“I wish I'd knew where the money goes to volunteers pay. Someone makes a lot of profit, that's for sure.
One of the worst things was that I felt like being in a cult, getting brainwashed.
The international coordinators seemed to be mostly people who enjoyed their "power", bossing people around.
The "homestay" (I would rather say family-run guesthouse) was absolutely overcrowded (19 people), I haven't seen anybody who established a real relationship to a family member other than saying "thank you" and "that's delicious". Breakfast included meant you get bread and some slices of fruits - you bring tea, sugar, honey, butter, jam.. For dinner you bring sth to drink.
Calling a placement "psychology" placement when 90% of the time you do not deal with anything psychology related is a joke, or rather a rip-off. "Guided" psychology projects - there were no doctors you could talk to (except one field trip). You just do occupational therapy: crafts, dancing, singing etc. Can be wonderful, but if you sign up under the impression you will learn about psychology ...
seems to work for graduate students with no travel and work experience and who like to be treated like elementary school children.”
Hi Liz, thanks for taking the time to write this. I'm sorry that your time on placement was not what you were expecting. We believe all of the projects where we work have a mental health benefit for service users. In fact, any question on the clinical psychology doctorate application can be answered using examples form the work carried out on placement and many previous volunteers have gained a place by doing this.
We also totally agree that the lack of mental health professionals in Sri Lanka is an issue, which is why we work there, but is also why we don't advertise any "shadowing" as it's simply impossible to do with the current resources. We're sorry if you were expecting something different.
And as much as we would love to house, feed, train, support and transport volunteer team members for free it's just not possible, which is why there is a cost, but we use our funds incredibly carefully and are constantly reinvesting in the communities where we work.
We really appreciate your feedback and are always working to improve, so we have taken your suggestions on board and appreciate you sharing your experience.
“I would not recommend SLV to anyone. They are highly unorganized and as a volunteer I could see how poorly they treat their staff. Because the staff is treated so badly with little time off and too much responsibility, the volunteers suffer. I was sexually assaulted on a bus going to my homestay from y projects. I was with several other people and "was doing everything right." When I brought it to the attention of my supervisor, she told me "I don't have time for this right now." Later that same week, that same supervisor pulled me aside to schooled me because she said she had heard " I was talking about personal matters with other volunteers. " all in all, I absolutely loved the work that I did there and want to go back! However, I would not recommend this poorly run organization to anyone.”
Thank you for taking the time to write this review. I was so sorry to read about this experience. This is unacceptable behaviour and, again, I am sorry that you were on the receiving end of this difficult communication when you were already feeling vulnerable.
I would like to highlight that supervisors are also volunteers and that they do work hard, but that is no excuse for this behaviour. I apologise again for this experience, as this is highly unusual and inexcusable. I have been personally investigating this and would love it if you could provide me with more information. I'll message you privately.
“The best experience of my life! I got to explore Sri Lanka and all of its wonderful culture, whilst teaching some of the most amazing kids and adults I have ever met. I got to see how the other side of the world copes and treats mental illness and it was an unforgettable eye-opening experience, definitely one of a kind. I would happily volunteer with SLV again and would highly recommend it to anyone who is looking for a memorable opportunity. I couldn't have asked for anything more.”
“A really amazing experience.
Volunteering for SLV provides a chance to become part of a culture far from that of the UK. You get to live like a Sri Lankan and meet people from so many different backgrounds. Working on such challenging projects and being faced with situations that not many other people in the UK have been faced with, helps you to develop key life skills. For example, cross-cultural communication and resilience.
My points for improvement are that the projects can sometimes get a bit repetitive on the 12 week programme. It would be better to have a complete change in the monthly timetable, rather than just changing maybe one project.
Also the website needs to make it clearer that all the psychology projects provide Occupational Therapy experience, rather than clinical experience. And that you are given more teaching projects than psychology projects. These teaching projects are very enjoyable and beneficial but this point just needs to be made clear before people sign up to the programme. It also needs to be made clear that no matter how many weeks of the programme you do (4, 6, 8, 10 or 12) all the projects are exactly the same. I felt as though I was misled into thinking that the 12 week programme was distinctly different than if I'd done a programme with fewer weeks. And this is important to think about in terms of costing.
Overall, although there may be some improvements needed for the programme, it was a really amazing experience that I will not forget.”
“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!”
“I could easily rate how SLV placements gave me the opportunity to practice therapeutic activities, go to great workshops and training, and gave me great experience for my CV and opportunities you would not be able to get in the UK. But that would not give the placement its' justice. The best part of the 10-week placement, for me, was being able to see the impact that consistent and constant support gave to particular service users and also the overall impact to the communities. If I was able to see that in my short time there, then it is quite unimaginable the impact that SLV has had in the past and will continue to have in the future. The most important thing for this placement is to have no expectations, because all western preconceptions will not be applicable to Sri Lanka.”
“overall the projects are fantastic. The psychology placement is probably the weakest project but gives people something great for their CV. I however feel if it going to be called a psychology placement then there really ought to be more hours at NIMH and Halfway house. While I realise they are very intense places and the language barrier makes it difficult to build proper therapeutic relationships I feel that if people were visiting daily rather than once a week they would be able to gain a lot more as would the patients. In order to do that I realise you would have to change the placement a lot and I feel that making the number of people on the psychology placement much smaller and it something only for the most dedicated volunteers to do would greatly improve the project. I don't think it would take away from the over all number of volunteers as the other projects run are of a very high quality, better than some other organisations I know about.”
“I really enjoyed my experience in Sri Lanka. I met and worked with some amazing people and got to do things I wouldn't normally get to do which was a lot of fun. It was also amazing having the weekends to explore a beautiful country, and we are able to learn a lot about the culture as we were completely immersed in it. However I do feel like it was a bit expensive. We paid a lot of money, then were constantly asked for money for extra things when we were there, e.g. paying for minibuses. I also feel like it would be beneficial to have more informative things, like the field trips, as I feel like I did a lot of arts and crafts, which I loved doing and so did the service users, but I would like to learn more about the theoretical side of things as well as actually doing them.”
Thank you for your comprehensive feedback, Sarah! We're glad you enjoyed the projects as well as the travelling at the weekend. We appreciate volunteering abroad can be a large financial commitment and we take your valued advice on board in the effort to provide more information to volunteers prior to the placement. We agree the field trips are educational and interesting for volunteers, however, it is not always possible to take part in multiple trips due to time constraints. We hugely admire your dedication and we're happy you joined us in Sri Lanka. Best of luck for the future, we are always here if you want to discuss these points further, or should you need anything at all. :)
“I spent 8 weeks in Sri Lanka on the Psychology placement and I would wholeheartedly recommend it to anyone. I gained so much from working at the projects and also met some friends for life in other volunteers. I had never been to Asia before but I felt so well supported by both the National and International staff at SLV, it was such an incredible experience I wish it wasn't over!”
“I went to Sri Lanka during a career break when I wanted to learn something new in a field of interest and also contribute by doing some volunteer work. SLV offered both with lots of opportunities for lectures and classroom style learning as well as on the job practical exposure to the mental health field. Add to this the fact that you get to experience real Sri Lankan family culture with the homestays and a great team spirit with your fellow volunteers. I would highly recommend the volunteer program for those wanting to develop their own skills and cultural awareness while giving something back to a community that really appreciates every smile and effort you make.”
“I absolutely loved my time in Sri Lanka, the slv team were so supportive and helpful through out the whole time, and made the experience so much easier. I would definitely recommend it to anyone, and would definitely go again!”
“My experience in Sri Lanka was very worthwhile and eye opening. I enjoyed things i didn't expect to enjoy (Teaching projects) which was a great surprise to me. I wouldn't be happy in saying i was sufficiently happy that i gained mental health experience, the reason i signed up to the project as all we did was arts and crafts at nimh and halfway but it gave me a good opportunity to understand the different types of patient groups. The best day of the project was DJ Jegan field trip, which made up for the lack of clinical mental health on projects. I really enjoyed living in my home stay (lumbinis) it was very sociable if not a little bit grubby and old but i loved the family and everyone i stayed with so that didn't matter :)”
“I have recently returned from the 5 week psychology placement with SLV and can truly say it was the best experience I have ever had. The country, SLV, the culture, the food, the projects and the other volunteers were beyond incredible. I would highly advise anyone to go not just for the invaluable work experience but to live in such a wonderful culture and meet the lovely people. My only regret is not extending for 10- weeks.”
“The five weeks I spent volunteering with SLV on the psychology placement gave me a unique insight into the field of mental health in Sri Lanka. The projects we were assigned to were varied in scope (i.e. teaching, special needs, hospital visits, etc.), but I enjoyed every bit of it. SLV will do the best they can to ensure that you feel comfortable and supported during the whole experience. You will never be alone in projects as there will be other volunteers and field officers with you. The coordinators are very helpful and organised; they do whatever they can to help you get settled in and adjusted to living in this foreign country. There is indeed a language barrier but I found that by making an effort to learn a little Sinhala, people tend to respond to you more and interact/engage with you. Sri Lanka is a beautiful country (you get to see more of it on the weekends off!) and I cannot recommend this experience enough to anyone who is looking for a gratifying summer experience.”
“I had an incredible experience with SLV this summer. I volunteered on the 10 week placement but honestly wished I could've done 12! I have volunteered with other organisations abroad but SLV excels them in terms of support, hands-on experience, organisation, training and genuine impact on the community.
For those considering the psychology placement please do not be put off by the inclusion of teaching projects. Conducting training and presentations are a requirement within most assistant psychology job descriptions and is therefore a beneficial experience. But the teaching projects were my favourite by far and were so much fun!
The psychology placements are very independent, but you will gain more valuable experience applying your own skills and knowledge than aimlessly job-shadowing. You're free to exert your individuality as a practitioner and you learn new skills from the great skill mix within the team.
The placement is more cost-effective than you would think. The home stays are of a surprisingly good quality whilst not tarnishing the experience of living in a traditional Sri Lankan setting. The cost of living is so cheap in Sri Lanka that I spent less money (expenses inclusive) by taking part than staying in the UK and paying rent/bills/daily living costs - and I could not have spent every weekend on exotic beaches and playing with baby elephants in the UK!
I can't recommend this enough, you just can't imagine how much you'll enjoy it and as clique as it may sound you'll be a whole new person!”
“My experience with SLV was amazing and I would highly recommend volunteering with them! The country was lovely, the local people were amazing and the other volunteers made Sri Lanka seem like a home away from home. I thoroughly enjoyed the projects as they were tailored to suit you - if you wanted to run activities in mental health institutes, you could, and if you wanted to teach sports, you could.
Everyone I met there from children, patients and staff on the projects, to locals we met during the weekends, to "amma" (Sri Lankan for mum) and her family, were extremely welcoming and provided me with a great experience of Sri Lankan culture. Furthermore the SLV team are great and our project co-ordinators provided continuous support throughout.
Thank you SLV for an amazing 6 weeks :)”
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