Responsible Volunteering Policy

 

SLV.Global’s Responsible Volunteering Policy has been created to aid SLV.Global in our efforts to volunteer responsibly in the South of Sri Lanka and in Bali, Indonesia. It has been devised by the SLV.Global team in collaboration with the National Youth Services Council, the management of the projects we work with and the Colombo Districts Child Protection Officer.

From summer 2016 we began running our Mental Health Placements in Bali, Indonesia and we have continued to work to our existing structure, which has been developed further by the SLV.Bali team and the management of our projects in Bali.

Volunteering Abroad

All projects have been chosen by the SLV.Global team based on their need for international volunteers. We work with both non-government and government institutions in an effort to bolster the pre-existing resources and provide further support. SLV.Global seeks advice from community members to ensure that, as an organisation, we do not negatively affect the employment structure of the community that we work in. When SLV.Global work at schools it is to assist teachers in the classroom and not be the primary teacher.

SLV.Global wishes to inspire with our actions but resist from imposing our ideals on others. Volunteers are instructed never to criticise staff at projects and to remember that many of the staff in projects work very long hours, are not well paid and will often not have had appropriate training. Volunteers should be patient with the staff at all projects and work hard to build up their trust and work with the local professionals to exchange ideas and strategies. Volunteers are reminded to treat everyone they meet with their utmost humility and respect.

Both Sri Lanka and Indonesia are modest countries particularly in more rural areas. All volunteers are required to dress smartly whilst working at the projects, especially whilst teaching and at the psychiatric facility. In keeping with the local culture, everyone should be wearing clothing that covers the tops of the arms and the ankles at all times in the community. Clothing must be loose fitting and any tattoos or piercings covered from view. Failure to do so is considered disrespectful and can attract unwanted attention as well as distracting from the activity sessions.

SLV.Global has a zero-tolerance drugs policy i.e. towards the use or/and possession of any illegal drugs. The laws relating to drug crime and activity in both Sri Lanka and Indonesia are also very strict. It is also illegal to smoke in public and on the streets in both Sri Lanka and Bali. Volunteers are given advice on where it is possible to smoke and provided with designated areas within the homestays.

Volunteer Selection Process

All volunteers must apply to join our team and must successfully complete an interview over the phone with one of our team, all of who have been on placement with us before and are previous or current psychology students.

About 40% of all applicants are awarded a place on their preferred team upon successful completion of the initial interview. If an applicant does not meet the minimum education and experience criteria we will refuse the applicant until they are able to meet the minimum requirements. We request all volunteers have committed to their own community and require a minimum of three months of experience working with vulnerable adults for our Mental Health Placements.

We require all volunteers be in possession of a recent DBS check to participate in one of our placements abroad.

Working with Children and Vulnerable Adults

In addition to the Sri Lankan and Indonesian Child Protection Guidelines, SLV.Global has put together rules to ensure that our volunteers never cause distress to any beneficiary that we work with:

  • Volunteers are limited in the amount of time that they spend with one person to ensure that an emotional bond is not formed, as all volunteers will eventually leave, potentially causing unfair distress especially to the children. Therefore volunteers only visit one project a maximum of twice per week, for a maximum of 2 hours at a time.

  • Volunteers are forbidden to be alone with a child or vulnerable adult.

  • Volunteers are trained how to manage a class without strict discipline.

  • Volunteers are educated in appropriate touching and how to discourage children from engaging with them in an overly tactile manner

  • Volunteers are instructed in how to deal with a situation if they suspect that someone’s human rights are being violated.

  • Volunteers are instructed to not draw attention to their leaving date. Volunteers understand that although they may be leaving the country and the projects other volunteers will take their place and continue the work into the future.

  • Gifts are prohibited. We are seen in the countries where we work as practitioners not benefactors.

Continuity

From an ethical standpoint, it is important to SLV.Global that we provide sustainable resources, and support, to projects in both Bali and Sri Lanka. Whilst volunteers will leave the country at the end of their placement, there is a constant stream of new volunteers arriving to continue the work of the previous volunteers.

Volunteer Project Feedback is one of the core ways SLV.Global is able to provide continuity in the sessions provided at all projects. Volunteers record their progress on shared documents (one for each project) allowing them to communicate to present and future volunteers the efficacy of their sessions, the groups abilities and generally offer advice and pass on important information.

This feedback ensures that the beneficiaries receive a continuity of support and a variety of activities despite the change in volunteer personnel.

Marketing

  • SLV.Global will not use stereotypical images that show the people that we work with as victims, to evoke pity to encourage people to volunteer.

  • We will not use evocative images to "sell" our placements but simply use photos of activities and projects that volunteers participate in.

  • We will not use cliches and grand statements as it gives volunteers unrealistic expectations and sets them up to be disillusioned.

  • Photos and videos at projects is strictly prohibited and volunteers are instructed to refrain from writing explicitly about any service users and to respect our confidentiality agreements and not name projects in any blogs or student papers

SLV.Global is not a tour operator, therefore we will not market our volunteering placements as though they are holidays. The Mental Health Placements we offer provide an immersive experience into a new culture whilst gaining hands on experience within the mental health sector. These are work placements and they are difficult.

Volunteers are expected to conduct themselves as professionals. Any inappropriate behaviour will be addressed immediately and disciplinary action, including potential expulsion from the placement, will be taken.

Affordability

SLV.Global limit the amount of money spent on advertising so as to keep costs low for volunteers. SLV.Global receives approximately 65% of its volunteers through word of mouth and we rely on free marketing methods such as social networking and promotion from universities.

For the duration of their placement, volunteers stay in homestays with local families, providing locally sourced food. Volunteers are encouraged to use local public transport when travelling to and from projects and to buy resources from local vendors.

Visas

We procure Residence Visas for our team members, which are sponsored by the government. We think it’s of the utmost importance that our volunteers are in the country legally and that we are honest about the fact that, although unpaid, volunteers are working during their time with us, they aren’t tourists.

Resources

SLV.Global has learnt from experience that monetary donations directly to the projects’ management teams is not responsible and will not necessarily improve the lives of the beneficiaries. We therefore donate items that are essential for the sustainability and positive effect of projects.

For example, from 2010 -2012, SLV.Global donated white boards and sports equipment to some of the children’s development centres where we worked. In 2013 we also built a roof on one of the special needs centres where our volunteers run sessions and activities. The facility lacked any suitable shaded areas for the volunteers to work safely with service users. These decisions are made by SLV.Global and management teams.

Volunteers are discouraged from giving gifts and/or donations to the beneficiaries we work with. It is important to SLV.Global that children, and adult service users, do not expect gifts or hand-outs from volunteers. SLV.Global believes that to put service users in a position where they see themselves as receivers of charity can have a negative effect on their psychological well-being and self-esteem. It can also contribute to “voluntourism” where facilities exploit their clients as a way to gain materials and funds.

Volunteers are encouraged to bring resources to help them in delivering their sessions. When they leave the project, volunteers can choose to donate these resources to the SLV.Global resource box that will be available for future volunteers to use, but never leave these materials at projects.

SLV.Global also encourages volunteers to be resourceful with their teaching aids and to use things that are easily available. As well as being inexpensive, this will show the children and other service users how a game can be created with anything, and that perhaps they can recreate an activity themselves when volunteers are not there.

Photography

Volunteers are prohibited from taking photos at their projects or with service users. Our projects are workplaces, not tourist attractions and the service users we work with are unable to consent to their photo being taken, and potentially shared.

At the weekends, and in the homestay area and community, volunteers are not to photograph children, as children can not consent to their image potentially being shared. It is further explained to volunteers that it is not responsible to show off their wealth to others and an expensive camera or phone is a clear way to show the economic discrepancy between some foreigners and some locals.

Volunteer Safety

During orientation, volunteers are given guidelines to ensure they stay safe in Bali and Sri Lanka. For example, volunteers should always stay in pairs at least. Volunteers should pre-arrange their transport plans, especially at night, and they should keep their homestay address in Sinhalese or Indonesian with them at all times. The guidelines also include important day-to-day advice such as where it is safe to withdraw money from local ATM machines.

Volunteers are encouraged to use public transport in pairs during the day throughout the course of their placement. In Bali there is very limited public transport so volunteers are also given the details of local taxis that the SLV.Global team know personally and who will offer our volunteers the local resident prices. Our volunteers in Sri Lanka are given a volunteer card with the official National Youth Services stamp. The back of the volunteer card explains that the individual is an unpaid volunteer teaching in Sri Lanka and that they would appreciate a local or reasonable price.

Volunteers are encouraged to drink boiled water, which makes it suitable for drinking instead of constantly buying bottled water. Volunteers are able to boil water themselves at their homestay and are encouraged to bottle it and put it in the fridge in preparation for the following day. This is to limit how many plastic bottles they have to buy and it saves volunteers expense.

Our Impact

We rely on consistent feedback from our projects and partners to measure the impact of our work. The fact that we have grown exponentially due to demand for our services speaks volumes, but we also release an annual report each year to explain the progress of our program.

We also partner with a number of universities who see the value of our work and have agreed to count our placement as part of their students’ course content. Recruiting students who are experienced in the mental health sector helps us to make the best impact in the communities where we work.

We have recently conducted a five-year retrospective report into the impact of our work, which can be found here.

SLV.Global Mental Health Fund

In 2017 we set up the charity branch of our organisation, the SLV.Global Mental Health Fund, which funds grassroots organisation in the countries where we work who are working hard to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health issues and to increase the sector’s resources. These funds also help with relief efforts in times of natural disaster, as collective trauma resulting from these instances is often underestimated. 10 - 15% of all volunteer/participant’s fees goes directly to this initiative.

Local staff

We are incredibly proud that 90% of our paid staff, in both Sri Lanka and Indonesia, are local residents. By investing in local staff we ensure that we are making as positive an impact as possible within the communities where we work by not only providing lucrative and long-term employment opportunities, but also ensuring that those who know the country and the culture best are in charge.