Home News AT Ariyaratne, Sri Lanka’s poverty alleviation hero, dies at 92

AT Ariyaratne, Sri Lanka’s poverty alleviation hero, dies at 92


Ahangamage Tudor Ariyaratne was born on 5 November 1931 in the town of Unawatuna in British Ceylon (as Ceylon was known before independence). He is the son of wholesaler Ahangamage Hendrick Jinadasa and household housekeeper Rosalina Gajadheera Arachchi. He attended Mahinda College near Galle and obtained a degree in Economics, Education and Sinhala from Vidyodaya University in 1968.

A few years ago, Mr. Ariyaratna embarked on a trip that changed him and became the foundation of his movement. In December 1958, while teaching science at Nalanda College, a top secondary school in Colombo, he took 40 students and 12 teachers to Kanatoluwa, a nearby low-caste village, where They spent several days helping residents in various ways, including digging wells, building latrines and repairing schools. Thus was born Mr. Ariyaratne’s concept of “Shramadana,” or “The Gift of Labour,” a project that grew throughout the 1960s to encompass hundreds of voluntary labor camps, as Mr. Bond describes them.

Mr Ariyaratne considers Shramadana transformative for both the movement’s thousands of volunteers and the village itself. His goal, he wrote, was “a dynamic, nonviolent revolution, not the transfer of political, economic or social power from one party or class to another, but the transfer of all such power to the people.”

By the early 1970s, he had attracted funding from the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland. Mr Bond said Salvodaya became the largest NGO in the country. Although the movement’s nonviolent stance clashed with the government, leading some outside donors to withdraw funding for a time, Ariyaratna has always bounced back.

In addition to his son, he is survived by his wife Neetha Ariyaratne. three daughters: Charika Marasinghe, Sadeeva de Silva and Nimna Ganegama; two other sons, Sadee and Diyath; 12 grandchildren; and sister Amara Peris.

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