SVA Update: Issue 2
Volunteering abroad can be one of the most rewarding and memorable experiences of your life. Making life-long friendships and making a positive and sustainable impact in the developing world is all part of the Student Volunteers Abroad package. But there will be times when maybe you don’t feel at your best. You may be shocked by the level of poverty in the country in which you volunteer, feel unusually low or maybe simply be homesick and need a Dairy Milk or a sit down toilet to remind you of, well, home comforts!
We want all our volunteers to have the best possible time on project and in the interest of mental well-being we caught up with Lexi Parfitt of the Scottish Association for Mental Health (SAMH) to talk about making the most of your experience with SVA. She was keen to promote the ‘Know Where To Go’ campaign and the fact that there will always be somewhere you can go and the fact that there is help out there if you feel it’s difficult to adjust to life on or off project. She said ‘We've produced an info guide with links to services online, over the phone and in person that can help. We've also produced a factsheet for friends and family who are concerned about a loved one- people often don't know what to say or do, and so end up not saying or doing anything in case they 'make things worse'. But even just asking someone how they are, letting them know that even if they don't want to talk just now, that you will be there to listen when they do, can really help.’
We at SVA compiled a 5 point plan to mental well-being and making the most of the unique SVA experience!
1. Get Thinking!: Start thinking about how you will feel before during and after project. Prepare yourself for those times you don’t feel too good so you can get back to enjoying the experience as quickly as possible.
2. Be Open and Honest!: Don’t be embarrassed if you feel down or homesick. Tell someone in the group and they will help you through it.
3. In It Together!: Remember that you are part of a team out there! Part of the experience is helping others and if you feel that someone is down or disheartened on project remind them of why they came in the first place and be for them to bring them back to themselves.
4. Get Involved!: Get stuck in with your projects and make things happen. Engaging with the immediate world around you is the best way to maximise your experience.
5. Reflect!: When you get back think and talk about all your experiences, positive and negative and come to terms with what you achieved during your time abroad.
If you are feeling down, that's ok, you can expect an element of 'culture shock' or feeling upset about conditions in the community, but make sure you speak to someone about it. But remember there are so many positives to take out of your experience. Make it memorable for yourself and others and good luck!
If you or someone you know would like to know more about SAMH you can visit their website and access their excellent resources by clicking here.
Lexi Parfitt talking with Alan-James Mahon
SVA is a Scottish Registered Charity: No. SC 030081 c/o. University of Glasgow SRC, The John MacIntyre Building, University of Glasgow, GLASGOW, G12 8QQ