“This was an amazing experience that taught me a lot about working within another culture. I really enjoyed my projects and I think that the huge variety in these was valuable as they gave me a well-rounded learning experience. I thought the team leaders were very helpful. One thing I would mention though is that on some of the projects there should be more experienced volunteers to help the new people and teach them how to structure lessons- I was on one placement where there were only myself and one other new volunteer- neither of us had taught before so this was a really stressful experience and I don't think the children got much from our sessions.”
“Overall, I enjoyed my time volunteering for SLV. The projects were varied, so I was able to have different experiences each day, and I found my placements at the SEN schools to be very rewarding.
One of the highlights of my trips was staying with a Sri Lankan family. The family I stayed with were lovely, and so welcoming. The weekends were great too. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country to explore, and there were plenty of things to do.
My trip did come with challenges, but that is to be expected with the nature of the volunteering involved. I think a lot of us struggled with the cultural differences in mental health, but we all respected the differences, even if we did not necessarily agree with them. However, I found it very interesting and valuable to learn about none the less.
I felt a little wary of the dogs,as they were quite temperamental, but this is a problem across Asia.
On a personal level, I would have preferred less teaching, but I am glad I did it as it has enhanced my confidence and public speaking.
I have felt much more appreciative of things since I have been back, and have gained a considerable amount of confidence. In terms of work experience I have had more interviews for psychology related jobs than I did before the trip, and I am about to start a psychology related job.”
“One of the best experiences I have ever had and would happily do it again. The only issues I had were with coordinators, some were fantastic but the system seemed flawed and there seems to be quite a bit of conflict due to this. There seemed to be confusion on authority, and crossovers with coordinators being appointed to oversea volunteers who had been there far longer causing some friction. Other than these issues I couldn't fault the overall experience it was fantastic.”
“The support SLV gives volunteers both before, during and after their placement is outstanding. It is refreshing to see a volunteer company whose focus is not on money, voluntourism (grief-tourism) but giving the opportunity for people who have a passion for teaching, psychology, OT, sports to not just work in small communities but become a part of them. Learning their customs and gaining a vast amount of on site, first-hand experience, vital to students and graduates.
I would suggest a clearer outline of exactly what clothing is suitable (putting up photos of volunteers' outfits that are ok/not ok, like in the welcome meeting) would be really helpful. A lot of my clothing was not acceptable and I know others were in the same situation.
There was also an issue with money being lost in our area. A reminder should be provided in the volunteer's pack that they must remember that their belongings should be locked away and having lots of money left in their rooms is a bad idea. Although this may seem pretty obvious in hindsight, the close knit community created in the home stays means a lot of people forgot this. It's a shame as this put such a big dampener on people's stays. A small cash safe would be a great provision to eliminate such issues and help put people's minds at rest.
It would also be great if there was a volunteer 'guest book' in each home stay. Volunteers could write where they've been, good places to stay (and places to avoid), put business cards of people who've treated us well, along with rough guides to Tuk-Tuk prices. There's nothing worse arriving late at night with no idea how much we should be paying to get to hostels etc. It would be a great way for past volunteers to share their good experiences and give back to businesses who have treated us well!”
“SLV provide a great opportunity to learn about health and social care in a different culture. Living and working with local people is a privilege and although the work can be challenging, it is deeply rewarding and humbling. The informative workshops they offer as well as the partnerships they have made make for a learning experience with lots of opportunities. How rare it is to meet so many different people and see a country with such variety! I have very fond memories of my time there and wish I could go back!”
“I really enjoyed my time in Sri Lanka and found working on the projects to be challenging but also highly rewarding. I was on the psychology placement and I loved it. Please bear in mind that although you are not working in psychiatric hospitals everyday the whole experience is psychologically related. You are helping to improve peoples mental health, cognitive, developmental and many more abilities through working with those with special needs, in children's homes and even in the youth teaching.
Also, I would recommend going to all of the extra talks held aside from the compulsory workshops as I am sure you will find them just as interesting as I did.”
“My experience in Sri Lanka with SLV was amazing! Although at times it was tough being away from home and living with complete strangers, by the end of the 5 weeks I had made some really good friends. The skills and work experience you gain is like nothing available in the UK and has opened doors to new possibilities.”
“My experience in Sri Lanka is something I will never forget and always take with me as a tool in my life. It was at times an overwhelming experience but that is what made it so special. Doing scary things in a country as beautiful as this, helped shape me as a person and realize my capabilities in this world! After my six weeks of amazing memories and challenges I came back to the UK lighter, fresher with a spring in my step ready to take on almost anything!”
“After three months of living and working in Sri Lanka, I fell in love with the country and it's people. The placements were exciting, interesting and a whole new experience, and the SLV team and my fellow volunteers were fantastic.”
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time with SLV and i feel so privileged to have worked on such incredible projects and meet such amazing people. I know what i learnt from SLV and the experiences gained will be a life long asset to me and for this I am eternally grateful for being given this chance!”
“Fantastic placement! it's really not about getting something to put on your CV it's about learning about yourself, others, handling situations that may make you feel uncomfortable and clarification if clinical psychology is what you definitely want to go into.
A wide range of projects are included so the days go fast and there was never a time when I didn't feel like I hadn't had a rewarding day. The only placement where you can practice clinical psychology in the field and gain so much varied experience so I recommend to anyone wanting to possibly do a psychology/nursing or social care based job in the future.
The only downside is that the placement isn't exclusively psychology only and you will be put on (very few) teaching projects which SLV already informed you of anyway in advance but some people were disappointed with that. I personally don't want to be a teacher but loved the confidence I gained from leading a class of 20 youths and really loved teaching the cheeky, curious and at times challenging children but if you really want to avoid teaching then maybe you think about suggesting to be put on psychology based only projects although the teaching is definitely worth giving a shot - you have to remember that your sole purpose is to be there to help people less advantaged than you and ALL projects ensured that.”
“Spending three months with SLV in Sri Lanka has been one of the best experiences of my life... I still talk about it now, a year later! The team in Sri Lanka are amazing, they made me feel at home which was just what I needed having never been there before. The team in England successfully made me feel prepared for what was coming. It has also looked really good on my CV, and I didn't find it too hard to find a job when I got home. I wish I could go again!”
“Working with SLV was a fantastic opportunity and a real eye opener. I feel privileged to have worked in such environments in the Sri Lankan culture. I would recommend joining the SLV team, however I would say that the Psychology placement did not involve a satisfying amount of Psychology and I was not aware of the amount of teaching involved. Saying that, I thoroughly enjoyed the teaching and it made me consider other options for my future.
Living with Sri Lankan families in the homestays was a perfect way to get involved with the culture and get a real insight.
I would say that some days involved more time travelling to and from projects than the time actually spent at projects, which was frustrating.
For the shorter placements, I feel more time should be given to Psychology projects such as NIMH. In my particular case, my day at NIMH fell on Poya day bank holiday and a field day (which was very good) which meant I only spent 2 sessions at NIMH, I felt this wasn't very fair and I missed out so for future volunteers, projects should be moved around in these kinds of cases.
“I thoroughly enjoyed my time in Sri Lanka! The SLV team were all very helpful and the families we stayed with were all so friendly and made us feel part of the family and gave us an authentic experience of living in Sri Lanka. Although the work was challenging at times and really tested your motivation and creativity for activities; you are given a lot of support and help in planning sessions for both psychology and teaching sessions and you are never alone and always have help from other volunteers. My time was really made by the other girls I shared my house with, we all became so close and supported each other though some difficult days and had such amazing experiences at the weekends exploring Sri Lanka together. The whole three months were such a rewarding experience and I would highly recommend it to anyone interested in psychology or teaching careers - or indeed anyone else that is looking for a meaningful placement abroad.”