Monday, August 31, 2015

The Wonderful World of Volunteering in Sri Lanka

 If you google search "volunteer opportunities in Sri Lanka" (or anywhere in the world), you're most likely to come across a plethora of foreign volunteer organizations based out of countries outside of Sri Lanka requiring registration fees and a fair whack of expense on your part. The two most common volunteer programs or projects that are touted through these foreign volunteer organizations are the Wild Elephant Conservation Project in Northern Central  Sri Lanka, or the Sea Turtle Conservation Project along the southern coast of Sri Lanka. And you might also come across volunteer placements in teaching, elderly care, disability care, orphanages that are offered. Travel tours of the island are frequently offered in conjunction with volunteer placements via tour companies that have an established volunteer program.

However, if you haven't done sufficient research or investigating then you won't readily find information on locally recognized and less costly volunteer opportunities in Sri Lanka. Or it may not be clear which local volunteer programs or projects are genuine, well-established, efficient and effective.

The purpose of this blog post is to shed some light and offer up some options for those who might be interested in a volunteer placements or opportunities in Sri Lanka. I know there are some who are interested in primarily volunteering for extended periods; others who wish to add volunteering onto their travel itinerary (on an ad hoc or fixed period) in Sri Lanka; and expats living in Sri Lanka who want to contribute in a meaningful way to the Sri Lankan community. Please note the list below is not exhaustive.

Please note, I haven't personally undertaken a voluntary assignment for any length of time with any of the organizations, groups or individuals mentioned, nor do I have any personal affiliations. I have however, spoken with  friends who have already-established relationships with specific local charitable organizations to seek their input or comments and, I have done some desk-based research.

If you're interested in volunteering please do further research and planning to ensure you have all the relevant information. Most of all... Happy Volunteering and Giving wink biggrin


Sarvodaya began 50 years ago and is now Sri Lanka’s largest people’s organization with a network of more than 15,000 villages . They are currently engaged in relief efforts in the war-torn north as well as ongoing development projects.

The charitable organization was founded by Dr A.T. Ariyaratne and developed around the philosophical principles of Buddhism and Gandhian thought.

Sarvodaya welcomes volunteers from abroad including student interns (three to six months); individual volunteers (at least three weeks); professional volunteers (volunteer periods vary); researchers (less than a year); international visitors; and study groups of a maximum of 20 people (one to four weeks)

Volunteers may choose to be involved in any of Sarvodaya’s programs, grouped into three empowerment areas:
  • Social Empowerment  - promoted by 14 units and 5 independent units, 
  • Technological Empowerment - promoted by Sarvodaya Rural Technology Unit, and 
  • Economic Empowerment - promoted by Sarvodaya Economic Enterprise Development Services ("SEEDS").

There is also opportunity for volunteers to get involved with Sarvodaya's core activity known as Shramadana, which means ‘sharing’ of one’s time, thought and energy for the welfare of all. Shramadana includes constructing of roads, bridges, community halls and pre-schools etc. and cleaning a village or a specific area. During Shramadana days, volunteers stay at villagers’ homes for an enjoyable cultural experience.

Sarvodaya requires volunteers to possess one or more of the following skills:
  • Fluency in spoken/written English
  • Computer skills
  • Volunteer management skills
  • Building and construction skills including carpentry, masonry, electrical, plumbing, water sanitation construction
  • Physical labor
  • Willingness to learn and accommodate

Sarvodaya volunteers are required to pay a registration fee (see the website for further details) and you are responsible for your travel (to and from Sri Lanka), travel insurance, accommodation and living expenses for the duration of your volunteer period. Modest and low-priced accommodation is available for volunteers at Sarvodaya Headquarters in Moratuwa.

For more information on volunteering with Sarvodaya please refer to the following website:

If you are interested in volunteering you can contact Sarvodaya's international unit by sending an email to with a cover letter and CV.

Foundation of Goodness

The Foundation of Goodness ("FoG") is a small non-government organization or NGO that was set up by Kushil Gunasekera in 1999. It is committed to working for rural communities, primarily focused on a rural community development model in Seenigama, and replicated on a smaller scale in the nearby villages of Udumulla and Rathgama.

FoG welcomes volunteer applications from all volunteers though their website mentions they are in "particular need of well qualified professionals who can provide insight and support for staff as the organization moves toward a phase of community focused development".

FoG is looking for volunteers on an ongoing basis across a wide variety of projects including:
  • Children and Education – Computer and English Training, Pre-School and Drama and Art Therapy.
  • Healthcare - Doctors Clinic, Dental Clinic, Maternity Clinic and Mental Health Unit.
  • Sports - Including Volleyball, Cricket, Swimming, Netball and Karate.
  • Environmental Management and Sustainable Development
  • Women’s Enterprise Centre
  • Livelihoods Projects
  • General Management – Supporting the running of the FoG office.
and a range of other community services.

Applications can be made through one of the organized volunteer programs or directly to FoG.  There is no registration or application charge for volunteer placements, but you are responsible for your travel (to and from Sri Lanka), travel insurance, accommodation and living expenses for the duration of your volunteer period.

Preferred placement is between 14 to 30 days. If you'd like to volunteer beyond the 30 days this may be possible subject to extraordinary performance, discipline and value.

For more information on volunteering with the Foundation of Goodness please refer to the following website:

Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka

Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka is a registered non-governmental organization or NGO whose mission is to provide simple, decent, affordable housing to people in need. Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka was formed in 1995. It operates from four Habitat Resource Centers (HRC's) across the island and is considered one of the most productive home builders. It's primary program is an infrastructure program known as the Save and Build Program where interest free loans are provided, work is undertaken with community involvement, and further builds within the community are funded through the repayment of the initial loan.

The Hands for Humanity Program was created to enable people or groups to volunteer across a variety of areas to ease poverty in Sri Lanka.

The program welcomes welcomes volunteers from abroad including individual volunteers, groups, corporate groups, and student chapters.

For more information on volunteering with Habitat for Humanity Sri Lanka please refer to the following website:

To sign up to volunteer on the Hands for Humanity Program, there is an online form to complete:

WWOOF Sri Lanka

World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms ("WWOOF") is a loose network of national organizations that facilitates volunteer exchange on sustainable and organic farms and properties around the world. WWOOF hosts offer food, accommodation and opportunities to learn about organic lifestyles. Volunteers give hands on help in return.

Sri Lanka has its own WWOOF community that provides opportunities for volunteers to learn about organic farming, food and ways of life in Sri Lanka. The move towards organic agriculture began in the late 1960s in Sri Lanka. Presently, WWOOF Sri Lanka offers opportunities for WWOOFer volunteers to experience a variety of farming methods, from large scale, home gardening, vegetable cultivation, paddy cultivation and mixed cropping, and a unique experience of living styles of the rural farm hosts.  Daily activities include growing crops, preparation of organic fertilizer and pesticides, irrigation work, animal husbandry etc.

There are up to six WWOOF hosts located across different parts of the island. The eco-community at Thennakoongama appears to be one of the largest organic farming communities that plays WWOOFer host.

Membership to WWOOF Sri Lanka is offered on completion of an application form adhering to WWOOFer ethics and principles. Single membership is USD$35 while double membership for two persons is USD$50. You are also responsible for your travel (to and from Sri Lanka) and travel insurance.

For more information on volunteering with WWOOF Sri Lanka or directly to the the Eco Community at Thennakoongama please refer to the following websites:


Sevalanka is a non-profit NGO that was incorporated in 1992. They have  active programs in 22 of Sri Lanka's 25 districts with a focus on strengthening the capacity of organizations in disadvantaged rural communities so that people in these areas are able to access information, resources and services, influence decision making and catalyze regional change.

Sevalanka targets:
  • Remote villages with limited access to information, services and markets
  • Villages that have natural resource or livelihood constraints and no support from other organizations
  • Areas directly affected by conflict and/or natural disaster; and
  • Areas where people have been relocated or resettled

Sevalanka offers short term placements for volunteers. They have indicated they require volunteer support from people with software development, graphic design, english editing and teaching, law, fundraising, business and marketing experience. Due to the nature of community development projects the skills and requirements will vary according to what is needed. It would be advisable to get in touch with Sevalanka to ascertain current and emerging opportunities.

For more information on volunteering with Sevalanka please refer to their website:

If you are interested in volunteering with Sevalanka, you can send an email to for more information.

EMACE Sri Lanka

EMACE Sri Lanka is a non-profit, active NGO based in Sri Lanka working towards adaptation to climate change, mitigating the adverse impacts on the environment and ecology. EMACE Sri Lanka stands for:

E  Environment & Science
M  Manpower & Skills
A  Adult & Parenthood Development Assistance
C  Childcare & Women’s Rights
E  Education & Culture

The sectors it works across includes Biodiversity, Renewable Energy, Adaptation to Climate Change, Community Development, and Green Jobs.

Volunteers are required to assist with article writing and editing, research, report preparation for publication, social media maintenance, and general office administration. Visits to rural communities and the surrounding countryside, as well as training and work experience within a developing country is also anticipated.

Volunteers wishing to stay less than 3 months can visit on a tourist visa which they will be issued with upon arrival at the airport (subject to renewal as you will only be given an initial one month tourist visa). Candidates wishing to volunteer for longer than 3 months will require upfront government approval via a long-term work permit. EMACE can apply on your behalf but you will need to provide them with supporting documentation.

Airport pick-up and drop-off, accommodation with utilities provided (i.e. the volunteer bungalow is fully furnished and equipped for home cooking) and a food allowance (approximately LKR10,000 bi-weekly) is included. However, you are responsible for your travel (to and from Sri Lanka) and travel insurance.

For more information on volunteering with EMACE Sri Lanka please refer to their website:

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