SLV.Global Peer Mentor Handbook
Congratulations! You've been offered a role as a SLV.Global Peer Mentor! As you hopefully know from your interview, this role is challenging and not to be taken lightly. We expect you to treat this like a job and behave professionally and courteously at all times whilst on placement. You will have in-country training for your first few weeks after your arrival and then, providing you do an excellent job, you will become part of the SLV Sri Lanka Peer Mentor team and be offered a volunteer agreement. Please note that if you fail to meet the criteria of the role once in the country you will not be promoted, so please pay attention and work hard in your training.
The Peer Mentor work hour commitments will be Monday-Friday, Peer Mentors are not required to work the weekends but must return to the home stay sober on Sunday night by 9:30pm. Your responsibilities (in no particular order) are as follows:
● To ensure volunteer safety; including escorting volunteers to the hospital or doctor
● To ensure volunteers feel supported and listened to and to make sure they know what they are supposed to be doing.
● To motivate volunteers - to be professional, run effective lessons.
● Volunteer problem solving
● Ensure the Placement Acceptance Agreement is being adhered to.
● Ensure the homestay and SLV.Global code of conduct is being adhered to.
● Project commitments
● Role modelling: to be a shining example to volunteers at projects and within the homestay
● To represent SLV.Global within the community and help to uphold the positive image of the organisation
● To be an effective means of communication between senior staff and volunteers
As this role comes with additional responsibilities, which will be discussed in further detail below, successful Peer Mentors are compensated with a reduction in placement fees (up to £400). To work out the total reimbursement we will reimburse Peer Mentors £50 per week (or equivalent currency) for each successful week in the role, paid at the conclusion of the placement.
Providing Peer Mentors are promoted into the role and have completed their volunteer agreement in full, payment will be issued in the final week of placement. Peer Mentors must complete the duration of their volunteer agreement (usually 12 weeks in country) to be eligible for any reimbursement associated with the Peer Mentor role.
The Peer Mentor Role in brief
The Peer Mentor role is challenging, but should also be enjoyable. You must remember that at all times you are visible and representing not only yourself, but SLV.Global as well. You must be the ultimate volunteer and be able to problem solve, be flexible and to remain composed in sometimes highly stressful or aggravating situations. Please support your fellow Peer Mentors and ask your Supervisors or the Operations Manager for help if you need it. Please refrain from venting frustrations to volunteers and do your best to remain positive in front of your team.
We understand that sometimes things can get frustrating, but the more you keep a positive head on your shoulders the more respect you will earn from volunteers and at projects. This role should be fun, so please throw yourself fully into projects and then really relax at the weekends. If you think of this as a job it will help you to get into the right mindset. Always think to yourself "would I/should I do this at work in my home country?"
Your Training Schedule
Orientation (day 2) - Your first Orientation will be the same as a volunteer’s and will take place the day after you arrive. Relax. You’re not expected to do anything other than get involved at this stage. Sit with other people, make friends and watch closely. The next Orientation you attend will be for volunteers you will be responsible for and at that time you will be participating in, and even leading, parts of the day.
Jungle Break - You will have your jungle break with your first team of volunteers you are acting as Peer Mentor for, not the team you arrive with. This will usually take place during your third or fourth week in Sri Lanka. At your Jungle Break we ask you to please not drink, as this is a time for you to establish yourself as a responsible leader. You can't do that drunk...
Week 1 & 2 - You will have two-four to weeks to settle into Sri Lanka before you are expected to take on the role of a Peer Mentor (this depends on when you arrive in Sri Lanka). However, this time will be spent getting to know your area and learning the ropes. Speak to other Peer Mentors, but remember to make the role your own and to be the kind of Peer Mentor you would want if you were a volunteer. Volunteers will know you’re in training for your first few weeks, but we still expect you to behave responsibly and set an example.
After week 2 - This is when volunteers are going to start looking to you to have the answers. Some you will have, some you won’t, so don’t panic. Remember that you are there as a support more than anything. Listening is often the best way to help a volunteer. The Peer Mentor role is challenging in many ways, but so rewarding as well. Use your initiative and get creative with your approach. Remember your Supervisor and Volunteer Support Manager is always on hand should you need any help with anything you can’t solve yourself. Remember that this is your experience too, so don’t forget to enjoy yourself and have fun.
Once in the Peer Mentor Role
Monday mornings - Help with Session Planning and pass on any messages you are responsible for. This is your time to help motivate your team or to help with any problems. You can have a group problem solving session where people name problems they are having and you brainstorm as a team how to solve them.
Session Planning is a huge part of the SLV.Global placement, as we never go into a session and "wing it." We expect sessions to be well thought out.
Social planning - Weekly (non-mandatory) socials should be happening for each area. Fancy dress, Sri Lankan dessert nights, movie nights, etc. get creative, but get the homestays together. Work with the SLV.Global Sri Lanka Team to plan these evenings. This will also be a time when members of your team can schedule a chat with you if they want to discuss anything.
Getting around your homestay area - Volunteers will rely on you to know your way around the local area. Please familiarise yourself with places around your homestay like:
● Where to buy a phone
● Where has nice/cheap food
● Any supermarkets
● Any other places of interest, e.g. the cinema
The SLV.Global Sri Lanka team will be there to help you get settled in so ask them lots of questions and utilise their knowledge!
Getting around your project areas - For the first couple of weeks, volunteers may rely on you to know your way to shared projects. Getting lost isn’t the end of the world, but it does shake a new volunteer’s confidence. In your first few weeks please visit as many of your projects as possible, so you know where you are going.
Volunteers should be able to get to all their projects without your help from their second week. Encourage volunteers to learn the way by writing down the bus directions. Let them tell you when to get off the second time you go to a project. Fostering volunteer independence really helps both the volunteer and you in the long run.
● All Peer Mentors need a phone that volunteers can contact them on with queries or problems. This phone should always have credit. Ask your Supervisor if you need more credit. (this credit is just for placement related calls/texts).
● If needed, Peer Mentors will be expected to visit volunteers to support them if they are finding things hard.
● Volunteers should only be moved homestays in extreme circumstances, including their safety and wellbeing. Volunteers not liking their homestay or fellow volunteers is not a valid reason for moving.
● If a volunteer goes to hospital or has any other health related issue, a Peer Mentor will be required to assist the volunteer.
● Encourage volunteers to support one another as well.
● Please ensure that we have an up-to-date record of phone numbers by the time the volunteers go to the Jungle.
● Volunteers should not travel alone during the week. If it’s necessary travel with them. Peer Mentors should also not travel alone.
Motivating Volunteers - Telling volunteers what to do is not a way to motivate, as people generally don’t like being told off. This can be difficult when some volunteers are not turning up for projects, or perhaps dressing inappropriately. The best way we can get volunteers to do what they should is to motivate them. Tell them how great it is that they are here and, though it’s challenging, what an achievement it will be when they finish the placement. Be positive, ask them to remember the reasons why they chose to do this. Remind them that less than 40% of people that applied for a volunteer position received one.
Volunteer Problem Solving - One of your main roles is to try and help volunteers solve problems. The main way you can do this is to listen to them. We would assume that over 50% of volunteers problems cannot actually be solved, but are resolved by simply talking things out.
Problems you cannot solve but can listen to:
● I don’t like my homestay
● I’m homesick
● I don’t like a certain project
● I don’t like the food.
● Mosquito bites
The problems you can solve:
● Where do I get a SIM card
● Which bus to I get
● How can I prepare a lesson plan
Unwell Volunteers - Ensure that you have the medical information about each one of your volunteers. Supervisors will provide this on new volunteers’ first week ad you must keep this information confidential. If volunteers are unwell it’s a ‘better safe than sorry situation’. Don’t give them any drugs, but try and get the ill person to drink water. If they want to, or you think they should, please take the volunteer to the hospital, relevant addresses will be provided in project packs when you arrive. Ensure you familiarise yourself with the nearest doctor/hospital during your training period.
If you need to take someone to the hospital please notify your Supervisor by text or phone call. Get a tuk tuk, but the ill individual needs to pay, not you. Never leave anyone alone in hospital and share responsibility with other Peer Mentors. For example, set up a rota with other Peer Mentors for 4hr shifts.
The problems that should be reported to Supervisors or Volunteer Support Manager:
● Reports that another volunteer/Peer Mentor is (more than once) behaving appropriately, being hungover (and not going to projects), not dressing appropriately, being rude.
● Volunteer health or safety issues.
● Volunteers not committing to projects. (If necessary, SLV Global can discontinue a volunteer/Peer Mentor’s placement, but we try to avoid this option if possible)
● A report of physical assault no matter how seemingly small, we take this very seriously and will report it.
● Problems with management at projects, children not being there, consistent cancellations, etc.
● Homestays are not providing adequate meals, washing clothes or basically just sticking to their end of the deal.
Peer Mentor Conduct during the week
Peer Mentors have to be professional at all times, especially when visible to the volunteer team, otherwise how can we expect the rest of the team to be professional? You need to be role models for appropriate behaviour. This includes:
● Dressing Smartly
● Limiting Swearing
● Appropriate Conversation with volunteers: If you went out at the weekend and got ‘really wasted’, best not to share that with volunteers.
● Appropriate behavior at projects. Keep in your mind ‘Would I act like this at a school, children’s development centre, hospital back home?
● Being respectful of everyone.
● Arriving at projects/homestays on time (home before 9:00pm during the week and on Sunday 9:30pm).
● Behaving appropriately at homestays (no public displays of affection, no negative language about projects or beneficiaries, no revealing clothing/walking around in towels)
● You are always being watched by your volunteers, so set a good example.
Peer Mentor Conduct at the weekend
Peer Mentors can travel with whomever they like; this means volunteers, Supervisors and other Peer Mentors. We want you to be friends with your team and spend down time together. However, in our experience we have found that, as a Peer Mentor, going away with big groups of volunteers can be challenging, as often volunteers will begin to rely on Peer Mentors and it’s not easy to relax. Also, it can be difficult to maintain a professional relationship with volunteers if you have been drinking together at the weekends. This is not forbidden, but we leave it to Peer Mentors to make their own decisions on this.
*We have had to ask a Peer Mentor to leave the team because volunteers reported back that they were very drunk on the weekend at the beach. They were behaving in a way that was setting a bad example for volunteers and bringing SLV.Global into disrepute. As SLV Sri Lanka Peer Mentors, you may also be liable for decisions that volunteers make while intoxicated and we strongly advise against this.
● Peer Mentors are expected to work at new and less established projects and create handbooks on them for future volunteers, if necessary.
● Gain the trust of management of the different projects.
● Ensure volunteers record how they are progressing with their placements.
Ensure that you are on top of feedback forms.
● Ensure that volunteers are committing to their volunteer hours.
● Peer Mentors need to be role models at projects however, you are not expected to plan the sessions and conduct these for the volunteers. Work with, and support the volunteers to plan fun, creative and initiative sessions.
● Peer Mentors should be early to homestays when taking new volunteers to projects.
● Ask people the night before to check that they know where they are going.
● Cameras are not allowed on projects. And no photos are to be taken at projects. Ever.
Peer Mentors will, where possible, share a room with other Peer Mentors. However, this is not always possible and you may be sharing with a volunteer. Peer Mentors should always be prepared to change homestays and also to test out new homestays to see if they are suitable for future volunteers.
Homestay Agreement between SLV.Sri Lanka and our homestays
● Homestays must provide clean drinking water for volunteers that is available at all times
● Homestays must provide breakfast (jam, bread and fruit)
● Homestays must provide dinner 4 nights a week, usually rice and curry (Mon-Thurs)
● Every volunteer needs a functional mosquito net, a pillow and two sheets for the bed.
If this agreement is not being followed by either party, try to resolve issue (they may not realise). Write down each issue. If it persists then contact your Supervisor.
Consequences of breaking the Code of Conduct
You have been selected from hundreds of other applicants because we are confident you will do an incredible job. If you have any questions about the role and what's expected of you please contact your Supervisor immediately. If your conduct is deemed to be inappropriate, on the first occasion you will be given a written warning and then asked to leave the team should any further concerns arise. However, if you are putting projects, volunteers or yourself at risk this is considered gross misconduct and you will be summarily dismissed from your position as Peer Mentor.
Enjoy your time!
As we mentioned previously this is a tough job, but it is also massively rewarding and can equip you with many skills imperative for a career in the mental health sector. Work hard, be kind and stay positive. You got this!