Maya is a cardiac physiology student in her second year of uni, who loves traveling and is always up for an adventure! She has spent time during the last two summers volunteering abroad – experiencing new countries and cultures, exploring new places and meeting new people.
Why did you choose this program?
I have now done two trips with PMGY, one to Tanzania last summer and one to Sri Lanka this summer. After seeing the Tanzania video, when PMGY did a talk at my sixth form, me and two of my friends decided we had to go, as it looked so incredible! Somehow we managed to find 5 weeks we were all free over summer and had the most amazing time teaching English at a primary school in Tanzania.
After such a great time, I knew that I wanted to do another trip with PMGY as they had been so good in helping to organize my first trip and I'd heard some great things about Sri Lanka from friends, so I decided to book my second trip! This time I was going by myself, however, I knew that by going with PMGY and staying in a volunteer house, I would meet loads of other volunteers and make new friends.
Before my first trip, we’d also looked at a range of other organizations offering volunteering, however, PMGY were the most affordable organization we found, whilst still providing a good level of support - both in the UK and whilst we were away. Also, they offer volunteering at 17, whilst many others require 18 as a minimum age, which was great for my first trip.
What did your program provider assist you with, and what did you have to organize on your own?
PMGY organized our volunteering placements, accommodation, meals, airport pick up and in-country orientation, and I organized my flights, visa, insurance, and vaccinations. I also booked onto two weekend trips organized by PMGY, whilst in Sri Lanka.
PMGY have a handbook for each country, this is full of information including how to get visas, what to pack, general info about Sri Lanka, information and advice for the volunteering placements, how to get money out and lots more!
The PMGY team were great at answering any questions I had and responded quickly to emails. The in-country teams were always available to speak to or contact, to provide any help we needed.
What is one piece of advice you'd give to someone going on your program?
Make the most of it and enjoy every moment!! Because you'll come back home and wish you were still out there. I found that the more energy and time you put into the volunteering, then the more enjoyment you will get from it (especially with the teaching projects, as time spent planning lessons meant that the lessons were more successful and the kids were able to learn more).
Sometimes things will be different from what you expect, or things won't always go quite to plan, but when you look back on it, it's all part of the fun and adds to the amazing memories of your trip!
My biggest tip to anyone thinking of volunteering abroad with PMGY would be to just book it! It is such a great experience, staying and working with like-minded people. I also loved making friends with people who were a range of ages, backgrounds and from all over the UK, Europe, America and Australia!
What does an average day/week look like as a participant of this program?
In Sri Lanka, Monday-Friday would be spent at the projects. The teaching project was in the afternoon, as the children would be at their local government school in the morning, before coming to their afterschool English lessons. This meant mornings were free for relaxing, going to local towns/beaches and for planning lessons.
Afternoons would be spent at project, teaching English and also playing cricket with the kids during break time! In the evenings, we would spend our time chatting with other volunteers, playing cards, doing henna and hearing stories about everyone's day at their project. Once a week one of my friends organized an activity evening - we had a quiz night, movie night and games night - all of which were lots of fun!
Weekends were free and we spent them exploring more of Sri Lanka. I went on two PMGY organized weekend trips, where we visited tea plantations, national parks, went on safari, watched a cultural dance show and saw some incredible views from the top of Sigiriya Rock. Another weekend, a group of us got the train down the coast to Mirissa (a town on the South coast of Sri Lanka) and had a relaxing weekend at the beach.
Going into your experience abroad, what was your biggest fear, and how did you overcome it? How did your views on the issue change?
I think the thing I was most worried about was not knowing how much English the children at the school would be able to speak, and not knowing how to ensure my lesson plans were an appropriate level for them.
However, when I arrived, I found there ware a lot of resources to help with lesson planning. This included workbooks for the children, games ideas, and folders containing past lesson plans and the topics already covered. The volunteers that were already there and were teaching were also very helpful, showing me the sorts of things they'd been teaching, which games the children particularly enjoyed and giving me more ideas for lessons. I was then able to pass this on when new volunteers joined!
Often the group of volunteers that were teaching, would all get together to plan lessons and would give each other tips and ideas.