Hey, I'm Willow!
I'm 23 years old and have just begun working as a mental health recovery practitioner. Through my experience of mental illness (both first and second-hand) I have witnessed the impact a lack of resources can have on one’s mental state. Therefore, I strongly believe in supporting others through their difficulties and working to prevent mental illness. This led me to apply for a mental health work placement in Sri Lanka to support individuals who need it the most. I was accepted onto the 3-month advanced mental health placement as a peer mentor for September 2019. However, due to the 2019 Easter bombings in Sri Lanka, the trip was cancelled.
I have been given the opportunity to join the Bali Mental Health Placement in August 2020 for a month. Here, I will be working on mental wellness projects whilst supporting other volunteers. SLV set up mental wellness placements in 2010 for psychology graduates to provide support in areas that require it the most by promoting mental wellness and reducing stigma surrounding mental illness and disability.
During my stay, I will be living with an Indonesian family and fully integrating myself into their culture, eating the local food, and taking local transport. I will be working 5 days a week within inpatient psychiatric facilities and residential centres to provide therapeutic sessions to increase mood levels and improve cognitive and motor skills. Additionally, I will be based within youth clubs and children’s development centres to improve confidence and practice spoken English skills. As a peer mentor I will have additional responsibilities to offer support for other volunteers during their placement and ensure they adhere to guidelines regarding cultural sensitivity, projects, and homestay rules.
Is it ethical?
I've been wary of volunteer organisations abroad as many contribute to voluntourism, the act of causing more harm than good to a society, such as reinforcing the lack of employment prospects for locals. However, SLV is an ethical organisation, supportive of the local community and demands its volunteers respect the local culture. To prevent the damaging concept of the “white saviour”, 90% of paid employees on the programme are Sri Lankan themselves, providing locals with jobs and opportunities. After all, they know their country and culture best! Further, SLV work alongside professionals to support individuals, rather than portraying them as receivers of charity, as this can have a negative impact on their psychological well-being and self-esteem.
Additionally, project workers are not tourists, and the projects themselves are not tourist attractions. Therefore, photos of volunteers with service users are forbidden as this exploits the individual’s privacy and vulnerability. Volunteers are selected on their background skills and experience and must have a valid DBS check. In addition, SLV's placements are between one and three months which ensures continuity and consistency in support offered to local communities. Volunteers are also required to provide feedback after each session to ensure correct levels of support are sustained after leaving the project. Moreover, SLV has a Responsible Volunteering Policy, developed in collaboration with the National Youth Services Council and the Colombo Districts Child Protection Officer, whereby community members advise SLV on the best ways to support the community without negatively affecting the employment structure or harming individuals.
The cost of my placement is £1,450 which includes training, talks by local mental health professionals and practitioners, my homestay accommodation with a lovely Indonesian family, and support from the team. 10 – 15% of the placement fees go towards the SLV Mental Health Fund, which provides training to key workers within the community. This training and education can provide a framework for locals to better support individuals with complex mental health needs in the future. The fund also goes towards individuals undertaking live-saving work for those who are affected by natural disasters.
As reassurance to yourself, you will not be funding me to go on a fancy holiday or to travel! I will personally be funding my own flights, visa, insurance, etc. I am simply asking for a little bit of support if possible, with every pound donated being greatly valued. If you cannot help financially, sharing my campaign with friends or family would be appreciated.
Thank you so much for taking time out of your day to visit my fundraising page
Many thanks and very best wishes,
Willow (Hannah) Wynne
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