The Real Uganda has been hosting international volunteers, since January, 2005. We’ve had over 1,050 people from all over the world come through our doors. It’s been incredibly fun and eye opening for everyone involved.
I won’t dwell on the detailed work of The Real Uganda here but this explains what we do and why we do it.
The Real Uganda offers 2 – 12 week locally-led communty-based volunteer programs.
While volunteering abroad affects people in many different ways, there are some universals. Here are 10 moments everyone who volunteers with The Real Uganda will NEVER forget.
1. The Traffic Freakout
If you stay long enough, you’ll get used to it. But those first few hours in the country freak out even the most experienced drivers. You don’t really have to worry though – most of us know exactly what we’re doing.
The general rule while driving in Uganda? Don’t make eye contact.
2. squatting over a hole
After a few times, though, you realize it’s kinda nice. Natural. You leave everything outside; no muss, no fuss. Just remember to always cover your nose with your tissue.
And never, EVER shine your flashlight down that hole at night.
3. standing out like a sore thumb
Most of our volunteers are not of African decent. Even those who are – you’ll be pegged as foreign in seconds. You walk fast, dress funny, talk loudly, and have messy hair and dirty feet. International volunteers stand out, but are appreciated intensely. You’re labeled “mzungu” and will be greeted, called to, proposed to, and typically escorted everywhere you go. Volunteers generally enjoy the attention and love.
Don’t worry, you’ll be nobody again when you leave.
4. The apparent lack of regulations
It’s actually quite nice to be a part of a society that trusts its citizens not to do stupid things.
5. everyone is welcome in uganda
Volunteers work, but also dance, cook, laugh, and bond with a lot of people.
6. people are the same the world over
When you volunteer, you’re really immersed in local culture, activities, and hopes and dreams. It’s almost scary how much myth surrounds “us” and “them”.
A major volunteer light bulb moment happens within a week of being here. The realization that people in Uganda want pretty much the exact same thing that people in any country want. A roof over their heads, people to love, and interesting things to do to keep their minds active and bodies busy.
People are people no matter where in the world they come from.
Not traveling during the pandemic? Help us give practical and transformative skills to young Ugandan women.
7. volunteering is exhausting
You are representing your country, your culture, and all things not Ugandan. Basically, you are in demand. It’s exhausting being Bratt Pitt and Angelina Jolie.
Most nights, volunteers happily pass out before 9pm.
8. development is not All about money
But once here, and experience everyday life, volunteers start to see that it’s about self-esteem and lack of exposure to new ideas. Instead of giving money, volunteers see firsthand how they can impact communities by supporting local leadership, encouraging behaviour change and subsequently spreading Ugandan voices around the world.
Money is nice, your voice is better.
9. It’s just so safe!
They realize it’s not poverty that creates crime, it’s disconnection. And people here are connected. Most Ugandans would rather be your friend than mug you.
That said, don’t wander around in the middle of the night with a camera around your neck. And keep your phone inside your handbag when using public transportation.
10. It’s not home, but it sure could be
And why not? There’s 12 months of sunny warm weather. The food is whole and largely organic. People take time to spend with one another. Children are allowed to be children. There’s no need to disappear into your phone for entertainment. There’s music and dancing everywhere everyday.
When volunteers slow down and stop focusing on doing, and instead appreciate what is already happening, they never want to leave this place.
Have you volunteered abroad? What would you add to this list?
Want to experience these moments and more? Spend some time on this website. If you like what you read, fill out our online application form. We want people interested in learning about the reality on the ground in Uganda!