Catherine Burgess, a graduate of Staffordshire University’s MSc in Health Psychology, blogs on her experiences volunteering in Sri Lanka after completing her Masters degree in 2014:
The idea of volunteering abroad fills people with excitement. Leaving behind everything and everyone you know to embark on the challenge of a lifetime elicits a whole host of emotions; fear, excitement, stress, and anticipation, to name a few.
Boarding the plane to exotic climbs creates images of weekends at the beach, swimming with dolphins, going on safari and riding elephants. Although these things are all possible while you’re away, it’s important to recognise that as soon as you land in Sri Lanka, these images are quickly overridden. The first thing that hits you is the heat, followed by the sudden realisation that you’re not going home for 12 weeks, which immediately feels like a VERY long time!
Volunteers are met at the airport by SLV national staff and collected in minibuses to go to their homestays. Arriving at the homestay is daunting, as this will be home for the foreseeable future. SLV allocate 8 projects per week to each volunteer and psychology placement projects include teaching English, and running activities, crafts and games with individuals with mental health problems and learning disabilities. Navigating your way to each project by bus is a challenge in itself, and that’s before you arrive and see the harsh conditions that some people are living and working in. Despite this, working with these individuals is hugely rewarding and enjoyable and to see people smile because of the difference you are making is priceless.
I completed a 10 week psychology placement in 2014 and now, I would say it was one of the best and most challenging experiences of my life. At the time, it was hard to settle in but once I saw the difference I was making and made some amazing friends, I couldn’t help but be sucked in by the whole experience. Living and volunteering in Sri Lanka is tough, but the sense of achievement I now have makes every challenge more than worth it. I met some amazing people, put smiles on the faces of those I worked with, made fantastic friends and visited some stunning places – and I wouldn’t change a thing!Okay, so that was 353 words, and I’ve barely scratched the surface, but hopefully it gives you an idea of what it’s like to volunteer with SLV …. visit their website for more information http://slvolunteers.com/