Members of Rotaract, Sri Lanka's largest non-aligned youth movement, engaging in volunteer activities on the ground.

Bringing the talents and skills of youth in Sri Lanka to a greater stage

International Volunteer Day (IVD) is an international observance, mandated by the UN General Assembly in 1985, and celebrated on the 5th of December every year. This year, the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme in Sri Lanka is featuring a series of articles for IVD 2020 – and have invited youth and volunteer organizations to showcase their work during the Coronavirus pandemic. This is the first in this series. 

Rotaract, Sri Lanka's largest non-aligned youth movement, has not only been an eminent force of strength in bringing up the talents and skills of our youth to a greater stage, but also an impactful contributor towards supporting deserving communities within Sri Lanka and even beyond.

Rotaract in Sri Lanka and Maldives has aimed at assisting the nation with safeguarding the country from COVID-19 and its effects.

“STOP THE SPREAD - Beyond COVID-19” is a nationwide initiative spearheaded by Rotaract, where thousands of young citizens who are members of the movement are joining hands in the efforts to arrest the further transmission of the virus and restore the country back to normal.

The initiative is comprised of three projects. The first is where Rotaract Clubs would be assisting organizations and other target entities to build a COVID-controlled environment for their employees and customers with the guidance of the Sri Lanka Standards Institute.

The second project is a selection of training workshops which aims to educate selected communities about the behavioral changes. From the training sessions, participants can learn how their behavioral changes in daily life can make a world of difference in keeping themselves and others safe from the virus. The final project focuses on providing assistance in this regard, where a series of projects that support the country in terms of economic growth would be launched.

Along with its successful response to the pandemic, Rotaract is trying to take actions that can help the community thrive in a post-pandemic context. Following this, 63 Rotaract Clubs have stepped forward to conduct projects islandwide. Some of the most significant projects include Aathayam, COVID Free Pera, Track the Spread, Viral Vote, TogetherSL and others.

Through the project Aathayam, a permanent mode of employment was provided to a wage laborer who was facing dire financial difficulties due to the Corona outbreak.

A grocery shop with electricity facilities was built and donated along with the required grocery items to initiate the business.

COVID Free Pera project, initiated by the Rotaract Club of the University of Peradeniya, is an initiative that focused on implementing proper sanitation procedures and raising awareness within the university premises. An awareness session was conducted educating over 60 members on the best practices and safety guidelines that should be followed to contract the spread of the virus. An online awareness campaign was also initiated – informative flyers and videos about the event were published on the Club’s social media pages. 

One hoarding and 100 posters were also displayed in the University premises to raise awareness among the undergraduates and the staff, 30 pedal operated sinks were installed around the university and 20 hand sanitizing stations and 10 thermometers are also to be donated with the assistance of Rotary.

Track the Spread is a mobile application which is being developed to assist the Public Health Inspector (PHI) to keep track of and monitor persons who are in quarantine. The mobile app allows the PHI to monitor the location of those in quarantine. Currently, the app is in its final stage of development.

Identifying the discouragement among the citizens to exercise their right to vote due to the health risks posed by COVID-19, the project Viral Vote was initiated to educate the general public about the importance of voting safely. 

A survey conducted by the Club revealed that, 71.1 per cent of the majority were aware of the health and safety guidelines imposed by the authorities to stop the spread of COVID-19, but alarmingly, 28.9% were not aware of these guidelines.

Taking this into consideration, an extensive public relations campaign was carried through different social media platforms. The campaign circulated informative posts with health and safety guidelines as well as the legal implications of the right to vote.

A series of cartoon illustrations were published, encircling a character named Sumane which displayed the election adventures of him demonstrating the importance of voting and how to follow the health guidelines.

Lastly, despite the challenges of COVID-19, the continuous effort in uplifting the educational standards of students in rural communities is continued through the project TogetherSL which witnesses eight different less-privileged rural schools around the country. The schools are being supported by Rotaractors to improve the quality of education.

This article was originally published in The Sunday Times of Sri Lanka. It is the first in a series of five articles:

  1. Bringing the talents and skills of youth in Sri Lanka to a greater stage
  2. Volunteer action counts – a story from Sri Lanka
  3. Social aspects of volunteering in the context of COVID-19 pandemic in Sri Lanka
  4. Volunteer action counts: Reimagining volunteering in the Decade of Action
  5. Community mobilization and activism during COVID-19