Challenges faced while Volunteering in Uganda
Footprint Volunteer Uganda September 19, 2023 No Comments

Knowing the Challenges of Volunteering in Uganda for a Greater Experience

Like the saying goes “Everything that has an advantage, has a disadvantage as well” Volunteering is not an exception. From our interaction with our dear volunteers and the experience gained from the past years, we have realized that, much as the positive results of volunteering outweigh the negative ones. We believe that availing you with the information about the challenges of Volunteering especially in countries like Uganda will do more good than harm. This is not only on the side of the volunteers but also on that of the communities and the organizations in which the volunteers render their services.

We believe that having the knowledge of the bad side of volunteering will not stop anyone from their desire to volunteer. It will rather help you gain a better understanding of the concept. This will help you come when you are prepared for the best way to deal with the challenge.

 What are the major challenges of Volunteering in Uganda – on the side of the Volunteer?

  1. Volunteering means getting out of your comfort zone
  2. Volunteering usually comes with a hard-to-break emotional attachment
  3. The new environment may not be friendly
  4. Getting exhausted while at work
  5. Poor Communication due to language barrier
  6. Finishing your volunteer time and coming home
  7. Undervalued Positions

Volunteers tend to find challenges that are social, economic, and psychological in nature and these include among others but are not limited to the following;

  • Volunteering means getting out of your comfort zone

Challenges of Volunteering in Uganda

Making a choice to volunteer especially outside your own country is not a national anthem that everybody can sing. It is something that requires commitment emotionally and physically. Many volunteers with whom we have shared stories talk about how difficult the choice can be. This is simply because of the requirement to get out of one’s comfort zone if they are to volunteer.

Naturally, human beings tend to avoid activities that demand a lot of time and full attention from them. But the beauty of this is that those who get out of their comfort zones and volunteer are the ones who gain a better and more diverse experience that lasts as long as they live.

If you have been thinking about volunteering in Uganda and maybe have been discouraged by a friend or a relative, it is better you come and see things for yourself. Usually people like talking about the negative side of the coin and ignore the positive one. When you finally decide to volunteer. You will see for yourself and make up your own mind. Trust me, you will be so grateful for the charity organization to have given you this opportunity to work in such incredible communities and thus gain more knowledge and experience.

  • Volunteering usually comes with a hard-to-break emotional attachment

 Since volunteering in Uganda usually involves working in vulnerable communities, it usually comes with a strong emotional attachment in the end. Imagine volunteering in an orphanage such as Love Uganda Foundation Orphanage in Kalaji–Mukono, the kids have emotional stories but seeing them smile because of your services can result in getting strongly emotionally attached. In the event that you do not have time to extend your volunteering period, you will end up feeling hurt when bidding farewell to them.

The attachment can also come from friends that you make during your volunteer period in Uganda. Imagine the person who offered you a bottle of water the first time you arrived in Uganda. There is that guide who has been translating for you so that you can communicate with the local members of the communities in which you have been volunteering. All that comes

However, emotions are a normal part of human life and you should therefore not be discouraged to come and your services in such projects.

  • The new environment may not be friendly

The other common challenge associated with volunteering is the negative effects of changing the environment. This affects both socially and emotionally. Sometimes you are required to leave your families and loved ones behind and go volunteering. This means no more movie nights on Fridays or Weekends at the theatre or watching football.

To some people, a changing environment may result in allergies, food poisoning, malaria, and nausea, to mention but a few. Some parts of Uganda are dusty while others are muddy depending on the season. Some volunteers might not be used to all-day sunshine and hence find it a challenge during their volunteering period.

  • Getting exhausted while at work


Volunteers in Uganda fetching water with children

Usually, volunteer jobs in Uganda are more physical than mental. The common ones include the construction of houses, schools, water sources like boreholes, and teaching, to point out just a few. All these activities require some degree of physical strength and a lot of energy. If you have not been used to such, adapting can be challenging.

This is why we advise you to carefully understand the project and the nature of the job you will be doing before making your way to Uganda. It is equally important to read the job description before requesting for the opportunity to volunteer.

  • Poor Communication due to language barrier

Traveling to a new country for volunteering means interacting with different people speaking different languages. Uganda has over 40 tribes each speaking a different language with the official language being English followed by Kiswahili and then Luganda.

In deeper parts of the country, it might be difficult for you to find a single person speaking the language that you know especially if it is not English.

Working in such communities requires you to have the knowledge of the basic words in the local languages otherwise life can be difficult for you. Learn to be patient, listen, and try to learn the local language. By doing this small gesture, you will make the local staff feel important and happy.

This should as well not be a big scare and sit on your passion to volunteer in Uganda. Most of the organizations attach foreign volunteers to projects that have locals who speak their languages.

  • Undervalued Positions

Irrespective of how much work volunteers do, they are usually considered to be doing less than what they are supposed to be doing.

Society feels that volunteers do not give enough as they are not paid. Some feel like they better have two paid employees than have a single volunteer. This is not 100% true as we have seen the work of volunteers in the past.

What are the major challenges of Volunteering in Uganda – on the side of the organization or community?

While volunteers face quite a number of challenges as some have been discussed above, the communities and the organizations in which volunteers offer their services equally face multiple challenges. Below is a glimpse of what they go through;

  • Few Resources

Organizations face the challenge of inadequate resources to facilitate volunteers alongside running the organizational day-to-day needs. It should be noted that the majority of the organizations get their funding from donors and a little volunteer fees. They face challenges with accommodation and food for volunteers especially when the numbers are high.

The common thread in all of these challenges is a lack of a dedicated volunteer manager position. Some organizations, especially those that serve a large audience and draw high numbers of volunteers, do employ a person or persons whose sole job is to maintain an effective volunteer program.

  • Recruitment

Recruiting volunteers is not an easy process as well. It is much like the recruitment of other employees. Once the organization does not have a well-financed human resources budget, they may experience a real nightmare.

It is important for organizations to plan according. This ensures that that the Volunteer fees collected from volunteers are enough to sustain their stay during their period of volunteering. Encouraging your existing volunteers to recruit their friends and family is another popular strategy. Simply ask them if you know anyone who has the time, energy, and inclination to get involved and you should get some great referrals.

  • Volunteer Retention

Organizations in Uganda usually want to retain excellent performing volunteers and end up luring themselves into a financial trap.  Poor planning may cause  volunteer management challenges

Additionally, volunteers who are to be retained ask for quite a bigger amount of remuneration which organizations may not afford. The organizations end up giving up on volunteers.

The best solution here is for volunteers and their organizations to reach an agreement that is mutual so that no one feels like they are being cheated.

  • Limited time offered by Volunteers

Unlike the scenarios where organizations do not have enough money to retain volunteers, in this case, it is volunteers who do not have time to dedicate to the organizations. They find it so challenging and go back home in the shortest time possible. There are some volunteers who perform far better than the permanent employees. This implies that the organization will miss theory services for the rest of their lives.

  • Difficulty in balancing Cultures since volunteers come from different parts of the world.

Diversity in cultures can tend to be a problem for volunteer organizations and communities as well. Volunteers from different parts of the world become difficult to manage in terms of their ways of life. While this one likes this type of food, the other one does not like it. This becomes a great challenge especially if they are to work in the same place.

In conclusion therefore, there are challenges faced while Volunteering in Uganda, however, these challenges have solutions. Knowing a disease is being half cured. Now that you have known the challenges faced while Volunteering in Uganda, find the right organization and start your journey. Become a Volunteer Now. 

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