If you have come to this page, chances are you are either interested in volunteering or you know someone who might be. Volunteers are absolutely integral to our programs and ensuring we achieve the vision we have for our community. Some stay for a short time, others for longer, and many keep coming back year after year. We encourage mature professionals as much as we do young people looking for experience to apply, and are happy to accept applications from individuals or groups. While we do have specific areas of need, we are very flexible and open to ideas about how you feel you can contribute.
We know there are many NGOs and volunteer programs to choose from and the decision to come to Uganda is a big one! We appreciate your interest in the Youth Focus Africa Foundation (YOFAFO) and welcome you with open arms. This is an opportunity to live and work in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, in some of the most picturesque villages, and with some of the planet’s most generous people. We can’t promise you a hot shower, but we can provide you with a clean and safe home where you will become part of our family very quickly. We also come equipped with two very adorable children, and Doreen is the best chapatti maker on the planet! (just ask past volunteers). If you can bring a smile, and an open heart and mind then it will be a challenge for you NOT to have an amazing time.
This section is designed to answer some of your queries. But if you have any questions which are not answered below, please feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or email@example.com.
WHAT CAN I DO DURING A PLACEMENT WITH YOFAFO?
Simply, anything. Whether you are looking to develop professional skills or to learn new ones, we can accommodate you. We need trades people, teachers, accountants, photographers, farmers and public health professionals. Check out our current placements available and if nothing suits, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org so we can work on developing a position which will utilise your expertise.
Whilst on placement with Yofafo, you will be staying at the Yofafo volunteer headquarters in Lugazi, Uganda. You will most likely have a room to yourself, but if there is a large group of volunteers you may share your bunk accommodation with one or two others. You will be provided with a pillow, blanket and other linen and also a mosquito net. It’s recommended you bring your own towel. The accommodation is excellent by Ugandan standards, but please be aware that it will be different to what you are used to. Some of our volunteers have recently donated an oven to the kitchen, but apart from that we don’t use many appliances. We do have a clean flushing latrine for your use, and running water. We are saving up to turn this into a HOT water service for our volunteers… a luxury in Uganda!
The cost to volunteer with Yofafo is generally $650 for the first month and $550 for each following month. This covers the cost of your food, accommodation (water, power, linen, clothes washing and staff costs), airport transfers, transport to and from your placements, supervision on placements and our administration costs. Your money also contributes to the cost of running our projects and will go to the area of most need at the time. For example, it may pay for bricks for the building of a health clinic or classroom, medical supplies for our health outreach program, or small loans for the microfinance program.
Extra costs really depend on your own budget, but volunteers usually get by on anywhere between $US50 and $US200 a week. You will need money to pay for bottled drinking water, phone and internet costs, any special food or treats for yourself, and leisure activities such as safaris or white water rafting. As a guide, you can stay at a reputable backpackers for $10 a night, camp for even less, or book a nice hotel or even a banda on a secluded island for between $30 and $70 a night.
The currency in Uganda is the Ugandan Shilling. For personal spending money bring a combination of cash and credit cards. There are a number of banks in Lugazi with ATMs, and there is also a Western Union if you need to have some money wired to you. There are many forex bureaux in Uganda where you can exchange your money. We recommend you bring large denomination bills in order to attract the best exchange rate.
Check out Lonely Planet for more details on the types of things you can do while in Uganda and the different prices.
CAN I TAKE ‘TIME OUT’ WHILST VOLUNTEERING?
Yes, it’s Africa. Anything to do with time is negotiable and flexible! Simply discuss it with Valence prior to departure. At a minimum, your weekends are free, but we also like to leave Fridays flexible so volunteers can explore as much as Uganda as possible. It’s important to us you fall in love with our country! Safaris usually take a minimum of three days, and we certainly encourage you to make the most of your time here and see the beauty Uganda has to offer.
FLIGHTS & ARRIVAL INFORMATION, VISAS & PASSPORTS
The Uganda High Commission website asks you to apply for your visa before you travel, but you can also get a tourist visa upon arrival. Some organisations recommend just requesting your visa upon arrival as you don’t need a photo or anything else, and it is cheaper. But if you would like the peace of mind of knowing you already have it, this is okay too. It’s worth checking with your airline about their own requirements, as there are a small number of airlines who sometimes require you to have a visa for Uganda before you can board. You can apply for a single entry three month visa, or multiple entry visas. Most of our volunteers declare themselves as a tourist.
Customs agents automatically give you approval to be in the country for 30 days, so you will need to specifically ask for a 90-day visa. If you are not granted 90 days upon arrival there is no need to stress though. You can always travel out of Uganda for a day or two (into either Rwanda or Kenya for example) and then come back in to Uganda and extend your visa when you apply for a new one. There are regular buses to these countries and it is worth the trip. You will need to purchase a new visa every time you enter Uganda. So if you are planning on doing a lot of travel outside of Uganda it is recommended you apply for a multiple-entry visa.
To be granted a visa, you will need to prove you have had your Yellow Fever vaccination by providing officials with a Yellow Fever certificate.
Please visit the website for the Uganda High Commission in the country you are travelling from for more information. You can also check out this website for more information www.embassyworld.com/embassy/uganda1.html
If you are from the UK: www.ugandahighcommission.co.uk
South Africa: www.uganda.org.za
The United States of America: http://www.ugandaembassy.com/visa.html
Australia / New Zealand: http://www.ugandahighcommission.org/#!vstc1=visa
You will need to book your flight to arrive at Entebbe Airport. I (Valence) will be there holding a sign with your name on it when you arrive. I will then take you to organise things like money exchange, phone and internet requirements, and anything else you need. In the very rare event I am late, please stay in the arrivals area and do not let anyone help you with your bags. You can go to the information desk and make a phone call to me (contact details are at the bottom of this document).
We also encourage you to register with your embassy while you are in Uganda, in the event of any civil unrest.
HEALTH AND VACCINATIONS
This is not an official guide on immunisations and we strongly encourage you to make an appointment with your doctor at your earliest convenience, to discuss your trip to Uganda. Some vaccinations need to be taken well in advance of your departure.
You must have a Yellow Fever vaccination before travelling to Uganda. There are a number of other vaccinations which you may like to consider including for Polio, Hepatitis A & B, Rabies, Tuberculosis, Cholera and Typhoid. We also recommend you take preventative Malaria medication while you are here. Many people in Uganda become sick with Malaria on a regular basis because they cannot afford to take the medication every day. But it is entirely preventable and the medication is quite cheap by western standards.
Yofafo headquarters are located opposite a doctor’s clinic, some of our relatives are doctors, and in the event of an emergency we will take you straight to the best hospital. If you feel sick, don’t ignore it. You can also go to the International Medical Clinic in Kampala, which is a western level clinic. If this all starts to sound a little daunting, please also know that none of our volunteers have suffered from any serious illness or injury to date.
For more information about travel health advice in Uganda, please see the attached fact sheet from Australia’s Travel Doctor website. It can also be downloaded from their site, click here
English is the official language of Uganda. As well as learning English at school, the curriculum is also taught in English. But most people in the villages do not speak it and many people in Lugazi only speak a little. The main language spoken in the Lugazi district is Luganda. If you would like to learn some Luganda before you arrive, you can check out www.buganda.com/phrissmlt. People in Uganda will be more than happy to help teach you and will be excited even to hear you say ‘Thankyou’ in the local language.
Ugandans will insist it is never winter in Uganda. And they are right. It’s hot and dry in January and February, warm with slight rain in April and May, warm with more rain in June and July, hot and dry in August and September, warm and rainy from October to December. Daily temperatures range from 20C – 30C.
KEEPING IN TOUCH
Most volunteers bring their own mobile phone handsets and then buy a Ugandan sim card when they arrive, and purchase prepaid ‘airtime’ for the duration of their stay. The main providers are MTN, Orange, Airtel, Uganda Telecom, Warid and Zain.
Internet is available on the computer at the house if you need it, but as the computer is for business use, you will probably have more opportunity to use the internet at your leisure if you visit the internet cafes. There are many internet cafes close by. A number of volunteers also bring their own laptops and purchase wireless or USB internet sticks while they are here. This is also a good option.
HOW MUCH HELP CAN I GIVE AND WHAT WILL THE IMPACT BE?
It all depends on the placement, the duration of your placement and most importantly your attitude. You will achieve most if you are realistic about the possibilities and have researched what it means to work in a developing country.
As things move a lot slower in Uganda (well all of Africa for that matter), you have to be realistic what you can achieve. You won’t be able to change the world, but you can make significant impact on some people’s lives.
CAN I TALK TO A PREVIOUS VOLUNTEER ABOUT THEIR EXPERIENCES?
Absolutely. Please email us to request contact details.
SAFETY AND SECURITY
The safety of our volunteers is a top priority for Yofafo. Although Uganda and Lugazi are considered very safe, and we have yet to have a volunteer feel threatened in any way, our staff includes a security person who mans the complex from dusk till dawn.
IS THIS FOR ME? WHAT DO I NEED TO BE PREPARED FOR?
Volunteering in a developing country is often an overwhelming experience, and your perspective of the world and your life may go through some significant change. It can be as challenging as it is rewarding, but it all depends on your attitude and how you approach things. Know that if you move around with a smile (even if you don’t feel like it sometimes) you will be welcomed wherever you go. Ugandan people will tell you they are the friendliest people in the world and welcome all visitors to their country. They have a great sense of humour and are just as prepared to make fun of themselves as they are of you. Be ready to laugh a lot. It has been very rare for us to have a volunteer or intern who has not left saying it was one of the best experiences of their life. Having said that, it does help if you can prepare for a few things.
Expect to see pervasive poverty and to experience conditions which you feel may breach a number of human rights conditions. Expect not to agree with some government politics, with some domestic politics, with the way other non-government organisations operate, and to even not agree with every decision YOFAFO makes. It is important to keep in mind that everything needs to be assessed within an African context, and remember that what might be effective in your home country, may not work here. Many things do need improving in a big way. But it is also worth considering whether things are really worse, or just different? For example, you will notice in Lugazi and in the villages, that many females will kneel in front of men when they greet them.
Do not expect things to happen in Uganda in the same way they do at home. The first thing to know is that everything takes longer in Uganda. Don’t be surprised if it takes someone 40 minutes to make a sandwich to take away, or if people are two hours late for a meeting. If you are going to be late for something it is a good idea to let someone know, but don’t expect others to do the same.
You will be the centre of attention in Lugazi and in the villages, and this can be overwhelming. People do not have regular access to foreigners, and they will stare at you and approach you. No matter how you feel at the time and how overwhelming it is, try your best to be polite. People are mostly just excited and fascinated by you. Know that you are a very welcome visitor, and if you treat people with respect, they will treat you as an honoured guest.
But, keep in mind that YOFAFO is always open to new ideas and likes to have open dialogue with its volunteers. So please let us know if there is anything you feel uncomfortable about, or if you have any thoughts or ideas to share with us.
INFORMATION ABOUT UGANDA
If you mention Uganda to most people today, their minds go straight to the brutality of Idi Amin or the Kony 2012 campaign. But rest assured, Uganda is one of the safest countries to travel to in Africa. Amin died in exile in 2003, and Kony and the Lord’s Resistance Army left Uganda to hide in other jungles many years ago. This does not mean the issues have been forgotten in Uganda, but it does mean the country is becoming a haven for travel.
Uganda is situated on Lake Victoria – the world’s second largest inland lake – and is also host to the source of the mighty Nile River. It is bordered on the east by Kenya, on the north by South Sudan, on the west by the Democratic Republic of Congo, on the south-west by Rwanda and on the south by Tanzania. The people of Uganda were hunter-gatherers until 1700 – 2300 years ago, when Bantu-speaking populations migrated to the southern parts of the country. The country gained its independence from Britain in October 1962.
The official languages are English and Swahili, but the main language spoken in and around Lugazi is Luganda.
The current president is Yoweri Musevini, who has been in power since 1986. Although initially popular, Musevini has been facing increasing pressure to resign. In Uganda, the president is both the head of state and of government. The parliament is formed by the National Assembly, which has 332 members. In February 2011, Musevini was again declared the winning candidate for that year’s elections. The elections attracted much criticism, particularly from the opposition and the EU Election Observation Mission. Transparency International rates Uganda as very corrupt, and on a scale of 0 (most corrupt) to 10 (most clean), gave it a rating of 2.4.
Uganda is one of the poorest nations in the world, with more than 37 per cent of people living on less than $1.25 a day. Enormous progress has been made, but poverty remains rooted in the country’s rural areas, which are home to more than 85 per cent of Ugandans.
The current estimated population of Uganda is 35 million, most of whom are very young. The median age is 15 years.
Despite political and social issues, Lonely Planet rated Uganda as one of the top places to visit in 2012. It is home to some of the friendliest people in the world, the highest mountain range in Africa – the Mountains of the Moon in the Rwenzory National Park – and some of the best white-water rafting on the planet. It has the highest concentration of primates on earth, including the extremely rare mountain gorilla. Uganda is also home to tree climbing lions. Although lions do not normally climb trees, they may do so sometimes when being chased. The exception to this is in the Queen Elizabeth National Park where one can find Tree Climbing Lions resting in the afternoon when the sun is high.
INFORMATION ABOUT LUGAZI
Lugazi is located in the Buikwe District on the Kampala-Jinja Highway, about half-way between Kampala and Jinja. The nearest large town of Mukono is about 23 kilometres away. As such, you are perfectly situated to have easy access to the city, to the mighty Nile River and also the magic Mabira Rainforest.
There are a few small ‘supermarkets’ in the town, which are more like corner stores. You can buy basic items in there and then purchase fresh fruit and vegetables at the market in the centre of town. There are also several internet cafes, chemists, major bank branches, telecommunication stores etc. There is also a 200 bed public hospital, called the Kawolo Hospital, which is administered by the Uganda Ministry of Health.
YOUR RESPONSIBILITIES AS THE VOLUNTEER / INTERN
While you are in Uganda you are representing yourself, your country and YOFAFO. We expect you to:
- Do your best to have a wonderful and rewarding time. If you are not, please talk to us.
- Treat yourself and others with respect and dignity. Be polite, and try your best to adjust behaviour according to local culture.
- Respect the Yofafo headquarters and other people who are living and working here.
HOW DO I APPLY?
If you are 18 years or older, then you are welcome to apply! Please fill in the online application form. In the additional information section, please tell us why you want to volunteer in Uganda and with YOFAFO and what it means to you. As part of your application, please provide contact details for at least two references.