That's item number 7 in Sarvodaya's published position on tsunami rebuilding.
I've been visiting the headquarters of Sri Lanka's longest-standing NGO, Sarvodaya, which was founded on and rooted in grassroots principles since its inception in 1958. They kicked into high gear deploying their island-wide district offices and village-based volunteer force immediately after the tsunami.
I'm sipping my Ceylon tea with Bandala Senadeeva who heads the international unit that coordinated international groups and foreign invididuals that poured into their offices post-tsunami. We've dipped into the canteen next door for tea time which is "taken" from between 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. (You "take" lunch, here.) It's a tradition I can get happily accustomed to as I'm a big tea lover. Although the bed tea concept is a little harder to acquire a taste for as I'm not an early-riser.
Bandala explains that we will clean our own tea cups at the sink. "Each of us brooms our own office. We have titles such as executive director, but there really isn't a sense of heirarchy in that one person is better or less than another. Here, you can drop in and see anyone anytime."
It would seem natural for an organization inspired by the Buddha and Gandhi to spill over their peace efforts in a conflict-ridden country to disaster relief. Virtually every bit of coastline suffered losses in the tsunami, including the sparring Sinhalese and Tamils.
"After the tsunami, people just wanted to help. It didn't matter if they were Tamil [ancestral origins in south Indian and Hindu], Sinhalese [mostly Buddhist, but Christian in and around Colombo], or Muslim," Bandala says. So teams from interior and unaffected Tamil villages whom don't even speak the same language (English is a 'linking' language) were paired with their Sinhala-speaking tsunami-affected brethen, and Sinhalese unaffected village teams where paired with Tamil tsunami survivors.
"This is our Motherland. Then why should we be divided into groups? All human beings are the same and they have only one heritage. That is human heritage (manava urumaya) and not hela urumaya or damila urumaya." - Lyrics from award-winning Sri Lanka musician Dr. W.D. Amaradera in his song Sonduru Wu Minisa, from "Geneva Talks a Positive Development", Daily News, January 28, 2006
The "Heart to Heart Village to Village" strategy is quite extensive and encompassed the immediate emergency response all the way out to short-term and long-term plans completed with the participation of each affected village. (BTW, Sarvodaya's always been essentially about village development: both bottom-up and social empowerment.
Here are just two of the guidelines for the "Heart to Heart Village to Village" program:
- Teams will camp in the village and will provide for themselves without in any way burdening the community.
- [My fav:]The team will essentially play the role of a set of "friends" who have come to live and work in the community.
Just as a mother would protect her only child with her life even so let one cultivate a boundless love towards all beings. - sign at Vishva Niketan, the Sarvodaya peace center