Field Information Pack

We are uploading this information here to help you prepare further before you get here. Have fun planning and looking forward to seeing here in Uganda!!

THE SSAMBA FOUNDATION VOLUNTEER PROGRAM – ORIENTATION DOCUMENT

This information is designed to introduce you more fully to the Ssamba Foundation and to prepare you for day to day living in Uganda. This document is meant to complement the Volunteer Manual and any other pre-arrival support provided by Coordinators.

SSAMBA FOUNDATION

Ssamba Foundation founded in 2006 and began hosting volunteers in 2007. We started out very small and informal. However, due to the need for skills and funding and the desire for people to come to Uganda and volunteer on a short term basis, we opted to expand. We provide pre-arrival support to volunteers create new and monitor existing projects and offer a fun, relaxed environment in which to volunteer.

Ssamba Foundation engages in other activities meant to benefit the local people of Mukono District and other districts where we operate. We sponsor 230 needy children in local schools. Hand embroidered t-shirts and bags made by a local women’s group, are available for purchase by volunteers. We are developing a handicraft program to benefit another local women’s group, which will have jewelry for sale to volunteers. We are developed a child sponsorship program that sources foreign sponsors for our sponsored children. We also look for funding for our community based initiatives.

I am available to all volunteers. We are sensitive to the fact that volunteering in a foreign country can be overwhelming and that there are many cultural cues that you will be unfamiliar with. If you have an idea for a particular project and want to discuss it, talk to me. Also, we’ve got detailed knowledge of places to go and things to see during your leisure time.  Please contact us as you need us and we’ll be happy to help you!  (By the way, I’m always available for coffee).

THE MUKONO VOLUNTEERS’ HOME

Ssamba Homestay UgandaThe Kyampisi Backpackers Home (a.k.a Ssamba Homestay) is the base for Ssamba Foundation in Mukono and also home for my family. It was started as a place to host volunteers and to start offices for the organization.

The home has 7 beds; (More beds can be arranged for volunteers) It is managed by our family, who does the shopping, cooking, and dishes. Our helper washes clothes, and tries to keep the place clean. The family is very hard working and honest people. It is important to note that our helper receives well above the normal wages paid in Uganda for the type and hours of work they do. Should they ask for money or goods from you, keep in mind that they are earning and not in great need. However, if you wish to leave a small tip for them when you go, that’s cool and much appreciated.

If you live at the home, you’ll be given keys for your room. Carry them with you as the family is not always home. You should lock the door when you go out. When your volunteer placement is over, please return the keys to me or leave them in the door. Village based volunteers are not given keys and must rely on the kindness of those living at the house.

There is a list of “home rules” posted in each bedroom. You must follow these. Whether you live at the guesthouse or not, you have a responsibility to clean up after yourself, remove the sheets from your bed when you are through with them, and limit the amount of water you use. If you don’t know where something goes, ask. Don’t leave a mess because you don’t know where the mop is!

Meals are served according to the schedule laid out in the “home rules”. Do not eat the food in the common areas apart from meal times, as there may not be enough for planned meals. I’m talking about stuff like bananas and bread. You can make tea or coffee any time you wish. Also, volunteers often buy their own goodies; I would ask that if it doesn’t belong to you: don’t touch it.

If you are a village based volunteer and wish to spend a night and take your meals at the guesthouse, contact me at least 2 days in advance. It’s first come first serve with the beds and my family and I 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. Also, we ask that you respect the fact that the home is located in a multiple family complex and is home to some volunteers. It is not a weekend “party” retreat. Smoking (outside) and drinking (in moderation) are allowed, but be cool about it, okay?

Road Trips Uganda - Ssamba Safaris

Our home is highly well known within the area 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, cash 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 RESPONSIBILITIES AS AN INTERNATIONAL VOLUNTEER UNDER SSAMBA FOUNDATION

We’d like to extend our appreciation to you for giving your time and money to Ssamba Foundation. Because you have done so, we can continue to help our beneficiaries (orphaned children, widows and disadvantaged youth); partner projects and schools to operate on a day to day basis. The fact that you are here means that you are motivated, a self-starter, and interested in learning about the real situation in Uganda.

Volunteering at the grassroots level is overwhelming. It is supposed to be. You are going to see things that will affect you deeply, including pervasive poverty, disease, and a largely ineffective education system. You may not always agree with the way your Project Coordinators operates. Please remember that you are the visitor and it is your thoughts and priorities that are alien or weird, not theirs. It is your responsibility to accept the situation and see where you can make the greatest impact, while remaining respectful toward your host.

It is also your responsibility to assess your impact in the African context and not in the context of the developed world. If you are patient, open minded, and flexible your volunteer experience will be greatly enhanced.

Expect to be the centre of attention while in Uganda. People at the grassroots level do not have access to foreigners so you’ll be openly stared at and constantly approached. While in the village you are a representative of your country and of your host organization. No matter how you feel at the time, there is no justification for treating any Ugandan unkindly. If you are asked for money, school fees, medicine, or anything else a polite “no” will do. However, if you wish to give, please do so as it will be much appreciated. In traditional African culture, those who have automatically share with those who don’t. It is commonly believed that all “mzungus” are rich – and you are, relatively. So get used to it, denying it is offensive.

If you have brought gifts or donations for your host project or school, note that you cease to control how they are used once they are given. As school supplies tend to be hoarded, keep what you brought in your room and use it while you volunteer. At the end of your stay you can distribute what’s left or give it to us for future volunteers to use.  If you have clothing or shoes you don’t want to take home, they make great gifts for local people. Ssamba Foundation also takes this kind of donation. We distribute them in villages where we work.

Once you are settled in, you’ll meet with your Project Coordinator and work together to set up a schedule for your stay. You’ll be fitted into an existing program but expect to work with little supervision. If you have a particular idea for a program, discuss it with us. It is important for you to be clear about your needs when setting up this schedule. It is also important that you realize your schedule will be changed – a lot. Just go with it, you’re in Africa now.

If you are a village based volunteer, your host provides your food, and accommodation. You are to receive 3 meals of local Ugandan food per day. The local diet is heavily based on carbohydrates, and you may not love it. You should receive a minimum amount of protein at least once a day, but fruits and vegetables are locally seen as less desirable. You may not see much of them. Feel free to ask your host to provide them instead of all the carbs or to supplement on your own. Let us know if you are chronically starving, please! As meals are traditionally served late, you might want to keep some snacks in your room and you must provide your own bottled drinking water.

It is your responsibility to know if your Visitor Visa is valid for the duration of your stay. If you are unsure, talk to me. Instructions for visa extensions are available. Some volunteers don’t wish to deal with immigration officials and opt to travel over the border to Kenya or Rwanda. Ask around to see what others are doing.

We encourage you to register with your embassy while in Uganda. Should any civil unrest breakout during your stay, it will be your embassy to assist you. Most embassies have an online registration system. Ask me for your physical address. If you don’t have a local phone number, use mine or that of your counterpart.

If you get sick, don’t ignore it. Go to the clinic. International Air Ambulance (IAA) is a western level clinic on the main road as you approach Kampala from Mukono. It’s on the left side of the road as you pass the second roundabout. Public transport stops at the Shell Petrol Station just ahead. IAA is open 7 days a week from 8 am to 9pm. You’ll have to pay cash up front, but you can claim back on your insurance once you get home. If you get sick and receive treatment, allow yourself some extra time to get better. You won’t heal as fast here as you do at home. Basic antibiotics (Cipro) and first aid supplies are readily available in Mukono pharmacies.  Another option is the Kampala International Hospital in Muyenga, its open 24hrs, 7 days a week. In Mukono there is St. Joseph’s Clinic.

When it rains in Uganda, everything stops. If you have a meeting and it is raining, don’t go until the rain is over. If there is an event scheduled and it is raining, the event will start after the rain finishes. You’ll also find that teaching during rainfall is impossible. All schools have tin roofs; you won’t be heard over the noise.

Glass bottles used for soda and beer are reused in Africa. If you want to buy a soda or beer, take an empty with you and trade it for a full one. The local shops will not charge you a deposit if you take an empty. If you don’t bring an empty and they don’t charge you a deposit, please return the bottle when you are through as the shopkeeper is responsible for all bottles he’s given by the bottling company. Please don’t make local shopkeepers incur debt because you can’t be bothered to return a bottle. Please don’t use empty bottles as candle holders.

Should your family and friends wish to send you something, use our post office box: Ssamba Foundation, P.O. Box 423, Mukono, Uganda, East Africa. It takes about 3 weeks to receive items from abroad by airmail. By surface mail it takes about 2 months.

During your leisure time, we encourage you to get out and see other aspects of Uganda. There are many options for safari and white water rafting. Kampala night life is also great. You’ll be relying on public transport (taxis) which may not be as safe as in your own country. If you’re nervous about using it, let us know. There are some pointers about how to use public transport in Uganda. You can also arrange a private car to get you and your group around. A much safer option, if you have the budget!

It is your responsibility to get yourself to the airport when your volunteer placement ends. You can take a private car (much safer option) or public transport. If you choose public transport, get a taxi from Mukono to the Old Taxi Park in Kampala. From there, ask around for the Entebbe Stage. If you stay on the taxi to the end of the line, you’ll arrive at the Entebbe Taxi Park. To get to the airport, there is another taxi or you can hire a private car at the taxi park.

It is my hope that volunteers don’t come set on working all the time. Relationships will always be more important than work in Africa. Relaxing with your workmates or neighbors and getting to know local culture will give you all kinds of insights into what it means to be a Ugandan. It is also my hope that you’ll take away something special from Uganda and spread it around once you return home.

EXTRA TIDBITS TO HELP YOU IN YOUR DAY TO DAY

  • Local currency is the Uganda Shilling (UGX). The exchange rate of USD to UGX is approximately 1:3500.  You can change money at the forex bureau in Mukono.
  • If you are white, you are a “mzungu”
  • Mass transit is a white mini-van and is called a “taxi”. A private car for hire is called a “special hire”
  • There is no day light savings. During the summer the time zone is GMT+2. During the winter it is GMT+3
  • The capital city is Kampala
  • Don’t drink the water
  • Anopheles (malaria carrying) mosquitoes are active from midnight to 5am and they don’t make a sound
  • The 2 major English language newspapers are “The New Vision” and “Monitor”
  • Try the fresh passion fruit juice.
  • Try the roasted pork
  • A permit to see the gorillas is $600.
  • Never say “hi”, always say “how are you”
  • The most common ailment among volunteers is dehydration
  • Lunch time is 1pm or later. Supper might be served after 8pm
  • If you have to pee, it’s called “making a short call”
  • Constantly collect small bills and coins for village purchases
  • Potatoes are called “irish”. Peanuts are called “g-nuts”
  • If someone says “you’ve grown fat”, it’s a compliment
  • Don’t swim in the lake, you’ll get bilharzia
  • To greet someone in Luganda, the local language in Mukono, say “Olyotya” (Books are available at home for free)
  • A “rolex” is an omelette wrapped in a chapatti, you’ll have many
  • There is no airport departure taxi
  • Christians and Muslims live together in harmony in Uganda
  • Ugandans don’t like confrontation. Never shout at a Ugandan
  • If you are open and relaxed Ugandans will love and welcome you
  • Baganda women and girls kneel when greeting
  • As a pedestrian, you do not have the right of way, get off the road!
  • The electricity goes out every second day for 4 to 24 hours
  • Ssamba Safaris has great budget safaris to Murchison Falls, Queen Elizabeth and Lake Mburo National Parks.
  • The population of Uganda is approx. 45,000,000
  • Motorcycles and scooters are called “bodabodas”. They’re cheap transport
  • Eddie Kenzo, Jose Chameleone, Bebe Cool, and Bobi Wine are huge popstars
  • Matooke is the main staple food, it’s made from un-ripened mashed bananas
  • It is not an easy thing to volunteer in Uganda, but it’s fun if you have the right attitude

Compiled by: Management

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Ssamba Foundation – empowering vulnerable communities since 2006