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Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne to present 'Lessons from Sri Lanka' March 25-27

March 14, 2013
Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, general secretary of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka.

EAU CLAIRE — Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne, general secretary of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement of Sri Lanka, one of the largest grassroots movements in the world, will present "East meets West: Lessons from Sri Lanka" March 25-27 at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire as part of the Visiting Minority Scholars Program.

Ariyaratne is a trained medical doctor with expertise in community health and disaster management and is a leading public health expert in Sri Lanka with unique knowledge of communicable diseases and environmental health. He has extensive involvement in civil society peace and reconciliation initiatives in Sri Lanka. Currently, Ariyaratne is working as an adjunct lecturer at the Heller School for Social Policy and Management at Brandeis University in Waltham, Mass.

Rita Webb, an academic adviser at UW-Eau Claire, met Ariyaratne in 1998 while volunteering with the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement. Her continued relationship with him and others in Sri Lanka contributed to the awarding of a UW-Eau Claire International Fellows program grant, funded through the Blugold Commitment. The grant allowed Webb, Steve Spina, a senior lecturer in philosophy and religious studies, and four students to travel to Sri Lanka on an immersion experience trip facilitated by Ariyaratne's organization in 2012.

The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement, founded by Ariyaratne's father more than 50 years ago, is the largest people's organization in Sri Lanka with more than 15,000 villages taking part in comprehensive development and conflict resolution programs. It is based on the Buddhist and Gandhian principles of nonviolence and is involved in resettlement, reconstruction and reconciliation activities in post-war Sri Lanka. Under Ariyaratne's direction, the movement was recognized by the United Nations World Habitat Award for its massive 2004 tsunami relief efforts. The organization has rescued and cared for hundreds of thousands of people displaced by war and natural disaster.

The Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement has a strong relationship with Wisconsin through a United States support group called Sarvodaya USA, headquartered in Madison.

Scheduled events during Ariyaratne's visit are:

Monday, March 25

  • "Abundant Living in a Finite World" — 2 p.m. in Schneider Hall 107. Class presentation.
  • "Leadership for Grassroots Empowerment" —5 p.m. in Nursing 119. Open to the public.

Tuesday, March 26

  • "How to Change the WorldOne Community at a Time" — noon to 1 p.m. in the Center for Excellence in Teaching and Learning, Old Library 1142. Faculty and staff brown bag presentation.
  • "Peacemaking from the Bottom Up in Post-Conflict Sri Lanka" —4 p.m. in the Ojibwe Room B of Davies Center. Open forum. Open to the public.

Wednesday, March 27

  • "Community Health Disaster Relief and Holistic Development" — 9 a.m. in Nursing 119. Open to the public.

All events are free to attend. For more information about Dr. Vinya Ariyaratne's visit, contact Rita Webb at or 715-836-3487, or Steve Spina at or 715-836-2932.



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