WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

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maven
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WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by maven » Thu May 05, 2016 1:08 am

I have taken the unusual step today of banning any accounts relating to SLVolunteers (also known as SLV), and I am now announcing that we have banned any link to their website or discussion of their services that could be interpreted as promotional. Posts will be edited to remove such links or discussions, and any users associated with them or who appear to post to promote this organisation will be banned.

This is because this organisation have recurrently tried to circumvent paying for advertising on the site, and attempted to advertise in a devious way, by signing up IDs that promote their services by posting as satisfied customers on the forum.

This led me to find out a little about the company, and raised a number of concerns:
1) I believe that their advertising is intentionally misleading, as it gives the impression of being a non-profit organisation run by volunteers, when their records with Companies House show that they are a profit-making tour operator and not a social enterprise, charity or non-profit organisation of any kind. They are not transparent about their finances, or even whether they receive payment for the labour provided by the volunteers.
2) They imply that the placements will be psychological and advantageous to psychology students/graduates when according to those who have volunteered in the past, they are in fact offering predominantly low level occupational therapy, speech therapy, and English teaching sessions, with minimal training, rather than anything informed by a qualified clinical psychologist. The titles such as "psychology manager" that they give to volunteers are not indicative of the skills or competencies such titles would imply in the UK.
3) It would appear that the goal of maximising placements takes priority over service users having any consistency or being able to build relationships with volunteers, as volunteers report that each person spends only a small amount of time in each project each week.

Whilst people appear to have a lot of fun, to bond with other volunteers, and to enjoy Sri Lanka, this is a very expensive way to volunteer, and in my opinion does not provide psychological experience as worthwhile as volunteering on a mental health ward, or in a UK mental health charity - which do not have the associated costs, or put money into the pocket of a private provider. Whilst they seem very keen to get volunteers to pay a deposit as quickly as possible, and market very hard on social media, I believe that people should know about the organisation itself before they part with such large sums, or try to fundraise these fees. Bear in mind that homestays in that area cost under £5 per person per night (and probably less per head if they cram in up to 20 people in one home as is reported in slv reviews), so the £1000-£1900 of fees would appear to predominantly go to SLV themselves, and ultimately their single shareholder.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

jyddx
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Re: WARNING - SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by jyddx » Thu May 05, 2016 1:03 pm

So interested, yet not very surprised, to read this. Always had suspicions it was likely to be this way. We get endless emails from them circulated at uni too so I'm kinda sick of the sight of them. Good move, imo!

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Re: WARNING - SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by lingua_franca » Fri May 06, 2016 1:07 am

This doesn't surprise me. There are a number of similar companies offering exorbitantly priced 'voluntourism' to medicine hopefuls (only those are more exploitative in that they often allow people to work beyond their competence, as though people in developing nations don't deserve the same protections as people in the UK and are good guinea pigs for aspiring medical students just because they're poor and don't have access to anything better). Some of these organisations have painfully racist attitudes too - I remember seeing one advert that listed 'sampling local cuisine' alongside 'encountering exotic hill tribes', or something like that. It was only a matter of time before a similar company appeared on the clinical psychology scene.

When I lived in Palestine, there were several mental health organisations working with children who were inundated with volunteer enquiries and who categorically refused to take any volunteers in direct care roles. This was because they felt it would be disruptive for children who already have attachment problems to have volunteers coming and going on a three-month visa. In any conflict or post-conflict situation, like Sri Lanka, it is also very difficult for an outsider to make a meaningful contribution no matter what the time frame. Providing culturally sensitive care involves in-depth knowledge of the local context that the students and recent graduates who are targeted by such placements are unlikely to possess. It's exploitative of both the volunteers and the people who will be receiving care. I'm not saying that it's impossible to volunteer ethically and effectively abroad, but be careful, especially in areas that have known recent conflict.
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

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Re: WARNING - SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by Lixsa » Fri Jun 03, 2016 10:40 am

Having volunteered with SLV in the past, I find this post incredibly refreshing; it mirrors the concerns that myself and fellow volunteers rose whilst in Sri Lanka. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I wish that I had never gone. After all, I did learn a lot of transferrable skills e.g. managing working with difficult emotions, an understanding of how culture and religious beliefs can affect mental health care and engagement, using peer supervision to overcome challenges, etc etc. Plus, I met some of my best friends whilst volunteering - and not to mention that Sri Lanka is such a beautiful country which we were able to explore! However, these skills could have been gained in more appropriate situations at home in the UK, or during a more ethical or effective volunteer program.

It was very clear from the outset that we would not be receiving any direct clinical psychology work, nor supervision from any qualified member of staff. Some placements did appear therapeutic for those involved, e.g. dance classes and arts and crafts with individuals with special needs, although not directly psychology related. However, one particular placement (I won’t go into detail), in a home for looked after children, was so concerning that we felt that we were perhaps doing more harm than good, and asked them to consider removing volunteers from that placement. Our ‘outreach clinical trips’ with a Psychiatrist was in fact one day of our 12-weeks, which involved a large group of us ‘hunting down’ local patients who had not shown up to their weekly clinic, and entering their houses uninvited. Interestingly, the psychiatrist had himself a low opinion of the work SLV asked of its volunteers and has since ceased working with them.

During our 12-week placement, myself and fellow volunteers were very open about our views, and even organised a constrictive feedback session with project coordinators during our last week. In addition to ethical concerns, we also discussed how they could better advertise their volunteer placements so as not to mislead psychology graduates. In my option, SLV were very defensive and reluctant to take on any constrictive criticism. Throughout the placement, a few of us were asked to ‘leave it we didn’t like it’.

I must say, I am shocked to read that they are not registered as a charity. They make it very clear to us both before and during out time volunteering that it is a not for profit organisation, and that all money goes to our homestay families or local project coordinators (Sri Lankan’s who help us with translation and moving between projects on public transport etc).

Feel free to remove this review if it is not appropriate. I thought that this would be a good opportunity to urge future prospective volunteers to take time to really consider if they could perhaps volunteer with a more reputable company. Ultimately, the main areas that SLV helped me to develop further are both my reflective practice and my understanding of the importance of ethical considerations – I only wish that I had developed these through a more positive experience (for both myself, and the service users!).

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maven
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Re: WARNING - SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by maven » Thu Mar 15, 2018 5:44 pm

Lixsa wrote:I must say, I am shocked to read that they are not registered as a charity. They make it very clear to us both before and during out time volunteering that it is a not for profit organisation, and that all money goes to our homestay families or local project coordinators (Sri Lankan’s who help us with translation and moving between projects on public transport etc).
Thanks for that review. It seems to support what I have heard from several other people, and confirm some of my doubts about this organisation. Despite all the talk about being volunteer-led they are definitely a profit-making company.

I have subsequently continued to hear through numerous sources evidence that corroborates what I wrote in the OP, but SLV international continue to ask us to remove this post on the basis that us presenting this information "remains a source of difficulty for us". So here, check for yourselves their entry at company's house - a private limited profit making company, in the category "tour operator", with £800k in the bank and a single shareholder.

BTW their response to the critique that their model subjects patients to numerous different volunteers rather than the benefit of consistency and relationships was
Volunteers take part in six weekly projects for the duration of their time on placement. When it comes to working at the psychiatric facilities we rotate volunteers on wards to mitigate any emotional attachments forming between volunteers and patients. It is our duty to safeguard both volunteers and patients against any undue distress and keep the focus on the activities the volunteers run, and not the individual volunteers themselves.
- Lucy Nightingale, Director SVL Intl. Ltd
It reminds me of what managers used to say about eastern European orphanages where they didn't think relationships were important to caring for children :(
lingua_franca wrote:When I lived in Palestine, there were several mental health organisations working with children who were inundated with volunteer enquiries and who categorically refused to take any volunteers in direct care roles. This was because they felt it would be disruptive for children who already have attachment problems to have volunteers coming and going on a three-month visa. In any conflict or post-conflict situation, like Sri Lanka, it is also very difficult for an outsider to make a meaningful contribution no matter what the time frame. Providing culturally sensitive care involves in-depth knowledge of the local context that the students and recent graduates who are targeted by such placements are unlikely to possess. It's exploitative of both the volunteers and the people who will be receiving care. I'm not saying that it's impossible to volunteer ethically and effectively abroad, but be careful, especially in areas that have known recent conflict.
Absolutely agree, Lingua!
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

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maven
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Re: WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by maven » Tue May 15, 2018 1:05 am

I just found a blog that captures my concerns about the seductive simplicity of solving international problems, rather than the mundane complexity of solving problems in our own country. I'd agree with the author about the fact that not only are people naive about what they can achieve in other cultures, there is plenty of need in the "unexotic underclass" of British society. It might not involve a holiday or create instagram friendly images of beaches and brown children, but that is where the biggest impact can be made, and the most relevant experience earned. There is so much that could be done to bring our time and energy (or to design innovative new services) to address issues like homelessness, addiction, poverty, loneliness, child abuse and neglect, dementia, chronic physical health problems, obesity, social exclusion, learning disabilities, gangs, how we help immigrants to socially integrate, NEETs, domestic violence, rehabilitation of offenders, crime prevention, prevention and support for victims of rape and sexual assault, sexual exploitation and trafficking, etc etc.
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

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Re: WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by Potato » Tue May 15, 2018 8:24 am

'Brown children' ??! :shock:

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Re: WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by Geishawife » Tue May 15, 2018 9:30 am

I suspect Maven is referring to children with a tan (note they talk about Instagram pictures of beaches) rather than to their skin colour.

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maven
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Re: WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by maven » Tue May 15, 2018 1:15 pm

I'm talking about the exotifying/commodifying of BME children in social media. Like this tumblr collects. The point being that nobody takes photos of the children they've worked with in UK services, because of (appropriate) concerns about confidentiality and a lack of this same secondary motivation (to look good on social media, get a holiday and feel worthy because you are trying to "help all those poor children in other countries" mentality that the article describes). They only take photos of BME children in exotic locations - except it makes no sense to call them BME in that context, because people of colour are the majority population in those countries.

It was a reference to Waynetta Slob in the old Harry Enfield comedy series who wanted a "brown baby". I'm not being disrespectful to the children by referring to their common characteristic being darker skin colour, I'm being critical of the motivation that thinks that more melanin makes a better photo opportunity, and that the value of voluntary work is determined by the extent to which it can become a series of photo opportunities. There are actually a series of quite ugly and racist assumptions underneath that mentality - that black (and some asian) people are more worthy recipients of help from a western tourist because they are somehow simpler people with simpler problems to solve (which would imply that local people are less intelligent/capable of solving those problems than some random student/graduate from USA/Europe, with no cultural or systemic insight) and that service recipients have less rights of confidentiality - as well as the selfish motivation to make the work feel more like a holiday (and often to get people to fund your holiday on the basis of this "good work").
Maven.

Wise men talk because they have something to say, fools because they have to say something - Plato
The fool thinks himself to be wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool - Shakespeare

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Re: WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by lingua_franca » Sat May 19, 2018 7:41 pm

I had rather an unsettling conversation with one of my undergraduate students about this. He's applied for a holiday placement in a conflict-affected country, and he's disappointed by the work he was offered by the humanitarian organisation (a reputable organisation that I know quite well). "I wanted to go to one of the hot spots where all the human rights abuses are." He made it sound like a safari park, and really, what could he as a 20-year-old with no professional qualification or language skills possibly hope to achieve if he did go to a 'hot spot'? In addition to the patronising ideas about fixing other people's problems that Maven mentions, thrill-seeking seems to be a part of it for some people. I had one mortifying experience with a volunteer in a refugee camp who on her return wrote a cringeworthy article about the 'charm' of her ten days in the camp, with its aromas of rotting rubbish and incessant noise. Pretty sure the camp residents don't consider that charming, but for her it was a novelty. :? The lack of self-awareness and basic insight is baffling to me.
"Suppose a tree fell down, Pooh, when we were underneath it?"
"Suppose it didn't," said Pooh, after careful thought.
Piglet was comforted by this.
- A.A. Milne.

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Re: WARNING - SLV Intl / SLVolunteers / Sri Lanka placements

Post by NotReally » Mon May 21, 2018 5:36 pm

lingua_franca wrote:
Sat May 19, 2018 7:41 pm
I had rather an unsettling conversation with one of my undergraduate students about this. He's applied for a holiday placement in a conflict-affected country, and he's disappointed by the work he was offered by the humanitarian organisation (a reputable organisation that I know quite well). "I wanted to go to one of the hot spots where all the human rights abuses are." He made it sound like a safari park, and really, what could he as a 20-year-old with no professional qualification or language skills possibly hope to achieve if he did go to a 'hot spot'? In addition to the patronising ideas about fixing other people's problems that Maven mentions, thrill-seeking seems to be a part of it for some people. I had one mortifying experience with a volunteer in a refugee camp who on her return wrote a cringeworthy article about the 'charm' of her ten days in the camp, with its aromas of rotting rubbish and incessant noise. Pretty sure the camp residents don't consider that charming, but for her it was a novelty. :? The lack of self-awareness and basic insight is baffling to me.
I think this is perhaps understandable. Although I agree that there isn't much the student could actually do in the "hot spots", I think this may be their eagerness to get involved, and hopefully this will develop the level of insight they have regarding these situations in the future. "live and learn", as it were. I would think (and hope) they weren't talking about being in the "hot spots" as the most senior member of the team there, and more just as an experience to gain some exposure into the sort of work they will hopefully be doing in the future. Obviously I would agree with any humanitarian organisation only giving work that is appropriate, but that doesn't mean it won't feel underwhelming.

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