A semester abroad in Uganda means walking on red dirt roads as you pass colorful markets, rows of emerald green banana trees, and crowds of happy kids who love playing outside before English lessons start. Volunteers here have lots of places to travel, and even more ways to serve outside of teaching English. If you’re looking for a semester full of adventures and multiple ways to give back, this country is for you.
Get ready to give back when volunteering in Uganda. You’ll be living in a poorer neighborhood just outside of Kampala. However, it couldn’t be friendlier. Neighborhood kids run up to say “hi” and walk with you whenever they see you! You’ll quickly get to know your neighbors who love waving as you pass, and invite you to come play a game of soccer in the street. It feels like one big community that you’re instantly a part of.
Glimpse a day in Uganda
Time for a quick breakfast (fresh fruit and pancakes today) before walking to school with some members of your group. Bring good walking shoes you’ll be walking a lot on dusty, red dirt roads. That red dirt turns straight to mud when it rains. Gotta love life in this tropical country, right? You get to your school in time to play tag with a few of the kids before teaching. Classes go well and finish up right before 1:00 PM. Time to walk back to your homebase for lunch (yum).
Meals are provided by a sweet cook who likes to serve African dishes with an American twist. Not sure what that means? Plan on lots of African starches like mashed pumpkin, plantains, and beans, with favorites from home like french fries and bread, too. Tilapia and pork are popular proteins, however, sometimes your cook dishes up lasagna and pasta, just for her “American teachers”. Your ILP semester is all about diving right into the local culture and giving you an authentic Ugandan experience.
One big perk of volunteering here is the language. Uganda has several main languages, one of which is English. English is used to unify over 100 local languages that are spoken in this country! Handy for you, because you’ll be able to immediately connect with your neighbors and won’t have a language barrier in the way. Since you’re only teaching English part of the day, you probably have more free time than you were expecting. In your free time, it’s so nice to sit and talk with your favorite fruit vendor about the one time he saw a whole pride of lions. You can also grab your speakers and have a little dance party with the neighbor kids hanging outside of your house. Volunteers here can also join in on a few service opportunities in your community.
Your new home is full of happy people in a poor neighborhood. There is trash in the streets, poor sanitation, and a drastic lack of basic necessities like accessible fresh water for most of the locals. Experiencing all this firsthand often provides even more motivation for volunteers to give back during their semester. For those looking to help their community by not only teaching English, there are multiple ways to help. In fact, you’ll get to do service projects here that just aren’t available in other ILP programs. Uganda is a number one pick for someone really looking to give back. Just a short drive away is a rest home for mentally challenged adults and an orphanage for abandoned toddlers. These are both places where volunteers spend some of their free time serving. At night, you’re glad you packed up a little battery-powered fan to keep you cool in your A/C-free home. Before drifting off to sleep, you realize you’ve gotten quite used to adjusting to life without a few things you didn’t think you could live without. We have a feeling volunteering in Uganda will mean coming home with a greater appreciation of what life is really about.
HELP CHILDREN IN UGANDA LEARN ENGLISH
If you want to do a lot of volunteering and humanitarian projects, Uganda is for you! In this Humanitarian Program, the main focus of your service is teaching English to kindergarteners, up to 20 hours per week. No experience is needed, we provide training on our teaching method. But outside of teaching, you have so many ways to help. Among other service projects, plan on helping build springs to provide clean drinking water to hundreds of your neighbors. Volunteers here are set up to help out in a lot of different ways!
Volunteering and Costs
Inside the classroom, your service goes so far. In Uganda, all public school classes are conducted in English. Even though English is the official language, kids typically come from families where English is not spoken in the home. Imagine attending a school to sit through lessons and take tests in a language you don’t understand. Many children get behind and even drop out, and we want to help before that happens. The goal of ILP classes is to help kindergarten-age students speak naturally so that they’re better prepared to do well in school and have better English later in life. All ILP programs help children learn a skill that will benefit them in the future, but in Uganda, English is a skill that’s needed now while they’re young.
During your free time, there are many other ways to help. Volunteers can spend time with abandoned babies in an orphanage, teach hygiene classes, visit a rest home for the elderly, and more. We’re especially passionate about building springs. In Uganda most families do not have water at home, so the children are often sent out to collect water in large jugs each day. Families are forced to make do with what’s available. In most cases, they collect from pools of standing water that are easily contaminated. Drinking this water leads to serious health problems. We are teaming up with a local who has built springs throughout Uganda and Rwanda to combat this problem. Each spring provides natural, clean drinking water that flows 24/7 and can support thousands of families in the area. Each semester, ILP volunteers have the opportunity to help build a spring or two like this. Building springs often means you’ll get to meet local families who benefit from it — it’s an incredibly rewarding experience. You’ll see the project from start to finish and see the immediate effects of your hard work.
Why is the program fee higher here? Unlike the Exchange Program, the families of the children you work with will not be helping to subsidize your costs. All the kids you are working with come from very limited means, and the service you provide is completely free for them. Thank you for wanting to help by volunteering in this humanitarian program!
Interested in other ways you’re needed? Compare ILP’s Humanitarian Programs here.
A small suburb on the outskirts of the capital city Kampala
—Spring: Depart mid to late January – return end of April
—Summer: Depart end of April or early May – return middle of August
—Fall: Depart end of August – return middle of December, just in time for Christmas
—15-20+ volunteers in a group
—Single males/females and married couples
—18-about 25ish years old
—US and Canadian volunteers
—No experience needed!
A QUICK NOTE ABOUT COVID-19
Our Uganda program was paused following the start of the pandemic, and we are so happy to have returned as of the Summer 2022 semester! After a government order to close schools for over a year, classes started up again, which was the news we were waiting for. There are plenty of opportunities to travel around Uganda and nearby countries. In general, life is operating with some restrictions, such as the potential for mask mandates. Volunteers going to Uganda must have their Covid-19 vaccine.
We are so happy to have volunteers back in Uganda!
Uganda is full of outdoor adventures from safaris to repelling down waterfalls to white water rafting. Don’t miss out on visiting and supporting animal sanctuaries sprinkled throughout the country, either! Nearby is an island chimpanzee rescue, plus you can feed giraffes and baby elephants in Entebbe. There’s lots to explore here! In fact, Uganda is known as the “Pearl of Africa” because of the humid and beautiful weather that brings so much greenery. It makes for some gorgeous safaris and waterfalls.
While you’ll find more than enough to see and experience in Uganda, you can also travel to top vacation spots in neighboring, approved destinations. These are just a few of our favorite vacation ideas …
Murchison Falls National Park — You’ll find a handful of national parks to safari through in Uganda. However, this one is our favorite. Spot animals like giraffes, elephants, warthogs, antelope, hippos, and tons more. If you’re lucky you might spot big cats like lions and leopards! Spend the day jeeping around, taking a boat ride to the famous falls, and a guided walk through a nearby rhino sanctuary.
Lake Bunyonyi, Uganda — Dare we say this might be one of our favorite vacations ever? Come hangout at this lake in the mountains where you can book a stay right on the water and wake up to dive right in. Relax in hammocks, swim, and zip line over the lake. Lastly, hike the hills where you may spot some zebras. It’s a volunteer favorite.
Sipi Falls, Uganda — These waterfalls are gorgeous and built for high adventure. Our volunteers highly recommend taking the scenic route and repelling down!
Kidepo National Park, Uganda — Some call this spot the “best of Uganda”. It’s another national park hiding some of the animals you’re itching to see in person. Besides the safari animals like zebra, elephants, baboons, ostriches, and the occasional lion and giraffe, you’ll also find towering mountains and lush plains.
Jinja, Uganda — You’ll have the story of a lifetime after you head here to go white water rafting on the Nile River!
Tanzania — Ready for a beachy vacay? Zanzibar is the island of your dreams, with crystal clear waters, white sandy beaches, and a monkey-filled national park. Jump on a quick flight from Uganda to get to one of our favorite vacation spots!
Kenya — This country is also home to the classic African safari. If you time your visit right, you can Jeep in to see around 1.5 million animals make the trek across the grassy Mara plains.
Zambia — A guided, walking safari is a must in Zambia. Or head to the incredible Victoria Falls to kayak at the base or even swim in Devil’s Pool above.
Zimbabwe — This country is built for adventures, like exploring the Great Zimbabwe Ruins and seeing. rhinos in the Matopos National Park. Also, Zimbabwe is another spot to visit the natural wonder that is Victoria Falls!
Mozambique — We love this coastal destination. Go island hopping and spot whales and dolphins. Lastly, test your hand at snorkeling and scuba diving to see even more.
Rwanda — Hop over for the chance to hike volcanoes or relax on the shores of a few lakes. You’ll find plenty of lodges and resorts nestled deep into the green mountains of Rwanda. Or, find bungalows situated right on the beaches of clear mountain lakes instead.