submitted by Renuka Gunawardana, Director, July 2018
Network e-Bulletin No. 2, May 2019
Using "the ARI Way" in Sri Lanka
I have many things to share about my life at ARI. I faced a big problem at ARI because my English was weak, but I succeeded because of my teacher’s words. She said, “English is not your mother tongue, so if you can communicate with others it’s ok. Don’t worry. This is ARI English.” Our teacher’s words were very useful to build self-confidence.
At ARI, I learned many things not only in the classroom but from teachers, volunteers, TAs, working visitors, attending church, and the many people that supported me. I am very thankful for them.
Now, I am the Executive Director of the Women’s Development Federation in Weligepola, Sri Lanka. In my job, I am using my ARI experiences. Sri Lankan people face many problems. We are trying to lessen our food problems and support safe, high-quality food. Farmers are using many chemicals on their farms because the government promotes and supports chemical companies. We are struggling to stop the overuse of chemicals.
We have many farmers using organic methods. We started introducing organic through home gardens for mothers. The program has been very successful. ARI always says “learning by doing.” I have my own vegetable field. I am practicing in my field and making compost, liquid compost, fish tonic, fruit tonic, and many organic pesticides. I share my knowledge and experiences with my women’s groups. I always say that we want to become self-sufficient for our food. Still, we are struggling. Food is a human right, and we want to add it to the government consensus.
Seed exhibition at the Women's Development Federation
Using the ARI Way
I learned about organic farming at ARI. Osamu-san taught us. He is not only a classroom teacher but a very good farmer and guide. I saw servant leadership through the ARI family. When I came to ARI, one man was cutting the grass. I didn’t know who the man was. He was Mr. J.B. Hoover! I was so surprised, but that is real leadership. In my life, I am using the servant leader method. Life can be simple. I can manage my staff, volunteers, and any person very well.
In my ARI life, I saw that Tomoko-san is very clever and a good guide. I learned from her how to manage problems. Now, that is useful to me. I have 2,500 women in our federation. We have many activities to improve their livelihood. We are implementing programs and trainings in health, sanitation and nutrition; savings and credit; welfare; religion; the environment; organic farming; seed banks; programs for children; and many other things for our community. We also have a big credit union.
I give many thanks to ARI, which opened my eyes. I pray that ARI will have success in all work and dreams.