As a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, you can gain psychology work experience and learn about mental health in the developing world. This program is designed for those currently studying in the field of psychology or mental health. Meanwhile, providing an opportunity to gain insight and awareness within a range of settings in the healthcare system. The mental health needs of Sri Lanka have continued to increase in recent decades. However, mental health services have struggled to respond to such developments.
MENTAL HEALTH VOLUNTEER PROGRAM HIGHLIGHTS
CONTRIBUTE TOWARDS THE UN’S SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOAL NO.3 – GOOD HEALTH
LEARN ABOUT THE SL MENTAL HEALTH SYSTEM WITHIN DIFFERENT PLACEMENT SETTINGS
EXPERIENCE THE INFLUENCE OF BUDDHISM, AYURVEDA & CULTURE TO MENTAL HEALTH
STRUCTURED WEEKEND TRIPS TO KANDY, YALA NATIONAL PARK & THE MALDIVES
WIDELY CONSIDERED TO BE PMGY’S TOP OVERALL DESTINATION & BEST LOCAL TEAM
BACKGROUND TO THE MENTAL HEALTH PROGRAM
Sri Lanka’s suicide rates are amongst the highest globally, according to the World Health Organisation, and mental health needs in Sri Lanka today are soaring. It is estimated that in tsunami-affected areas 40% of people suffer from common mental disorders and there is a 3% prevalence of severe mental disorders.
In more recent times, the country as a whole is moving away from this traditional cultural stigma. This had always been attached to mental health in Sri Lanka, particularly stemming from the Buddhist beliefs of reincarnation. Integrating mental health into the primary care of Sri Lanka’s public health system and private sector still remains challenging. However, more recently there has been encouraging signs that right tracks are being made to do this.
Such progressions originated in the late 1970s with the emergence of a Non-Government Organisation – ‘The National Council for Mental Health’. Consequently, Medical Officers of Mental Health (MOMHs) were introduced, with the aspiration of having a MOMH in each of Sri Lanka’s 276 subdistricts – at a ratio of one MOMH per 70,000 population.
However, such a ratio led to its own constraints. MOMHs often suffer from excessive workloads, with too many patients to see or not enough valuable time spent with each patient in the clinic. Shortage of essential medicines in both clinics and inpatient units is also a problem. Plus, a lack of community based psychiatric treatment settings.
Systematic training programs have been introduced to help support mental health officers. This includes a process for them to then pass on such training they receive downwards to the medical staff in their district. Their training includes multiple discussion sessions and role-plays that facilitate active learning and practising core competencies. For example, they will have assessments about the severity of depression/suicide and explanations of medication side effects to facilitate adherence.
In line with this, emerging mental health issues are now being ingrained, accepted and made accessible to the general population as part of Sri Lanka primary healthcare, both in government and private hospitals. For instance, the healthcare system now provides for coping with trauma and stress-related problems and understanding the mental health problems of those physically ill. Rehabilitation for people with prolonged mental illnesses is becoming more important, as well as raising awareness through community mental health education problems. Our mental health volunteering abroad program provides participants with the opportunity to gain a broad overview, understanding and insight into mental health care and needs within a different culture.
The Sri Lanka volunteer program is based mainly in the Galle District. This was one of the worst affected regions from the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami and to this day today has left a lasting impact both physically and mentally on Sri Lankan people. Our mental health project in Sri Lanka is considered one of the best volunteer abroad programs.
Balapitiya Government Base Hospital – As a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, you will spend time shadowing and observing mental health doctors in a hospital setting. This will be during consultation periods with in-ward and out-ward patients at government hospital clinics. You may encounter various forms of mental health disorders and conditions.
Each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka will usually spend time across two hospitals where the mental health consultant sets up their out-patient clinics. This is usually the local Balapatiya Government Hospital near Ambalangoda, plus another Galle District Hospital.
When in the hospital setting, the doctor will aim to translate and explain as much as possible to participants whilst the consultation with the patient is taking place. They will speak good English so should be able to debrief and receive questions from you accordingly. It is important for participants to be flexible in the environment they are in and appreciate that a doctor’s schedule is busy. Therefore, the doctor may not be able to translate and explain to you each patient consultation.
National Institute of Mental Health – In addition, participants will usually get the chance to spend time at the National Institute of Mental Health. This is the largest hospital for mental health in Sri Lanka.
Here participants receive a presentation around mental health in Sri Lanka and get a tour of all the in-patient services. For instance, you’ll learn about the psychogeriatric, ECT and isolation units and how they administer therapies, drugs and injections. There is also a range of out-patient services that you will be able to visit as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, such as day rehabilitation centres.
Generally speaking, the first line of treatment for mental health patients in services remains to be medication. It is a lot more available and accessible than other therapeutic medications such as creative therapies and meditations. As a consequence, in reality, these alternatives treatments are often not widely received by those with mental health needs.
National Council for Mental Health – Part of your placement will be at the National Council for Mental Health. This serves as a “half-way home” treatment centre to integrate those with mental illness back into society. Each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka will be able to partake and observe their daily schedule of activities or consultations, depending on the available timetable.
Located close to Colombo, this is a weekly placement that is one of the highlights of the mental health experience. The NCMH is very much a forward-thinking framework, which is all about rehabilitation for the patients and providing a wide range of occupational therapies. Moreover, the long term goal us for patients at the home to return back into mainstream society without relapsing. The setting is mostly home to adults and has a team of nurses to support the day to day running and support at the halfway home.
Each volunteer in Sri Lanka will get a chance to interact with those based at the home, so you can ask them questions and learn about their experiences. In addition, you can provide hands-on support with occupational therapy, such as creative arts and learning, as well as structured daily exercise classes to encourage positive wellbeing.
Participants will also get the chance to have one on one time with the director at the NCMH. You can ask questions and learn more from the experts around mental health in Sri Lanka, as well as the stigmas attached.
Community Setting – Participants will spend time at the heart of community projects, providing care and attention for mentally disabled children in a government school or NGO.
Each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka will be expected to be dynamic and creative when preparing engaging activities and games. For instance, arts, crafts, drawing and painting. These can be used as a fun mechanism to help support creative therapy amongst children who have mental health disabilities. The children may range from small groups of around 5-10 to groups of up to around 30-40 children.
Participants are advised to note that around the holiday times of April, August and December availability at the community placement setting may be limited or unavailable.
Lectures, Seminars & Workshops – You will also get the opportunity to take part in a series of workshops relating to mental health in Sri Lanka.
Firstly, you will learn about Ayurveda, which is an ancient medicine system rooted in the Indian subcontinent. Ayurveda consists of concepts and practices that promote the use of herbal compounds, special diets, and other unique natural health practices. The seminar will explain a different dynamic and perspective onto how patients are treated with regard to mental health and the traditional Sri Lankan medical system.
Every mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka will also be welcome to a lecture from a Buddhist monk. Here you will explore how Buddhists and Sri Lankan people are dealing with mental health problems. In addition, you may learn how core values, practices and beliefs are helping with this, such as meditation.
On an ad hoc basis, you may also be invited to attend additional mental health events and workshops. It is usually quite rare that these opportunities become available, but if they do our local team are on hand to provide such opportunities for you.
We are able to support students who would like to join our mental health & psychology program as part of an elective or university placement. Please contact a member of our team to discuss this in detail.
YOUR VOLUNTEER ROLE & TYPICAL WORK DAY
Your main role as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka is to learn and experience their mental health system, procedures and culture. Subsequently, you will be observing how this may differ to the experience you have at home. The project timetable will vary each day, including a range of activities and placement settings, combining consultation observations, lectures, meditations and local community project work.
At the start of your mental health experience, every volunteer in Sri Lanka will receive a workbook. This can be completed each day as you go through your psychology project journey. There will be questions to test your knowledge on each different section of the mental health experience, encouraging proactive learning and engagement across your placement.
Placement Timetable – As a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, your schedule and timings will vary each day. Usually, you will be at your placement for 2-5 hours per day from Monday-Friday, ranging between 8am-6pm. Depending on the placement, you may travel by tuk-tuk or private car. Journey times will range from 5 minutes to the local schools and hospitals to possibly an hour for the institutions in Colombo.
The schedule usually includes one placement per day. Participants may be split into teams for an equal chance to experience and participate in a range of volunteer work in Sri Lanka. In particular, this is relevant when there are higher numbers.
The day by day breakdowns here are examples of typical morning and afternoon activities:
Monday – Galle District Hospital & Lectures & Seminars Tuesday – Community Setting & Galle District Hospital Wednesday – National Council for Mental Health & Community Setting Thursday – National Institute of Mental Health & Galle District Hospital Friday – Community Setting & Galle District Hospital
As Sri Lanka is a developing country their psychiatric facilities reflect this. Participants on the mental health & psychology program are advised to note that the project and schedule availability may be limited from time to time. This is due to unexpected factors outside of PMGY’s control. For instance, it is commonly associated with the hospital setting of the placement where doctors can strike at late notice. In addition, the consultants can be absent from the hospital when expected with no advanced notice.
In such situations, PMGY will do their best to arrange alternative project work for each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka. However, this will likely be outside of the hospital setting for that day and maybe at another form of community program we operate.
OTHER THINGS TO CONSIDER AS A MENTAL HEALTH VOLUNTEER IN SL
Top PMGY Destination – Sri Lanka is widely considered to be the best PMGY volunteer destination due to the superior local support, value for money and overall experience on offer in Ambalangoda. The local Sri Lankan team really go above-and-beyond to ensure each volunteer has the best possible experience and this is reflected in volunteer feedback. As a result, we believe this is the perfect destination for a first-time traveller who is looking for a little extra support, plenty of organised weekend trips and wants to get involved in some fantastic local initiatives in an exotic location.
University Students Only – Please note the mental health & psychology program in Sri Lanka is only available to those already studying a psychology/mental health-related degree at university and is not be available to those with no exposure or studying at levels beneath this (e.g. A-Levels). The project is available to graduates, but as this is a learning and insight experience graduates may not find this suitable to what they would be looking for from the placement.
Project Duration – We recommend four weeks on the program to gain experience and get a broad insight into your mental health placements. This should allow you to experience most of the placement settings described above within the mental health & psychology program.
Hands-On Involvement – As a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, your level of involvement at the project is dictated by a range of factors. First of all your medical experience (if any), duration of your program and willingness to get involved. The medical staff are accountable for you whilst you’re under their supervision, so it is completely up to them if you are permitted and want to get involved in hands-on procedures.
Generally speaking those with little or no medical experience assume a largely observational role. If you are studying a mental health-related degree, then you may have more opportunity to undertake some more basic hands-on involvement. However, to reiterate we can never guarantee or endorse hands-on experience should you choose to get hands-on, as the decision ultimately lies with the medical staff and their patients.
Trained Professionals – Please note this program is not suitable for trained professionals who are looking to practise overseas. This opportunity is only suitable for students looking to go into the mental health or psychology field and wish to learn about a healthcare system overseas.
Weekends – Your project work in Sri Lanka runs from Monday-Friday and weekends are free. You are welcome to relax and hang out at the volunteer accommodation but most participants will use this time to travel and explore the country. As a result, you can check out our Sri Lanka Weekend Travel Guide for top tips on how to spend your weekend. We also run two separate weekend trips which you can sign-up to before you depart for Sri Lanka. We offer the Adventure Hill & Country Trip, the Cultural Triangle & Elephants Trip along with the Maldives Chill Out Trip with opportunities running every month.
Can people from outside of the UK or USA volunteer with PMGY?
Of course! Although PMGY was founded in the UK, with offices now extending between the UK and US, we welcome participants of all nationalities onto our programs. Within the last decade, we have hosted tens of thousands of volunteers from across the globe. From France to Italy, Mexico to India, Namibia to Russia and Ireland to China – these are only a handful of the countries volunteers have joined us from! We want everyone from across the world to have an equal opportunity at experiencing a different perspective on life, and make friends across the world.
Why are PMGY’s fees so much more affordable than other travel organisations?
The PMGY International Team works hard to ensure that our fees are kept as low as possible. Consequently, this makes our experiences affordable and accessible without sacrificing the safety and quality of the overall experience.
Registration Fees to join our programs are assigned to the high levels of comprehensive support that we are renowned for. This includes telephone and online support staff available 24 hours each day, as well as detailed hand-guides and interactive webinars. Therefore, the remaining Program Fees to join the program go directly to our in-country teams, covering everything for your time volunteering. In general, these fees are reflected in your accommodation, meals, airport pick-up, in-country support and project upkeep during your time abroad. Furthermore, we make sure our fees are transparent, which is something our volunteers really appreciate.
Similar organisations offer fancy brochures, run large high-street offices and are usually owned by larger travel organisations with many shareholders. As a result, participants are charged an extremely high price to cover all of these overheads. Therefore, at PMGY, we have embraced the online age by focusing everything around an online presence. We have done away with out-dated brochures, an unnecessary high street presence and we are an independent organisation without any outside financial interests.
What are the requirements to volunteer in Sri Lanka?
PMGY welcomes mental health volunteers in Sri Lanka of all nationalities, religions and backgrounds. The minimum age to join the program is 18 and there is no upper age limit. Furthermore, all volunteers need to have a good level of English, although it does not need to be your first language. Of course, you do not need to speak Sinhalese or Tamil. However, you will find that learning a few words in your days with us in Sri Lanka will go a long way.
Each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka must be able to provide a clean criminal background check in advance of volunteering with us abroad. Thus, we are unable to accept anyone who has any previous criminal convictions. In general, no formal experience or qualifications are required for the projects, just lots of energy, enthusiasm and preparation! However, medical and healthcare projects usually require additional documentation before participation begins in-country.
Volunteering overseas can be both physically and mentally challenging. Therefore, all participants must be fit in both areas. Consequently, if you have any medical/mental health conditions that may affect your participation overseas, then these must be declared to us during your online application. If you have any queries regarding your suitability to participate, we recommend that you contact us before committing to the program.
What date should I arrive and leave the Sri Lanka volunteer program?
For your volunteer trip to Sri Lanka, you should book your flights to Colombo Bandaranaike Airport on the Saturday start date. The airport code is CMB. You will be met at the airport by a member of the local team or an appointed driver, who will be holding a named sign. They will take you to your accommodation where you will spend the rest of your day at leisure.
The program ends on the Saturday of your final week. Therefore, you must depart the accommodation on this day.
When is the best time of year to volunteer in Sri Lanka?
Feedback from each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka often suggests that it is best to join a PMGY project outside the European summer months. This is since June-August tends to be when we have peak numbers at each of our projects and volunteer accommodations. Conversely, outside of these months, there is typically the greatest opportunity to become fully immersed in the project and within the local community.
Are there any age restrictions to be a volunteer in Sri Lanka?
In order to join as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, you need to be at least 18 on the program start date. Generally, the average age range of volunteers is 18-25.
There is no upper age limit to our programs, and in the past, we have hosted participants up to the age of 70-years old. Whilst we have found that our more mature participants get a lot from the experience, at times individuals have found it more challenging to integrate with a younger crowd. Furthermore, some participants have perhaps expected a higher level of accommodation, the structure within the local community, and general overall communication at the project setup. Consequently, whilst we welcome volunteers of all ages, we stress that all participants should remain open-minded and flexible. Additionally, participants must appreciate that the majority of our participants are across the 17-25 age range.
When should I apply to be a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka?
For the majority of our programs, you can apply at any time. However, we advise that you apply as soon as possible to ensure we have availability on the program. This is since some of our programs only have limited capacity, meaning that spaces get filled very quickly. Therefore, it is particularly important that you apply in good time if you’re looking to travel between our peak period of June and August. This is because spaces can fill up very quickly during this period. Furthermore, please only apply if you are 100% committed to joining the program. You need to apply online by locating the “Apply Now” button on the individual project page. This will guide you through our online Application Process.
Indeed, once you have applied and confirmed your place on the program, it may be possible to change your start dates and this will not incur a fee. However, please note that this will be subject to availability and any changes should be made at least 60 days prior to your start date.
What duration would you recommend to volunteering for?
Based on feedback from previous mental health volunteers in Sri Lanka, we believe that 4-6 weeks is the ideal amount of time to volunteer in Sri Lanka. Consequently, this means you have enough time to integrate into the local community and really get involved in a project. For one thing, you will be able to make a positive impact on community development. Additionally, you will have a greater opportunity to explore during your weekends. A mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka who joins us for 2 weeks frequently tell us that this was long enough and wish they had stayed for longer!
For those looking to potentially join us for a longer period, we recommend checking out our Encounter Programs that offer a 2-4 week stay across 3-10 destinations.
Can I volunteer abroad with my friend/parent/boyfriend/girlfriend?
You’re more than welcome to travel and volunteer with friends, family members or with a boyfriend/girlfriend. If required, we can make sure that you stay in the same accommodation and volunteer for the same project. However, please note the majority of our volunteer accommodation is on a single-sex basis. Consequently, we cannot guarantee that you would be able to be placed in the same room.
Please outline in the ‘Special Requirements’ box of your online application if you’d like to make sure you’re placed alongside another applicant/s.
Is it safe to travel to PMGY destinations?
Although our volunteers work in the developing world, we work hard to ensure that our host locations are safe. Firstly, volunteer safety in each of our destinations is monitored regularly. Each of our volunteer programs has been inspected by a member of the PMGY International Team. Additionally, PMGY closely follows advice published by the UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Alongside the frequent contact we have with our local teams, we are able to ensure that our volunteers are never placed in unstable or unsafe regions.
The PMGY International Team have visited and participated in every program we offer. Thus, we have carefully inspected every little detail of our set-up, from the living conditions to local neighbourhoods and even the food you’ll be eating. Through these checks, we are able to ensure that all of our projects are up to scratch. Furthermore, all of our local teams are experienced development professionals, with years of experience hosting international volunteers. They are PMGY’s representatives on the ground and assist volunteers 24/7 throughout their stay. Our teams are therefore always on-hand to assist in any emergencies that may occur. Additionally, our 24 hour international emergency telephone line is always accessible. PMGY’s in-country staff also have access to local medical professionals should these be required during a participant’s time with us.
When you join as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, we will send you a Volunteer Handbook. This document addresses a range of issues such as health, safety, visas and dress codes. For any unanswered or specific questions, PMGY offers a comprehensive support network, with online and telephone support staff available 24 hours each day. Our advisers welcome participants to ask as many questions as needed for them to effectively prepare for their trip overseas. On a monthly basis, our International Team also hosts both an Introductory Webinar and Safety Webinar. These are interactive opportunities for international volunteers to learn more about our projects and managing their safety overseas.
When you arrive in-country, you’ll be given a comprehensive introduction to the general volunteer program and your specific project. During this session, our team will also cover important safety advice specific to your country. You’ll also be given the opportunity to purchase a local SIM-card. This is something we strongly suggest, so you’re contactable at all times. In like manner, we will provide you with a full list of the important contact numbers that you’ll need to know.
Although we cannot guarantee your volunteer experience to be 100% trouble-free we have taken all the necessary precautions to make sure each program is as safe as possible.
When do I pay for my volunteer program? Can I pay in instalments?
In order to confirm your place as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, you need to pay a deposit of 249 USD. The remaining fee is then due no less than 60 days prior to your program start date. During this period if you need to make a change to your trip (destination, program or date) then this can be facilitated free of charge. If you’re applying within 60 days of your program start date then you’ll need to pay the full amount to confirm your place. Likewise, in the unlikely event that we are unable to offer you a place on the program then your payment will be refunded in full within 48 hours of applying.
Payments made in advance of the 60 day window can be made in one lump sum or in several instalments. Payments can be made directly through our website using all major debit and credit cards. We will outline instructions to make payment in our email communication with you. Please note credit card payments are subject to a 3% additional fee to cover the bank charges that PMGY incur. Bank transfers can be accepted by UK participants only.
Can I be a mental health volunteer as part of a university or college placement?
It is certainly possible to be a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka as part of your university or college placement. However, PMGY is unable to guarantee that the Sri Lanka mental health experience program will fulfil the requirements of your establishment. Therefore, participants are encouraged to speak to a member of the International Team to establish whether the required parameters can be met. This should be done in advance of applying to the program. When appropriate, school/college/university representatives are welcome to contact PMGY to discuss further the suitability of the program in meeting the participant’s requirements. In addition, PMGY operates as one of many school trip companies who can arrange group trips to Sri Lanka.
First of all, the PMGY International Team are able to complete paperwork after each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka has confirmed their place on the program. Additionally, project staff in Sri Lanka can also sign-off any paperwork that is required by your course tutors. However, while our team will do their best to complete any paperwork, we are unable to guarantee that we will be able to comply with every learning objective and requirement or your university/college. In the event that your university/college do not accept the paperwork submitted by PMGY, then you will be unable to be refunded for your trip. PMGY regularly receives medical, nursing, childcare and psychology placement students on our projects globally, with ties with some leading universities.
If you’re a course tutor and would like further information about how one of PMGY’s programs could meet the placement requirements for your course, please contact us directly to schedule a meeting.
BEFORE YOU DEPART
Can I fundraise for my trip as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka?
With PMGY, the money our volunteers pay goes towards the structure you receive on the Sri Lanka volunteer program. The fundamentals of this cover aspects such as accommodation, airport pick-ups, around the clock support from our international and in-country teams, pre-departure training as well as the implementation and monitoring of the projects.
We do our best to keep our program costs as low and affordable as possible, without sacrificing quality and safety. However, with flights, travel insurance and spending money to factor into your overall budget, you may find you need a little bit of help with the finances. Consequently, a large number of PMGY volunteers decide to fundraise for their trip. In these instances, we recommend that each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka sets up an online fundraising page to notify friends and family of your trip.
PMGY have partnered with the online crowdfunding website GoGetFunding for volunteers to create a personalised fundraising page for their trip. This professional online fundraising service allows you to set financial goals and get the message across about what you’re doing. You can also share your PMGY fundraising page across various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.
Can I raise money for the projects?
The PMGY Foundation is a UK registered charity (1169415). This charity has been created to help provide financial aid and assistance to projects we work with on an ongoing basis. Importantly, the objective of the PMGY Foundation is the prevention or relief of poverty for people living in the communities we support. This is achieved by providing or assisting the provision of education, training, healthcare and general living support. Therefore together, we hope that the support offered by the PMGY Foundation helps to enable individuals to generate a sustainable income and be self-sufficient. Consequently, donations made to the PMGY Foundation will be directed to the projects most in need. This is determined by the trustees of the charity during our International Team overseas visits.
If you are looking to help raise money directly for the PMGY Foundation, you can do so via our Virgin Money Giving fundraising page. 100% of all money raised will be donated directly to the projects we support around the world. However, please note that participants are unable to raise money through the PMGY Foundation to help finance the cost of their trip overseas. For a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka looking for further information on how to raise money for their trip abroad, please visit our fundraising page.
How do I register for your online webinars?
Every Tuesday at 4pm (London time), the PMGY International Team hosts one of four pre-departure webinars. These last approximately 45 minutes each and importantly provide volunteers in Sri Lanka with invaluable advice on their upcoming trip. The webinars are hosted by a member of our International Team, who all have extensive knowledge of our projects around the globe. You can attend (and even ask questions) from anywhere in the world, simply by logging in through your own computer. All you need is a computer, a good internet connection and a pair of headphones. In addition to this, if any family or friends would like to attend the session as well, they are more than welcome to do so.
For individuals who have not yet signed up to one of our programs, but would like to learn more about us, we encourage you to join our Introductory Webinar. Across 45 minutes, a member of the International team will introduce you to the concept of volunteering abroad, our destinations and both social and safety aspects of our programs.
For a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka who has already confirmed their volunteering role on the program, there are three for you to choose from. Please note that you need to sign up for the webinar a few days in advance.
Travel Essentials Pre-Departure Webinar – covers all the basics.
Program Preparation Webinar – covers specifically childcare and teaching community work programs.
Safety & Wellbeing Overseas Webinar – covers the risks associated with overseas travel and how you can keep as safe as possible.
Will I require vaccinations and malaria tablets for my volunteer work?
It is possible that as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka you may require a course of vaccinations in preparation for your volunteer work in Sri Lanka. However, unfortunately, PMGY is unable to legally advise on these matters, since we are not medical experts. Therefore, it is vital that you contact your local doctor or travel clinic a few months in advance of your intended travel. Your local doctor/nurse will be able to advise you on vaccinations and malaria prevention you may need for entry into your volunteer destination. Additional information can be found on the NHS Fit For Travel website.
How do I arrange my flights to volunteer in Sri Lanka?
When you apply to be a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, we cannot guarantee your place on the program immediately. Indeed, on receiving an application, we have to liaise with our local team to ensure there is space available on the program and to assess your suitability for the specific project. Therefore, we strongly recommend that you do not make any flight and/or travel arrangements until your program has been confirmed by us in writing. Of course, once your place as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka has been confirmed, you are then free to book your flights either with PMGY or through a third-party travel agent.
After confirming your place on a PMGY volunteer program, we strongly advise that you book your flights as early as possible. This is since it will help ensure that you get the lowest airfare. You can choose to book your flights independently or we can help you with arranging them. PMGY has a wealth of experience in travelling to and from our host countries. Therefore, we know the most affordable ways to travel and the best airlines to use. Therefore, if you would like any assistance booking your flight, you can request an optional flight quote during your online application. Alternatively, feel free to contact us on the phone or by email.
Do you offer travel insurance?
Importantly, having an appropriate travel insurance policy during your time abroad is essential. Therefore, it is mandatory for all of our international volunteers to be appropriately covered across all of their trip dates. This includes your travel to and from the host country, as well as any onward travel. Although PMGY does everything to ensure your trip is safe, inevitably things can go wrong. Therefore, having a travel insurance policy in place helps you effectively deal with any problems you may encounter during your time away.
We have partnered up with the insurance company Endsleigh to create an affordable and comprehensive optional policy. This has been designed with our international volunteers in mind, to cover our participants for all of their travel essentials. The policy is available to anyone across the globe, up to the age of 65 years. The document will cover you for your time on any PMGY destination and any onward travel (excluding the US and Canada). You can purchase PMGY Travel Insurance during your online application or you can contact us directly to arrange it.
How do I obtain a background check?
To become a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, you’ll need to provide us with a clean DBS or Police Check before you travel. This is a check that must be issued by an official Governmental or Police Body. PMGY have a commitment to the projects we support to ensure the volunteers we send are trustworthy and of sound moral character. Consequently, we are unable to accept participants who have had any previous criminal convictions.
If you hold a current DBS or Police Check, then we can accept this, providing it is clear and issued no more than 18 months prior to your program start date. You will need to upload a copy of this to your online portal after confirming your place on the program. Furthermore, the DBS or Police Check must be submitted to us no less than 21 days prior to your program start date.
If you don’t have a valid DBS check , then you will need to apply for one. UK volunteers need to apply for a “Basic Disclosure” through Gov.uk (which serves all people in the UK). This costs 23 GBP and takes around 15 working days to process. Full information on how to obtain a DBS check through Gov.uk is outlined in the Volunteer Handbook, received once you have confirmed your place as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka.
For every mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka from the US, you can apply for a background check through US Criminal Checks. It costs 17.95 USD and is usually processed immediately. Alternatively, you are welcome to arrange your own background check through your local Sheriff’s Office or governmental body.
For all other international participants, we recommend you obtain a Police/Criminal Background Check through your local police station or official governmental body.
When will I receive my Volunteer Handbook?
All volunteers in Sri Lanka will receive a PMGY Volunteer Handbook once they have paid their deposit and confirmed their place on the program. We will send you an email entitled ‘Welcome to PMGY’ which will include a link where you can download the Volunteer Handbook. Please note that we do not send a hard copy of the PMGY Volunteer Handbook.
This Handbook contains everything you need to know to prepare as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka. Ranging from what to pack to how to obtain a visa, we do our best to ensure you are ready to hit the ground running. Therefore, it is really important that you read through the Volunteer Handbook carefully once you’ve downloaded it. If you find any of your questions unanswered after reading through this, then our team are always on hand to assist you. You can contact us via email, telephone, Skype, Facebook, online chat…whatever works best for you!
ON YOUR TRIP
Can I arrange a private room?
All of our accommodation options on the Sri Lanka volunteer program involve sharing a room with other participants (usually same-sex). Unfortunately, we are unable to arrange private room options for each mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka.
Can you cater for my dietary requirements?
Our teams will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements. However, this cannot be guaranteed as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka. Consequently, there may be instances where you need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense. Any dietary requirements should be noted within your application and re-iterated to the local team on arrival into the country. Importantly, any concerns for major requirements should be raised with the PMGY International Team before confirming your place on the program.
Are there any public holidays that affect project availability?
We aim to communicate as clearly and accurately as possible all holidays that impact project availability. This information can be found via our Holiday Dates page and in the Volunteer Handbook. However, due to the nature of developing countries, holidays can often be sporadic or prone to change. In turn, these can unexpectedly affect project availability. Therefore in such instances, we ask our volunteers to be flexible and appreciative of this. These periods often provide volunteers in Sri Lanka with a unique experience to enjoy the festivities and holidays themselves. However, our local teams will always do their best to find alternative project work if applicable/possible.
What is the dress code at the projects?
Dress code varies from country-to-country and sometimes from project-to-project. Importantly, we ask that our volunteers adopt a smart and responsible image during their time in the communities. Of course, we will outline the specific dress code requirements in your Volunteer Handbook so you know exactly what to pack. In addition to this, our local team will also brief you during your in-country orientation on arrival in Sri Lanka.
The general rule of thumb for girls is to cover shoulders, chest, stomach and thighs. In a like matter, for men, shorts should not lie above the knee and shirts should cover shoulders. Whilst we do not wish to impose strict regulations on our volunteers, we do ask that you respect the local culture during your travels. Moreover, dressing appropriately will earn you the respect of the people you’ll be working with. Therefore, our Volunteer Handbooks, outline preferred dress-codes in detail.
Additionally, it’s also a good idea to take some nicer clothes for the weekends and special occasions. However, please avoid tight and very short clothing. You should also avoid clothing that may have potentially offensive slogans on it. Tattoos and piercings should be covered where possible whilst you’re at your placement, particularly if you’re working with children.
How much spending money will I need?
The amount of extra spending money you should take with you as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka can depend on a multitude of factors. Considerations include what you undertake during your free time and how many souvenirs you purchase! Therefore, if you plan to go for a safari in Tanzania or perhaps go trekking in South Africa, you will need to budget accordingly. However, for general expenses and some independent travel, you should find 100-150 USD per week a suitable amount.
Will I be able to travel whilst on the program?
You’ll have plenty of opportunities to travel during your time with PMGY. In fact, we encourage you to travel during your free time! Most of our programs have been designed so that you have weekends off. Therefore, this gives you the opportunity to explore the local area or even travel further afield within your host country. Our local coordinators will provide you with all the weekend opportunities and travel tips you need to help you plan any independent adventures. During your time as a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka, you are sure to make some travel buddies along the way!
Before booking your flights, we recommend that you look into travel opportunities across dates on either side of your volunteering placement. It is always great to spend some time travelling and seeing more of the country you wish to volunteer in. However, if you plan to travel extensively, please factor this into your flight itinerary. This is since we only encourage travel during weekends while you’re volunteering, as you have made a commitment to be a mental health volunteer in Sri Lanka.
During your time on the Sri Lanka volunteer program, you will live in our Volunteer House just outside of central Ambalangoda, in a peaceful part of town on the south coast of Sri Lanka. It is just a 10 minute tuk-tuk journey into the main town, where you can find ATMs, supermarkets and local restaurants. You’ll be living with other PMGY volunteers from around the world, so you’ll make plenty of friends along the way!
The accommodation is basic but comfortable and clean, fitting up to 10 people per room in single-sex bedrooms with bunk beds. Volunteers are provided with air conditioning in the room and bed linen. You will have cupboard space to store clothes and accessories as well as a personal locker to store your valuables. However, volunteers are still encouraged to only bring essential items during their volunteer work in Sri Lanka.
The bathrooms are shared, each with a shower and western style toilet. The water is cold but this shouldn’t be a problem if you volunteer in Sri Lanka, as the climate is hot and humid all year round!
The house has a voucher-based Wi-Fi system and a communal area for international volunteers to relax, hang out with new friends or prepare lesson plans if you are teaching English. There is also a refrigerator to store any items you need to keep chilled. A member of our local team will also live at the house. This ensures you have round the clock support and security.
We will transport you via tuk-tuk or private car to and from your volunteer placement, which is usually between 5-30 minutes away from the house. This service is included in your Program Fee.
During our busiest months you may be placed at alternative accommodation. This could be a nearby guesthouse or one of our alternative Volunteer Houses.
You will be served three meals per day at the Volunteer House. Most meals are traditional Sri Lankan dishes that can be typically quite spicy. Sri Lankan cuisine consists of a lot of rice and the meat is mainly fish or chicken – vegetarian options are always available.
All meals are freshly prepared each day. If you fancy some western comforts, you will find plenty of restaurants serving western meals in the nearby town of Hikkaduwa.
A weekly menu has been introduced that blends Sri Lanka cuisine with Western cuisine so you will know in advance what is on the menu for that day!
* Our team will do their best to cater for any dietary requirements. However, this cannot be guaranteed. This means that there may be instances where you need to purchase alternative ingredients at your own expense. Any dietary requirements should be noted within your application and re-iterated to the local team on arrival into the country. Any concerns for major requirements should be raised with the PMGY International Team before confirming your place on the program.
* These fees apply to each individual application.
In order to apply to join PMGY you are required to make your Registration Fee payment of 249 USD. In the unlikely event that we are unable to offer you a place on the program then your Registration Fee will be refunded in full within 48 hours of applying. The remaining fee is then due no less than 60 days prior to your program start date. During this period if you need to make a change to your trip (destination, program or date) then this can be facilitated free of charge.
If you’re applying within 60 days of your program start date then you’ll need to pay the full amount to confirm your place. Likewise, in the unlikely event that we are unable to offer you a place on the program then your payment will be refunded in full within 48 hours of applying.
Any remaining payments must be made no less than 60 days prior to your start date. This payment can be made in one lump sum or in several instalments. If you chose to take our insurance or book a flight with PMGY then these must be paid for (in full) at the time of booking.
Payments can be made directly through our website using all major debit and credit cards. We will outline instructions to make payment in our email communication with you. Please note credit card payments are subject to a 3% additional fee to cover the bank charges that PMGY incur.
OPTIONAL TRIPLE CARBON OFFSET SCHEME – 45 USD
PMGY provide participants with the opportunity to contribute towards our Triple Carbon Offset Scheme. This not only helps eliminate your carbon footprint but helps the planet with a positive contribution every time you fly. The Triple Offset Idea for volunteers in Sri Lanka works as follows –
🇰🇪 Kenya – 51 mango trees are planted in Kenya. These are capable of absorbing the total carbon emissions for a volunteer trip to Sri Lanka and also help provide a sustainable income for local farmers.
🇮🇳 India – 80 days of access to a solar cooker are provided to a family in India. This means the family don’t have to spend on firewood and thus reduce their dependence on trees.
🇺🇸 USA – 1.25kg of rescued meals are provided to the homeless in the USA. This recycles wasted food reduces methane emission from food waste which is equivalent to 1lb of CO2 emissions.
This optional add-on can be added during the online application process or can even be added on at a later date. The offset platform is provided by our charity, the PMGY Foundation and ensures that 100% of contributions are put towards high impact projects around the world.