At SLV.Global we’re really keen to let you know where your money goes and why our placement fees are a necessary part of you having an enjoyable, safe experience.
Although we’re not a charity, ethicality and affordability have always been incredibly important to us. We pride ourselves on being one of the organisations with the lowest costs, but also the best feedback from volunteers. Other organisations charge much more and to be honest, we struggle to understand how so many volunteers can afford to go on their programmes.
As much as we value affordability, it can’t be at the expense of volunteers’ comfort or safety, so it’s a balance. When we first began, nearly seven years ago, support was primarily provided by local NYSC (National Youth Services Council) volunteers who helped SLV.Global volunteers to projects and provided limited support in the community. However, feedback throughout the years has dictated that this is not enough and we totally agree. More support and a more standardised experience is necessary to ensure that not only volunteers are happy, but that we are having the right impact on the local community.
We now have international coordinators and supervisors who live with volunteers, as well as our incredible in-country team who provide assistance on projects, on transportation and the day-to-day running of SLV.Global in Sri Lanka. We are very lucky that the NYSC still provide us with rooms for some workshops and that national professionals support us and train our teams, but this is not free and it shouldn’t be. We want to put money into the Sri Lankan economy just as much as we want to bolster resources at the projects where we work.
As an organisation we feel it's ethical and right all of our in-country team be fairly compensated for all that they do. Employment opportunities in Sri Lanka are limited for students and recent graduates, so to ask them to volunteer we felt was wrong and exploitative. They work extremely hard from sun up to sun down often doing things that are often never seen by the volunteer team, but all their clandestine efforts contribute massively to a smoothly running placement.
The below is an approximation of the breakdown of how volunteer’s placement fees are spent. For each month it varies, depending on the amount of volunteers there are in country. For example, during the low times (December) the overheads in Sri Lanka are not met, however this is balanced out by money saved over the summer period.
In-Country Support & Training: Our Sri Lankan team, who are always there to offer support and continue to cultivate the relationships we have with our projects and partners, is comprised of many individuals. From our co-founders Yasintha and Mr. Neil to all of our assistant managers, project supervisors and coordinators who help you transition smoothly into Sri Lankan life.
Our Sri Lankan team organise all the training you receive and the safe transport to and from projects in addition to liaising with homestays, overseeing the Jungle Weekend, helping ill volunteers on placement when they are in hospital and everything else behind the scenes that helps make SLV.Global run so well.
In addition to all of our team members there is also our Operations Manager who is on call 24/7, runs orientation, employs logistics, manages risk assessments and trains the Sri Lankan team, as well as ensuring volunteers have the most standardised experience possible. As our projects run in five very different areas in the Colombo District, some more than three hours away from each other, it's imperative that we have adequate numbers of staff in each area.
As you know, your first week is dedicated to training. The costs you contribute towards go to covering all expenses of transport, the spaces we use and compensating our local expert facilitators.
Homestay and Living Costs: In addition to the team of professionals who work with us in Sri Lanka, we also have a number of homestay families that house volunteers and enrich an already culturally diverse experience. Again, contributing to the local economy is important to us, but we’d much rather pay a local family to host our volunteers than to pay a hotel chain where the experience would be very different.
Living local is an important part of the SLV.Global experience. And although we decided to go for an authentic experience and forego the hot water and air con, we are still living in these people’s homes and there are costs involved in running any household, let alone one with fifteen to twenty international volunteers living in it. It is our aim to support our homestays as best we can so volunteers have the most comfortable living experience possible.
Jungle Weekend, Workshops, Field Trips: Your fees also cover all activities, food and board on the Jungle Weekend. This weekend is essential for team bonding and it’s just a lot of fun. However, it’s worth mentioning that even getting to the jungle can be costly too. Just like in the UK, fuel prices fluctuate, but have actually increased in Sri Lanka. The public buses volunteers take daily still remain relatively inexpensive with the average journey costing 25p, but cost of minibuses that we use for airport pick up, field trips and the jungle weekend have almost doubled in the past three years. Ouch!
We also partner with other organisations in Sri Lanka, like Samutthana, who provide workshops and field trips for our volunteers. We make a donation to this charity to help them continue the groundbreaking work they do and ensure they are happy to continue to provide important resources for us as well.
UK Head Office: We are here to answer any questions you might have pre-departure and to help you set off prepared for your placement. We're also here interviewing all the future volunteers to continue the projects you love, long after you leave. And of course a huge part of what we do is facilitating your visas!
Although the placement fees cover the Residence Visa extension it’s important to note that this does not include all the administration costs that we endure to ensure that volunteers get their visas on time. This includes all the hours that are dedicated to getting the visa fax in Sri Lanka, the entry stamp provided by your local High Commission and the Residence Visa once you arrive in country.
We estimate that the whole visa process monopolises at least 30% of the time of three of our full time team members. Between collecting and organising the data to submitting it and taking the documents back and forth to Sri Lankan immigration, it is a monumental process that there really is no way of simplifying. Believe us, we’ve tried.
Every penny we spend is for the betterment of the organisation and volunteers’ experience. We hope you understand that your safety and experience is our number one priority, next to the benefit to the local community. If you have further questions please don't hesitate to ask by calling the UK Head Office on +442070961718 or toll free for America and Canada on 18005324168 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.