VOLUNTEER IN AFRICA

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 are set up with 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.

THE EXPERIENCE

Get ready to give back when volunteering in Uganda. You’ll be living in a poorer neighborhood just outside of Kampala, but one that couldn’t be friendlier. The 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

Wake up to life in Africa: most days the roosters in the street or your roommates getting ready for the day serve as your alarm clock. Your whole ILP group lives in a gated, secure home with a dirt courtyard between several buildings full of bunkbeds and a bathroom in each. You share one bedroom building with 3-4 other volunteers, but all 20+ members of your ILP group are just right next door. A few others live inside the courtyard too, like your ILP Coordinator and the security guards who keep watch 24/7. Since you all live together, it’s very a group-centric semester, like a mini community!  It’s pretty basic compared to what you are used to at home, but all of your needs are met — unlike so many of your neighbors, you have running water for your showers and filtered drinking water, along with other perks like WiFi and electricity. 

It’s time for a quick breakfast (fresh fruit and pancakes today) before you walk to school with some members of your group. Everyone teaches at a couple different of schools, but all are within walking distance of your home. Bring good walking shoes that can handle life in Uganda: you’ll be walking a lot on dusty, red dirt roads during your semester that turn straight to mud when it rains. Gotta love life in this tropical country.

You get to your school in time to play tag with a few of the kids before teaching and finish up right before 1:00 PM. Time to walk back to your homebase for lunch. 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. Tilapia and pork are popular proteins, but sometimes your cook dishes up lasagna and pasta, just for her “American teachers”. Probably not what you’d cook for yourself for lunch and dinner, but your ILP semester is all about diving right into the local culture and giving you an authentic Ugandan experience. 

Since you’re only teaching English part of the day, you probably have more free time than you were expecting. 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. In your free time, it’s so nice to sit and talk with your favorite fruit vendor or talk to your safari guide 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, or join in on opportunities to help in the 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. You’ll get to do service projects here that just aren’t available in other ILP programs, making it 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 – 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 and 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 during your semester, 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 projects, plan on helping build springs to provide clean drinking water to hundreds of your neighbors and spend time cuddling toddlers at an orphanage. Volunteers here are set up to help out in a lot of different ways!

Volunteering and Costs

$5,470 — Includes your roundtrip airfare to Uganda, visa, housing, meals, language and culture experiences, and training and support throughout the entire experience. We’ve got a free guide you can snag with all the ways volunteers have gotten most or even all of their program fee paid for!

Inside the classroom, your service goes so far here. In Uganda, all public school classes are conducted in English and 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, which is often standing water that collect in ponds, leading to great health problems. We have teamed up with a local who has been building 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 will have the opportunity to help build a spring or two like this. Building springs often means you’ll get to meet local families who will benefit from it and is an incredibly rewarding experience as 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. 

WHERE
A small suburb on the outskirts of the capital city Kampala

WHEN
—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

WHO
—15-20+ volunteers in a group
—Single males/females and married couples
—18-about 25ish years old
—US and Canadian volunteers
—No experience needed!

EXPLORING AFRICA 

Uganda is full of outdoor adventures from safaris to repelling down waterfalls to white water rafting. And don’t miss out on visiting and supporting animal sanctuaries sprinkled throughout the country, like the nearby island chimpanzee rescue or even feeding giraffes and baby elephants in Entebbe. Uganda is known as the “Pearl of Africa” because of its humid and beautiful weather that brings so much greenery!

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 and this is just one of our favorites where you can spot animals like giraffes, elephants, warthogs, antelope, hippos, and tons more … and 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 even take a guided walk through a nearby rhino sanctuary.

Lake Bunyoni, Uganda — Dare we say this might be one of our favorite vacations? Come hangout at this lake in the mountains where you can book a stay right on the water and wake up to dip your feet in the morning, relax in hammocks, swim, zipline over the lake, and hike the hills where you may even spot some zebras!

Sipi Falls, Uganda  Enjoy your trek out to these stunning waterfalls and don’t forget to jump in and cool off in the pools before heading back out … and if you’re feeling adventurous, our volunteers highly recommend taking the scenic route and repelling down!

Kidepo National Park, Uganda  Some call this spot the “best of Uganda”. Another national park hiding some of the animals you’re itching to see in person, you’ll find towering mountains and lush plains and of course, animals like zebra, elephants, baboons, ostriches, and the occasional lion and giraffe.

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 sea green waters, white sandy beaches, and a monkey filled national park right. Jump on a quick flight from Uganda to get to one of our favorite vacation spots!

Kenya  This country is home to the classic African safari. If you time your visit right, you can Jeep in to see around 1.5 million African plain animals make the trek across the grassy Mara plains for greener pastures.

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  Another country where you must visit the natural wonder that is Victoria Falls! Spot rhinos in Matopos National Park, explore the Great Zimbabwe Ruins, or go hiking in the east.

Mozambique  For this coastal destination go island hopping and spot whales and dolphins; 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 situated right on the beaches of clear mountain lakes.