On the path to Deshodaya: moving from Phase I to Phase II of the 5R program
February 2, 2005
Colombo, Sri Lanka: Dr. Ariyaratne addressed all Sarvodaya field workers today, and spoke about Sarvodaya’s plans for long-term rehabilitation and reawakening of tsunami-affected people. What follows is a synopsis of his talk.
The first phase of the 5R (Relief, Rehabilitation, Reconstruction, Reconciliation and Reawakening) Program compromises of immediate relief to affected families. In the last month, Sarvodaya has reached close to a quarter of all affected people, and has been providing people with food, medicine, clothing, shelter, and other basic needs. Everything we received locally and from overseas, we packaged at our headquarters and delivered to affected communities. Sarvodaya has also organized medical camps, and trauma counseling. Importantly, along with providing for basic living needs, we have tried to give people hope.
How do you give people hope? The answer to this lies in Sarvodaya’s strong presence in rural Sri Lanka, and its unique guiding philosophy, based on Buddhist and Gandhian ideals. This philosophy permeates all programs and activities, and has enabled Sarvodaya to develop a strong grassroots network in rural Sri Lanka, over the last 47 years. When the tsunami hit, we decided to focus our efforts in villages where Sarvodaya societies – the grassroots village-level building blocks of the organization – already exist. 226 Sarvodaya villages were affected by the tsunami. As soon as word about the tsunami spread through the nation, volunteers and employees from other Sarvodaya villages not affected by the tsunami, rushed to the coastal villages. Sarvodaya is now operating its ‘village-to-village, heart-to-heart” programs in all tsunami-affected communities; camps have been set up in all Sarvodaya villages, and volunteers and staff are working there full-time.
Each camp has 10 volunteers and staff members. These comprise of Sarvodaya employees and volunteers from that village itself, or from other non-affected villages. They collect information cook, clean debris, build shelters, run children and youth groups, organize family gatherings every evening, and are re-starting schools. The groups and gatherings are extremely important for the psycho-spiritual welfare of the people. At these meetings, people meditate, discuss their problems and plans, and extend support to each other. Music, art and other recreational activities are also part of the program, especially within children and youth group sessions. This program crosses all religious and ethnic divides – Tamils, Muslims and Sinhalese are helping each other. Of course, rebuilding can only start in earnest once the government has allocated the land for new houses and communities. Rebuilding will be aided by the USAID “cash-for-work” program, and other donors.
We are now entering Phase II of the 5R program. Phase I, of course, will continue as long as needed, alongside Phase II. Based on the information collected by volunteers and staff on every family and person affected, Sarvodaya will soon produce its detailed plan for the next 6 months. Each Sarvodaya village will be linked up with 4 surrounding villages, and we plan to be active in about 1000 tsunami-affected villages in all. Once the government decides on sites for building houses, Sarvodaya will consult with the local people, who, along with volunteers, will clear the land and build houses. Programs in all 11 priority areas identified in Tsunami to Deshodaya: Sarvodaya Plan for National Reawakening, will be carried out. We will do this in cooperation with the government, and non-governmental agencies.
We have received considerable support internationally and locally. We will use these funds efficiently and transparently, and acknowledge the donors publicly, by installing plaques thanking specific donors in each village, school etc.
This is our plan for continuing along the path to Deshodaya, or National Awakening.