The Real Uganda Participant Reviews
Wonderful and eye opening experience, 10/10
Submitted by Audrey Fok | March 28, 2018
I volunteered with the real Uganda in October of 2017. I was there for a little less than 2 weeks and I volunteered with the Hope line Organization. I have always wanted to volunteer in Africa, and I wanted to find an organization that truly helped out the local community and knew precisely what the locals need/want. Initially contacting Leslie, she answered all my questions and put to bed any hesitations I had about volunteering for an NGO that doesn't have their foot on the ground and understands the local populace. Even though Leslie is what they would call a "mzungu," she has lived in Uganda for over a decade, thoroughly vets all orgs she puts her volunteers in, and really really genuinely cares. Upon arrival, Leslie helped settle me in and introduced me to Uganda. She set my expectations and explained what was going to happen throughout my two weeks in Uganda. Additionally, prior to my trip, I found The Real Uganda website to be incredibly helpful!!! I packed according to tips on the website, and read as much as I can about the culture and people of Uganda.
On my second day, I was introduced to my host and director of Hopeline, Tony. Tony, his wife Doreen, and his family were amazing hosts, and treated me as if I were family. During my stay with Tony, I went to the school, helped out at the medical clinic, and hung out with the women's group. All and all, I wish I could have spent more time there. I felt that I barely scratched the surface with my interactions with everyone I met, Tony and his family included. To add on to that, I had to leave a bit early from my experience due to work.
Overall, I would say I had one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was truly great to see and live with local Ugandans whom have such a different culture from what I grew up in. To potential future volunteers, I give one word of advice: go in with an open mind and an open heart. Try everything at least once. If you go in with this mentality, everything will be amazing.
The real volunteer experience
Submitted by Lisa | March 24, 2018
I will be forever grateful for my experience in Uganda with The Real Uganda! I recently went to watch a video screening from an organization that I thought was going to be all about empowering women from across the world and the US. Instead I found a documentary that was completely focused on themselves and how they were making a difference and how important the work that they were doing was. It was infuriating. The entire video made me so uncomfortable and visibly angry. Throughout the screening, I kept thinking about was how THANKFUL I am that my first experience with international travel was with The Real Uganda and I got to experience Grassroots organizations that were run by Ugandans helping Ugandans. I got to learn directly from them what was helpful and how sometimes what we think is helpful is actually very harmful. I had to learn how to navigate the country without a "driver" and learned to feel comfortable in this wonderful country. So really this is just a shout out to The Real Uganda for what they do and teaching me about how freaking AMAZING Uganda is and that the best teachers are the people who are in it themselves! If you are considering traveling abroad and want to volunteer, this is ABSOLUTELY the best organization to do it with!
Program: Community Empowerment in Uganda
The real Uganda
Submitted by Josh Poyser - North Yorkshire United Kingdom | March 01, 2018
I didn't really think about the name of the charity - the Real Uganda - until I reflected upon my volunteering experience when I got back home, but I think it sums it up pretty well. I experienced living with a real Ugandan family, in a real Ugandan community, experienced real Ugandan life and made a real difference.
I lived with a couple who ran the local church and school and their four kids, plus their extended family and community who are all around to interact with and help you out and talk to you; you really do become part of the family and community. I helped out on the farm (all though not as much as planned due to the dry weather, the soil was to hard to do much!), as well as at the local school painting, playing games with the children, and helping the school cook, or matron. On the weekends there is plenty to see and do in Uganda; safaris, visit the river Nile, Kampala, there is a lot to experience. If this is what you are looking for then then The Real Uganda is a perfect choice for you.
Dreams come true
Submitted by Cathy - Perth Australia | February 28, 2018
I spent 6 weeks with this program and only wish I could have afforded to stay longer. The people are the kindest most humble people I have ever come across. Leslie was so helpful and a pleasure to be around with a wealth of local knowledge! Uganda is such a beautiful country!
A time to reflect and appreciate what you have
Submitted by Kathy - Brisbane Australia | February 28, 2018
My daughter and I volunteered together for 5 weeks. And what an experience it was. Life was tough at times, but the smiles from young and old made everyday a blessing. Yes there are mossies, rodents, spiders and pigs but each have a purpose. We helped with education seminars about healthy living, education and family. Much of our time was spent on islands in Lake Victoria. I’ve done a lot in my life, but my volunteering weeks are very high on my list of ‘pleased that I did this’. Leslie is brilliant.
I felt safer there than I did in downtown Rochester NY!
Submitted by Christina Klosterman - Rochester, NY United States | December 05, 2017
Most places and people you talk to will freak you out about going to Uganda. Those people usually have never been to Africa. They just hear stories about war after war after war and think, “Well, Uganda is in Africa, so they must be in a war and have all kinds of crime and chaos going on, so obviously if you go there, you will probably die.” I had so many visions of giant killer bugs, insane mosquitoes, getting deathly ill, getting abducted, killed, whatever… hahaha! Turns out that I felt safer there than I did in downtown Rochester NY! That’s where I live… That doesn’t mean that you throw caution to the wind or anything. Be safe, be smart, and be cautious, but definitely relax.
Tasks changed from day to day
Submitted by Nighttrain Schickele - Berkley | December 05, 2017
I signed up for the “Agriculture and Conservation” but my volunteering was not as straightforward as picking up a shovel and being shown what to do. I was given time with another volunteer to brainstorm on things we could add or improve in our designated school, “Hopeland”. We formed dozens of ideas for the farm, soccer pitch, kitchen, garden, school beautification and education. Then we just went for it and started digging. There was plenty of undeveloped land and we tried to tackle every idea we had. In between, there were errands that needed to be done around the school, so we would give a helping hand. We dug out the foundation of an old building to plant grass, dispersed rubble from the demolished building to divert rainwater and to build a ramp for walking, cleared out land for the garden, used broken bricks to improve a pathway and border the garden, planted seeds that we bought and watered everyday, taught classes for a week on environmental concern and our home-countries, helped the construction of a temporary farmhouse, and started a “Bottlebrick” project to collect plastic waste with students all over the school and reduce burned rubbish. Tasks changed from day to day. Some weeks were labor intensive and others were interacting with the children.
Jump in, try everything, step out of your comfort zone
Submitted by Kate Silverman - Washington United States | December 05, 2017
I spent weekday mornings (roughly 8:30am-1pm) at the “garden”—a much too modest translation for the extensive fields they own. I was always there with someone else and would help them with our tasks for the day. I often helped clear land for planting, mulch or add manure, plant beans and cover the seeds.
After time back at home for lunch, I would go to the school to help out. The students were on holiday break, so my first week I found various ways to help the teachers, like making educational posters for the classrooms. My last few weeks, I ran an afterschool recreation program for the kids. About 30 kids attend optional school during the holidays, and by 3pm they’re ready to be out of class running around. From about 3pm-5pm we would go to a field and play lots of games and soccer.
Jump in, try everything, step out of your comfort zone (even if it’s just one step at a time!) Learn some Luganda—it goes a long way. Embrace the mzungu calls and throw back a greeting in Luganda. Introduce yourself and get to know the local kids. They’ll see you everywhere and it’s nice to be greeted by your own name for a change. Spend time at your homestay and at least a couple weekends in the village. Go to church with your family. Play with the kids. Walk through town. Buy fruit at the market. Play soccer with the males in town. Learn how to make chapatti. Be smart, but don’t be afraid of street food. Eat a lot of sugar cane, especially if you’re working in the garden.
Be patient and go with the flow. Things and time operate differently there and it’s best if you’re open to experiences and ready for anything! Be flexible. Take it all in. Unplug from home. Enjoy the simple life and inspiring people you’ll meet.
Stay in the moment
Submitted by Kisha Spears - New York United States | December 05, 2017
When volunteering for the Real Uganda, I split my time between a village farm and the owners’ small community school. While working in several of the farm’s gardens, I helped to till land, add natural fertilizers and plant seeds of different varieties. I was able to assist in digging holes for and plant fruit tree seedlings. I also had the opportunity to learn about how various fruits and vegetables grow. Additionally, I was able to share my knowledge about producing soymilk from soybeans, which was used to further develop a sustenance food program for the school’s elementary students. While working in the school, I spent time visiting classes and was able to help improve the school by providing teacher-training workshops to the school’s staff. I conducted several workshops on enhancing reading skills amongst learners and creating child friendly lesson plans.
I would suggest that future volunteers come to their placements with an open mind, leaving any expectations of personal gain out of their journey. They should stay in the moment each day and give fully from the heart. Since volunteering is a path of giving, people should share their knowledge but also stay humble. And, they should conduct themselves, as respectable individuals in all situations to produce greater esteem.
Ugandan trod. journey of a soul
Submitted by Judy Worrell - London United Kingdom | December 05, 2017
Disillusioned with working in the West and approaching middle age, I embarked upon a mini journey with a mission to rediscover who I am and find out what life options might exist beyond managing the menopause and looking forward to my pension. I have always enjoyed previous visits to Africa as a tourist but was looking for immersion, just to find out how I might cope with living and working out there in the future.
From the outset The Real Uganda lived up to it's name by providing information about Ugandan daily life and cultural norms before and during the volunteering experience.
Help was on hand for the practicalities of sorting out mobile phone data and useful information provided on how to access health care, what currency to bring and where to get a hot shower etc.
What I loved the most was the availability of the TRU director Leslie Weighill and her passion and commitment to Uganda. She is real and incredibly experienced. I would recommend The Real Uganda without hesitation and cannot think of one negative aspect of my experience in relation to her care.
Even when I had a mishap with the public transport system out there, she made herself available and provided useful advice.
It is evident that Leslie chooses her her host families with care. Mine were amazing. Like Leslie, they were passionate about community and cultural empowerment. They were a tight family unit and in no time I felt I belonged. I enjoyed my reasonings and eating their great food all organically grown. Actually I would come back for the food alone if I am brutally honest.
The culmination of my experience with TRU has left me feeling refreshed and motivated. I also have a vision and one that embraces the "Ubuntu" ethic that Leslie talked about during my visit. Although my currebt work in the UK restricts the length of time I can volunteer, I would love to repeat the experience with The Real Uganda again.
Program: Community Empowerment in Uganda