“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.”
Posted 4 years ago
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.”
Posted 3 years ago
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.
I spent four weeks on the Advanced Bali Mental Health Placement. I met some lovely volunteers, amazing service users and supportive coordinators. However I really struggled with the transparency of SLV in the way they spend our fees. Firstly you have to pay a £250 deposit to secure your place after you apply. You have a week to pay it once you commit. They call/email you almost everyday and warn that you will lose your place if you don’t. Please don’t just pay it due to the pressure. If you miss the deadline you can re-apply and you will probably get a place again as long as there’s still space. Also you would think the deposit contributes towards your £1400 fees like a normal deposit would but it’s doesn’t, it’s just an extra expense. You have to pay the full £1400 after that for the fees. Also before securing a specific placement date with the deposit I asked for the other dates they had available and they were very reluctant to give any information on dates over the phone. I had to ask multiple times. This is so backwards to me because we are paying for a service and should be given all the information when asked. Although we are volunteering for this wonderful cause, we are also putting our own lives on hold from our jobs and university therefore information should be as forthcoming as possible.
Furthermore we have to pay for our own flights, visa, new wardrobe, lunch every day, weekend transport/hotels/food etc as we are not allowed in the accommodation over the weekends. I’ve been told only 15% of fees are contributed to the well-being and mental health of Balinese people. Furthermore the projects we are taken on are paid for by us, it’s not “volunteering”. We are paying for the experience. Apparently most volunteering companies do this which I was shocked by but maybe that’s just the way it is.
Onto the accommodation. In the information pack given to us in the months before the placement we are told we will be staying with a traditional Balinese family; that they are welcoming us into their home with open arms and doing this amazing thing for us. Then the first day we enter the village we see a big placard with each of the homestays names and phone numbers on in case you want to ‘book a room’. These homestays are hotels to the general public too and anyone can book a room there... even on booking.com. I have looked online and the rooms are around £6 a night. We only spend 15 days in the homestay therefore only £90 of our fees go to accommodation on the placement (I haven’t included the hotel we stayed at during the first week for training and the jungle weekend). Again SLV is not forthcoming with the information they have given us, making it out that we are this big burden to the family and that we should be eternally grateful, giving them gifts when we arrive etc. Yet again we are paying for a service. I have to be honest about the quality of accommodation too. The rooms are nice inside and cleaned once a week. But you are given one fan between four people, which is hard in 30 degree heat.
Furthermore there are real issues with the food. The breakfast is a stale piece of toast that has been sat out for a while, fruit, and either a cold fried egg or cold pancake. Which is supposed to sustain us from 7am until 1pm during projects and project planning. Again this is what we have paid for in our fees. Please note that apparently not all homestays are like this. Some other volunteers were given as much they they liked, while others were the same as mine. I even spoke to the SLV staff about this and they said that was unacceptable. They told me they would sort this, and when I came back from the weekend it will have changed. This was in the first week in the homestay, by the final week nothing had changed. On the other hand dinner was much better with portion sizes, and tastes great too. Also please note that the home stay families are the nicest people you will meet. They are so lovely and do look after you like their own, however SLV made it out to be that us staying was a huge burden and that we should be super grateful. When in fact it’s a hotel we are paying for. It’s the exaggeration of facts that is the problem.
Another problem with this placement is the project planning. We are given every Monday and Wednesday afternoon to project plan for the week ahead. This is not nearly enough time. In the information provided by SLV before signing up you are told you have evenings and weekends off to relax. This is not true. On my placement there were volunteers working until 11pm trying to sort out activities for the upcoming projects. Others had been walking around the village in pitch black at 9pm to get to the printing shop so they have enough resources for their projects. I wouldn’t even be allowed to walk twenty minutes in the dark at home, let alone in a foreign county when guard dogs are barking at you while you pass them in the street. My parents weren’t happy about this. I bought this up to SLV staff and they said they did say that they didn’t want anyone walking around at night for projects or working so hard to the point we are stressed out. But this information wasn’t passed on to the whole group, and volunteers still felt obligated to work this hard because projects fell completely on our shoulders. If we didn’t pull through then the service users would have nothing do to and it would make us and SLV look bad. This was a lot of pressure. The staff were very supportive in regards to these points and always offered to help prepare for projects or offer ideas which was good and really appreciated.
Projects ranged from teaching English to staff at a local medical hospital, to practicing yoga with the geriatric village community, to conducting cognitive activities to those in the only psychiatric hospital in Bali. Each project gave valuable experience if you are looking for a career in psychology, but also in a general sense. It abled me to become more confident and allowed me to develop skills working with a wide range of people from all different backgrounds (other volunteers). It must also be mentioned, however, that some volunteers felt they didn’t have a great variety of projects given to them in their weekly timetable. For example they would have two different English teaching sessions, with service users that were either from the local school or staff and the medical hospital. And then a yoga session with the geriatric village community Although these projects are valuable to these service users it doesn’t have much to do with mental health (although yoga can promote positive mental health). But it meant that half these volunteers week wasn’t what they hoped it would be, or what they expected from the SLV mental health placement. This didn’t happen to me directly, but it was something that was mentioned on my placement that some volunteers were unhappy with.
Finally this is a FOR PROFIT TOURIST COMPANY. Not a charity.
For these reasons I gave the placement and application process through SLV one star.”
“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.”
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.”
“Very disappointing behaviour from SLV Global. My daughter booked a placement in Sri Lanka for August 2019 and paid the £250 ‘Placement Acceptance Fee’.
Due to the situation in Sri Lanka the placement was cancelled by SLV, quite rightly. However, SLV will not refund my daughter’s £250 fee which they describe as ‘non-refundable’ even though they have cancelled the placement. There are no suitable alternative placements.
She is a student and her resources are very stretched so this mean and petty policy of SLV is quite a blow to her.
I cannot think of another business that takes payments from customers, then fails to offer the product or service but keeps the customers’ money.
Dreadful treatment of student customers. To be avoided.”
Posted 1 year ago
Thank you for taking the time to write your feedback, Mr. Morris. The situation in Sri Lanka this Easter was horrific and unexpected. We are saddened that it happened and that your daughter and her team weren't able to join us in Sri Lanka this summer as planned. Our main aim has always been to be fair to all our volunteers, and we are proud that despite the events that took place in Sri Lanka this summer we were able to offer everyone the chance to join an alternative placement in either Bali or India.
We are always explicit and transparent that the Placement Acceptance Fee is non-refundable, as this fee covers all the pre-departure support and administration required to make the placement preparations for the team. The Placement Acceptance Fee does not make up part of the costs of her time abroad, but was used to support her from the time she joined our team in January. This includes all the correspondence we had with her, all the advice provided to help her prep for her placement, and all the subsequent support offered after the tragedy to try and find a suitable alternative for her and her teammates. We were sorry to hear that other plans had been made for your daughter and that she wouldn't be able to join us in another destination, but we did agree that as a gesture of goodwill we would be very happy to transfer her Placement Acceptance Fee to an alternative placement in the future.
We are sorry that your daughter was unable to join us this summer, but we would still love for her to join us on one of our teams if her future commitments allow it. Thanks again.
“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.”
Posted 3 years ago
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.