Volunteerism in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a long and rich cultural history of volunteerism molded by socio-cultural practices, infused within almost all aspects of human activity. It has largely taken the form of donation of labour (commonly known as “Shramadana”) and traditional knowledge that has permeated Sri Lankan communities. Diverse ethno-religious traditions in the country have embodied diverse notions of volunteerism, giving rise to many forms of volunteer practices.

Volunteerism makes specific contributions by generating well-being for people and their communities. Through the high levels of pervasive social infusion of volunteer culture, the values of solidarity, reciprocity, mutual trust, belonging and empowerment are embedded within the practice of volunteerism in Sri Lanka.

Throughout the years, volunteerism in Sri Lanka has evolved and developed. A focus on ‘charity work’ shifted to development-oriented volunteering through associations and NGOs and today, volunteerism has become a key factor in environmental and climate activism, resolving social issues, and ensuring youth empowerment. In times of disasters such as the 2014 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2019 Easter Sunday Attacks, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic it is volunteers at the community level that were the first to respond.

Based on the rich cultural heritage of the country, UNV Sri Lanka supports and encourages volunteerism as an important cross-cutting contributor to achieve peace and Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by mobilizing UN Volunteers, supporting to the national infrastructure on volunteerism, facilitating the implementation of the 17 thematic areas of SDGs. UN Volunteers raise awareness and become leading examples of individuals who proactively take forward the development agenda while inspiring those around them.

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