A journey to Sri Lanka is also a journey of cuisine. You will experience local curries in their multiple varieties accompanied by rice, lots of fresh fruit and coconut. Sri Lankans eat with their hands, scooping the rice and curry together. You are welcome to try this! At every visit and multiple times during the day, a delicious chai tea is served either with small savory snacks or sweets. The sweets of Sri Lanka are known for incorporating sesame and jaggery (raw cane sugar) and have a very distinctive taste. For those with very sensitive palates and/or food allergies, accommodations are made to create mild dishes and offer more Western alternatives. Most meals are prepared by chefs of the local partner organization who have considerable experience hosting foreign guests.
When in Colombo, comfortable accommodations are provided at either the Vishna Niketan Guest House Peace Center or the Bandargama Educational Center of our local partner Sarvodaya. Simple rooms are surrounded by gardens and a meditation center. In the rural area, local hotels provide comfortable double accommodation, single is available upon request at an additional cost. Groups interested in village immersion are afforded the opportunity for a home-stay in the homes of families participating in the programs of our local partner. This offers the chance to connect directly with the culture, the daily life of rural Sri Lanka. Whether in the tea country or the rice paddy production area, the people of Sri Lanka are welcoming and interested to learn from you.
Sri Lanka, officially the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka, is an island country in the northern Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of India. Known until 1972 as Ceylon, Sri Lanka has maritime borders with India to the northwest and the Maldives to the southwest. The tropical climate is home to 20 million people of diverse ethnicity. Approximately 70% are Sinhalese and Buddhist, 13% are Tamil and Hindu, 10% are Muslim and 7% are Christian. The most prevalent languages are Sinhala and Tamil, with English often the common bridge language brought by British colonists, as in India.
In 1983 ethnic tensions emerged with violent outbursts between the Sinhala majority and the Tamil minority. Peace was achieved in 2009 but not before 100,000 people perished in this civil war. Most of the violence took place in the north of the country, in the Tamil region. Also in 2004, Sri Lanka was one of the countries most affected by the Tsunami, with 35,000 people disappearing in the aftermath.
There is an optimism in the country, a focus on educating youth, and a dream for a continued peace and prosperity to include the villages. Since 2005 the per capita income of Sri Lankans’ has doubled, with one of the fastest growing economies in the developing world. The country has a literacy rate of 92% with 98% among its youth. Your visit will offer you the opportunity to experience a land emerging from poverty, tending toward self-reliance, a beautiful land, and a loving culture engaged in a mindful process for the future.
Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement is the largest people’s organization in Sri Lanka. Sarvodaya is Sanskrit for ‘Awakening of All’ and Shramadana means to donate effort. It began over 50 years ago in one village and has grown to more than 15,000. In addition to the island-wide integrated community development program implemented in those villages, the organization is currently involved in resettlement, reconstruction and reconciliation activities in the war affected North and East of Sri Lanka, and “Deshodaya”, a National Reawakening program which aims to promote good governance and democracy.
Sarvodaya is clearly rooted in Gandhian and Buddhist traditions, but actively engages people of all religions and ethnic backgrounds. Events at the village, district and national levels often begin with non-denominational meditation and invocations from the perspectives of all religions represented. Sarvodaya builds houses side by side for Christians, Buddhists, Muslims and Hindus. Peace teams are led by Muslim, Christian and Hindu Sarvodaya personnel. The Movement consciously directs its efforts to people of all religious persuasions. Its purpose is not to proselytize but to help participants see their common humanity.