One of the best decisions I have ever made was to volunteer in Sri Lanka through Plan My Gap Year. As an inexperienced traveler, I wasn't quite sure what to expect and I was hoping (at the very least) for a safe and happy trip. I can confidently say that PMGY FAR exceeded my expectations.
Prior to the trip even starting, Philip was a huge help in making sure everything was in order before I took off. Anytime I had a question, he got back to me immediately and we were able to talk on zoom about what I needed help with. I would not have felt comfortable going halfway across the world without being consistently supported and assured, which is exactly what I received.
The PMGY Sri Lanka staff are absolutely incredible. I have never felt so safe and comfortable in an unknown place, and I can confidently say I am beyond pleased with the service we were provided. Our program coordinator, Ash, made sure to be there for us 110% of the time. His communication with us was consistent- which provided opportunity for us to speak up about adventures or excursions we wanted to explore and allowed us to understand the culture we were immersed in so much better. He arranged tuk tuk rides to the supermarket and ATM if we needed and was present at every project so he could help translate if we didn't understand something. All the drivers and support staff in the house went above and beyond to create an enjoyable environment for us everyday. For those wondering about the house itself, it certainly did not disappoint. The rooms have AC and lockers (if you want to keep something extra safe) and the house is securely protected with security cameras and locked doors. The dining room is on the rooftop where we could eat while watching the sun go down. The food, oh the food! We ate so many delicious dishes served from the heart of Sri Lanka. Tamari (the cook) was so good about adhering to food restrictions as well, no problem.
I did half my time on the turtle project, and half on the mental health project. Both projects were such an amazing experience for me, but the mental health project proved to be my favorite and I will definitely be back to learn and volunteer more through it! Some of what we did through the mental health experience was visit temples and learn more about Buddhism and its approach to mental health (meditation and mindfulness), learn about Ayurvedic medicine and the mind-body connection, and even visit mental health institutions to talk with therapists and psychiatrists. I have so many fond memories from this project!
I was worried we weren't going to get a full experience because of Covid, but I actually think we received an even better one in so many ways. With safety as his top priority, Ash made it so we could visit so many breathtaking places with virtually no one there but us. He made sure we stayed in our own little bubble while still getting to experience what the island has to offer!
There's so much more I want to say about my trip with PMGY but I think I've covered the majority of what made it so worthwhile. I will forever remember everyone I met and bonded with, and Sri Lanka will always have a special place in my heart. If I have any words of advice, it would be to TAKE THE TRIP! It will be the best decision of your life.