Volunteerism in Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka has a long history and rich culture of volunteerism molded by socio-cultural practices, permeating 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 varying notions of volunteerism, giving rise to many forms of volunteer practices.

While individual volunteerism has continued over the centuries it did not take long for organised volunteerism to earn a more dominant place in society. The latter has continued to evolve and emerge as an important factor in economic and social development of the country.

Through the high levels of pervasive social infusion of volunteer culture, the values of solidarity, reciprocity, mutual trust and empowerment are embedded within the practice of volunteerism in Sri Lanka.

According to CAF World Giving Index in 2019, Sri Lanka recorded the highest rate of volunteering in the world. Each year an average of around seven million people in the country volunteered their time, and nearly half of those aged over fifteen.

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 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami, the 2019 Easter Sunday Attacks, and in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic volunteers at the community level are the first responders.

UNV Sri Lanka supports and promotes volunteerism as catalysts contributing to achieve peace and development. Key support to the country in developing national infrastructure on volunteerism and mobilizing UN Volunteers contributing to achieving the 17 SDGs. UN Volunteers help raise awareness and take forward the development agenda while inspiring those around them.

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