality, training them in discipline and self-reliance, teaching them services that will be useful to the community and skills useful to themselves, and promoting their physical, mental and spiritual development. There is now a membership of nearly 100,000 young people, formed into 6,000 units spread throughout the country. Each unit undertakes a variety of activities including Skill Training, establishment of First Aid & Health Centres in each of the villages, propagating home gardens as an educational project in the community undertaking conservation projects, creating playgrounds for children and youth to promote their physical health. Peace Camps and Amity Camps are held on a regular basis to build up a fellowship and a deeper understanding of humanity irrespective of nationality, caste or religion.


Vishva Niketan ~ Peace Centre

Vishva Niketan means a Universal Home for Meditation and Peace. There are regular Vipassana Meditation Programmes going on in Vishva Niketan. Groups from all parts of the country, practice meditation and get back to their areas and persuade others to have similar mental purification programmes with hundreds of people participating. There are no religious or other barriers for people to join.

The Peace Centre provides a serene and tranquil environment that is conducive to the development of peace, harmony and spiritual growth. It promotes the learning, teaching and practicing of the universal teachings of the Buddha, in a spirit of loving kindness to all living beings. Vishva Niketan promotes inter-faith, inter-racial, inter-political and inter-state understanding. It sponsors actions that promote co-operation between communities and religious denominations, providing a neutral ground for the resolution of disputes arising within communities as well as those on a larger scale between countries.
The Peace Centre houses the Peace Museum which contains artifacts, paintings and audio-visual materials depicting peace’ and harmony and focusing on the relevance of inner peace for achieving outer peace. There is a research library of carefully selected books containing salient features from all religions together with the archives of the Sarvodaya Movement.

The Executive Director maintains direct responsibility for the Planning, Programme Support, Special Institutes and Sarvodaya International Units. The Planning Unit was formed to provide a long-term vision of the future direction of the Movement, together with links into the day-to-day projects undertaken by the Movement. The Programme Support Unit is a central resource for funding applications, marketing information and general inquiries about Sarvodaya. The Special Institutes Unit has responsibility for the Development Education Institutes at Bandaragama and Tanamalwila and for other special projects as arise from time to time. Sarvodaya International Unit co-ordinates all the international volunteer placements at Sarvodaya together with arranging foreign study visits for Sarvodaya workers as required.

Sarvodaya Divisions