BoHU Volunteers enjoy an extremely unique experience not only in the work they do but also in the atmosphere they live in.  The BoHU Headquarters are housed at The Hope Centre in Kasala village and this serves as our center for logistics, administration and daily meetings.  Volunteers are housed at the director’s home in a family kind of environment and this allows volunteers to get to know each other better outside the work-site and forge friendships that will last a lifetime.

The hard work volunteers put in during the week undoubtedly warrants some fun and relaxation during evening free time and on the weekends.  During the week we organize a variety of activities for volunteers in the evenings.  We often play football (soccer), cards and board games or chill out around the bar or go out for a dance getting to know fellow volunteers from around the world.   Musical ballads are known to break out from time to time as well as the always entertaining pub-quiz nights.

Volunteer Life - Beacon of Hope Uganda
Volunteer Life – Beacon of Hope Uganda

Yet one of the biggest perks of volunteering in Mukono lies in the plethora of weekend outings we organize.  BoHU is located just 60 minutes from either Jinja or Kampala where day tours can be organized to visit the source of the mighty river Nile, white water rafting and Mabira forest which showcase incredible biodiversity, including hundreds of birds and nature walks.  No matter what your interests, there is always something for everyone to enjoy!

DINING

Breakfast served at home is healthy and well balanced.  It includes tea and coffee, bread, jam, fruit and a main dish, depending on the wish to prepare that day (Ex. eggs, bacon, pancakes, French toast, cereal, porridge, etc.)

Lunch is typically the main meal of the day in Uganda and volunteers will often eat their meals on-site, prepared by local families or community members.  If not, Project Leaders will bring volunteers to a local restaurant, which will offer several traditional options.  A typical Ugandan lunch features beef, chicken or fish coupled with potatoes, rice or beans (usually rice). Dinners at home are offered a vegetarian and non-vegetarian option each night. Always be wary of street vendors’ food, which is more susceptible to contamination, undercooked meat and raw fruits or vegetables.  DO NOT drink water straight from the tap.  Brushing your teeth with it is usually fine, but, for personal consumption, be sure to buy bottled water from a store or boil tap water before drinking (though the latter is far less practical).
If you are a village based volunteer and wish to spend a night and take your meals at home, contact us at least 2 days in advance. It’s first come first serve with the beds and we plan all meals 2 days in advance. If we don’t know you’re coming, we can’t guarantee a bed or food for you at home. Also, we ask that you respect the fact that the home is a family compound. It is not a weekend “party” retreat. Smoking (outside) and drinking (in moderation) are allowed, but be cool about it, okay?

Volunteer Life - Beacon of Hope Uganda
Volunteer Life – Beacon of Hope Uganda

The home is highly well known within the area we are based and you’ll find that many local people are interested to meet the volunteers staying there. Please do not invite them in as it will encourage them to come back. Remember that you have nice things to lose, like digital cameras, phones and laptops. While there are many wonderful Ugandans, it is best not to have strangers inside the house as their motives may not be apparent.

Your laundry will be washed, ironed and folded for you once a week and you will be given a laundry basket to use for the duration of your stay. We recommend that you do not bring clothing that you are too attached to, as the facilities are basic by the developed world’s standards and the staff would not want to ruin your favorite clothes.

BoHU believes that volunteers living together and working closely together with their volunteer coordinators is the surest way of guaranteeing their safety and being able to attend to their most pressing needs. For this reason we expect all volunteers to stay only in the accommodation provided for them and do not allow volunteers to spend nights away in the town or nearby villages unless they are away on pre-arranged sightseeing excursions.

Note: Couples can request their own room if they give BoHU a “Volunteers advance notice”.

CONDUCT

Volunteers enjoy a collegial atmosphere that stems from a great group of people bonded together by a common desire to make a difference in the world.  However, it is imperative for volunteers to understand that BoHU’s image in the community is of paramount importance to our ability to operate effectively and fulfill our mission every day.  When you come to volunteer at BoHU, you represent BoHU.  You are expected to act in a mature, responsible manner that is considerate of local customs at all times.

Volunteer Life - Beacon of Hope Uganda
Volunteer Life – Beacon of Hope Uganda

As an organization comprised of and operated by volunteers, everyone must pull his/her own weight to keep things running smoothly.  Volunteers are assigned jobs and responsibilities on a rotational basis throughout the week to ensure the cleanliness and general upkeep of BoHU facilities.  These tasks are generally tended to following the morning meeting each day and must be completed before the designated volunteers may join their teams on site.

The house helper has been helping out in preparing the breakfast but with the new approach, a small group of volunteers will be asked to help prepare breakfast and dinner each day.  They will be responsible for buying the necessary produce and ingredients at the local market and preparing the meal for the entire house.  This new tradition will provide volunteers with a sense of accomplishment and pride (it’s a great feeling to feed up to 16 hungry mouths!).  It will also serve as a change of pace from typical projects while enabling our diverse volunteer body to share and enjoy a variety of dishes from around the world – a welcome deviation from the ubiquitous rice and potatoes that accompany just about any local plate!

Volunteers enjoy a collegial atmosphere that stems from a great group of people bonded together by a common desire to make a difference in the world.  However, it is imperative for volunteers to understand that BoHU’s image in the community is of paramount importance to our ability to operate effectively and fulfill our mission every day.  When you come to volunteer at BoHU, you represent BoHU.  You are expected to act in a mature, responsible manner that is considerate of local customs at all times.  Upon arrival, all volunteers will be obliged to sign a statement of understanding of BoHU’s volunteer code of conduct, the violation of which will result in appropriate penalties or outright termination of service.

Our work is largely dependent on the trust of the community we serve and we cherish the relationships we have cultivated with so many people here.  As such, outsiders stand out in a crowd and you should expect that you will almost always be associated with BoHU when in public, whether you are sporting BoHU colors or not.  Therefore, volunteers need to be constantly conscientious of this attention and help us to project a positive, professional image.

Volunteer Life - Beacon of Hope Uganda
Volunteer Life – Beacon of Hope Uganda

SCHEDULE

Volunteers work Monday through Friday.  Every weekday morning, breakfast is served from 7:30 AM to 8:30 AM, and at 9:00 AM on Saturday. The workday generally finishes around 4pm and dinner is served at our home from 7pm-9pm.

ELECTRICITY

The local voltage is 220V, delivered at 50Hz. Sockets fit plugs with square pins, like the UK Design, so be sure to buy a universal adaptor if need be.

MONEY AND FINANCES

Because customs can be so hectic, we ask that you avoid changing money until you are picked up by your coordinator, who can then suggest where you might want to go. ALWAYS BRING BIGGER AND NEWER NOTES WITHOUT ANY DAMAGES!

The currency is the Uganda Shillings. This has been devaluing steadily in line with the country’s exchange rate. Most hotels, restaurants, and the bigger shops will take credit cards and US$ cash but only in Kampala. Credit cards are pretty useless in the rest of the country, where only local currency is accepted. The ATM’s at Barclays and Stanbic Bank will work.

A word of caution: Do not attempt to change currency with money-changers at the Airport — they’re notorious for their dishonesty. It is better to try to change money in town at the banks or even at one of the Forex Bureaus. Lastly, using money changers on the black market is illegal and you run the danger of being ripped off.

Tipping

Tipping is a difficult and contentious topic—worth thinking about carefully. Some say it’s illegal in Uganda, but the reality is that it’s done widely and is expected, though the amounts are generally moderate. Ask locally what’s appropriate. Someone helping with baggage might want US$0.50, while sorting out a problem about a reservation might be around US$1-3. Restaurants will usually add a service charge to the bill, but if they don’t then 10% would be appreciated if the service was good.

Spending Money

In terms of spending money—it depends largely on what you want to do while you’re here. Adventure excursions can add up quickly so if you plan on participating in these, please plan your budget accordingly.

If you carry USD cash to the project please ensure the bills are dated later than the year 2008 as any bills that are older (i.e. 2000 and earlier) cannot be accepted as payment for excursions and safaris

VOLUNTEER EXPECTATIONS

Uganda provides an ever-changing environment with frequent power failures, water shortages, temperature fluctuations and other uncontrollable situations. Also, “Ugandan time” can be difficult and frustrating for those used to a very structured life. Work can often be delayed or interrupted because of holidays, weather, vacations or unexpected events. Volunteers need to remain flexible, patient, understanding and good humored.

Volunteer Life - Beacon of Hope Uganda
Volunteer Life – Beacon of Hope Uganda

Once you arrive in Uganda, your care is the responsibility of BoHU. We promise to provide you with all your daily needs, keep you out of harm’s way, and support you in your volunteer work. In exchange, you are expected to attend work punctually and to behave consistently in ways that reflect well upon BoHU. We expect you to dress according to local norms (nothing too revealing) and to treat people on the work site with kindness and respect. In addition, BoHU insists that volunteers avoid any contact with drugs or any culturally inappropriate activities relating to alcohol. These projects rely on networks, and those networks are held together by good relations. If a case should arise in which the project staff feels that volunteers have repeatedly behaved in ways that contradict the basic spirit of this agreement, BoHU reserve the right to remove volunteers from the program.

We view the volunteer experience as a commitment that includes a willingness to overcome challenges of various sorts. In cases where volunteers are experiencing difficulties, we strongly encourage creative and collaborative solutions. At the same time, we respect the ability and freedom of our volunteers to make their own judgment and understand that volunteer work only functions well when volunteers retain the will to participate fully and energetically.

Volunteers should be aware that the living conditions they come in contact with can be shocking to someone who is not accustomed to them. Often, volunteers feel uncomfortable because they are working in an environment that they are not used to, and occasionally may not be able to communicate well due to language/cultural differences (though the official language in Uganda is English). This is normal and should be expected, but should not be underestimated. Most volunteers overcome these challenges and find that the volunteer work is extremely rewarding.

You want to volunteer with us, just fill the volunteer application form and submit it. Looking forward to see you.