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March 8, 2005

Thanks to SIT, Vermont!


sit students

I am a student at the School for International Training (SIT) in Brattleboro, Vermont, USA, where I am currently studying for a Master of Arts in Sustainable Development. This institution, part of World Learning, is internationally renowned for the quality of education it provides to scholars seeking alternative solutions to problems of ongoing conflict and inequality. My professor Kanthie Athukorala has been kind enough to pass on to me your address so that I can bring the following matter to your attention. I am writing on behalf of the students of SIT who raised US $ 7,762.46 to support Sarvodaya’s efforts to provide shelter and care for children affected by the devastating tsunami that hit Sri Lanka last December. As the rest of the world, we were deeply saddened by the loss of life that resulted from the disaster.

In response, my colleague Chrissy Hyde and I, along with about half a dozen further students, initiated a dialogue about what contribution we as students could make to help South Asia cope with the aftermath of the catastrophe. We reminded ourselves of our responsibility as global citizens and resolved to organise a large fundraising event. Since, due to prior contacts with your organisation, many of SIT’s staff had already made individual donations to Sarvodaya, and inspired by a conversation with Kanthie, we chose your organisation as the beneficiary to receive all of our proceeds.

Our initiative included several components: a party by two SIT students, a bake sale during a concert at SIT, a staff fundraiser, and the main event on February 11, an evening of education and entertainment. Among other things, this evening featured children’s activities, an auction of art and crafts made and donated by SIT students and staff, an information session about Sri Lanka and Sarvodaya with Kanthie, open discussions about development, relief and trauma recovery, and live performances by SIT students and staff. The current issue of World Learning’s Newsletter features an article about this event; to read the article (which is attached to this message), please go to Our World Online.

I have also attached a photograph of our fundraising team (with Kanthie) so that you have some faces for who we are. Please feel free to distribute it or use it in any other way you may wish. For example, the picture (along with excerpts from this letter) may serve as an inspiration to other initiatives if posted on your website.

We are very happy with the monetary outcome of our fundraising efforts, especially since we were organising this event after (in some cases during) our classes of an intensive course. There are many reasons why we chose to support Sarvodaya, but let me just mention here that we are simply convinced that your organisation is able and determined to help those most affected, and in this we trust. On a personal note, I have utmost respect for the work you and your colleagues do on a national level, and I was fortunate enough to be able to write an in-depth case-study of Sarvodaya in one of my classes. I therefore wish you the best of luck in your ongoing endeavours of creating an awakened and unified society in Sri Lanka.

Dennis Winkler
Brattleboro, VT 05301, USA
March 7, 2005

*Response From Sarvodaya Executive Director, Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne*

Dear Dennis,

What a wonderful gesture. Congratulations and please accept my sincere gratitude on behalf of Sarvodaya for the commitment you demonstrated as global citizens in raising funds for the care of children affected by Tsunami. We deeply appreciate your generosity.

In terms of our programme for Tsunami affected children, we are currently working at 2 levels; At the 1st level we care for the children within the COMMUNITY itself by strengthening the social protection networks within the community through early child development programmes, pre-schools, educational support for the children to return to school, preventive measures for child abuse by way of education and promotion of child rights, and meeting the basic nutritional and social care needs of children. We also provide support for the relations of separated children to look after the children within the community. At the second level, we care for those children who unfortunately are unaccompanied and separated from parents (orphaned) due to the Tsunami (and ofcourse due to other causes as well) at well run child care homes which have now been expanded and upgraded to provide care for Tsunami affected children. Eventhough the number of children affected is quire large, those needing institutional care at the moment is very small. Besides the current recommended approach is to, as much as possible to provide the care for such children within their own community rather than in an institution, we put more emphasis and resources initially at the 1st level and when there is an absolute need at the second level. Therefore we will be using the donation you gave for activities at both levels and you will receive a report on when the programme gets started/completed.

Thank you again for your wonderful gesture and we look forward to having you all with us in here in Sri Lanka.

With best regards,

Vinya Ariyaratne

Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement for the People in Need.