Frequently Asked Questions
Do you have questions about volunteering in Africa? We’ve put together our most comment questions to help you start your volunteering journey.
Why Volunteer Abroad?
Volunteering is founded on the concept of giving through the donation of your time, your skills, your energy, and often just simply your presence to help others in need. However, while volunteers have a tremendous effect on the people they work with, you will very rarely find a volunteer who feels they have given more than they have received. Volunteering can be exciting, adventurous and thrilling, but quite often it is very humbling. The lessons and benefits that a volunteer receives while volunteering abroad are endless and can include increased self-confidence and social awareness, development of life skills, personal growth, friendship and building of independence.
You will experience first-hand the overwhelming generosity of communities who may have very little, the abundant love of those who have known so much pain, and the infectious laughter of those whose lives have been touched with sadness. Through it all you will learn how amazing this world really is, and how just one person can make all the difference.
Furthermore, volunteering can help to enhance career prospects. Not only do volunteers increase their skill base, work experience and international contacts through volunteering abroad, employees often look favorably upon those who are willing to go outside of their comfort zone and give up their time to assist others.
When Can I Start And How Soon Should I Apply?
For short-term experiences we would recommend you apply at least a month in advance of your trip in order that we can help you fully prepare – that said, if it’s a last minute inspired idea you’ve had then we can work extra fast to help you be a spontaneous traveller!
For long-term projects (6 months – 1 year) applications really need to be in to us at least three months ahead of the start date. This is because the long-term places fill fast and we need to work with you in more detail to prepare for this experience. Also, for some people going away for 6 months or more means there’s many aspects of life back home to consider and sort out, such as your rent / mortgage / job or studies etc and we want to help ensure you’ve covered everything.
The start dates for each project start on the first and third Monday of each month. It is a good idea to arrive in Uganda on the Saturday to ensure you are well rested before your placement commences.
What Is The Process After I Apply?
As soon as you submit your application we will be in contact to advise if you have been accepted into your program, it’s also a time for you to ask any questions you have.
You will then need to pay your registration fee to ensure you placement is secure. You will be connected with our AVA African Volunteer Aid manager who will help you prepare for your volunteer trip.
Once registered on an AVA program (by paying your Registration Fee), you will be provided with an in-depth AVA Information Booklet about the program and country you are travelling to.
Our AVA International Program Manager is also on hand to answer any questions or concerns you may have and to collect all the required information from you before you depart.
In addition to this you, are introduced to our local team who will email you to welcome you on the program. Where possible we also then put you in contact with former volunteers who have spent time in your project.
Can I Volunteer With A Friend(S) Or A Partner?
Yes, we will ensure you are placed in the same accommodation and project as a friends or partner. However, you need to inform us in advance and mention the requirement in the application form, since it may depend upon individual accommodation availability. Please be reminded that volunteers of different genders will not be allowed to stay in the same room, unless they are a married couple.
Can Children Under The Age Of 18 Volunteer With AVA?
If a person is under the age of 18, it is not possible for them to volunteer abroad on our volunteer program alone. However, if they are volunteering as part of a group (with adult minders) or with a parent, guardian or family member (18 years or over) then this is acceptable. When a volunteer under the age of 18 applies to volunteer with AVA, it is important that he/she notes the name of the person they are volunteering with (and their minder does the same), so we can ensure they are placed together and our staff know they are eligible to volunteer.
Do I Need Qualifications?
Generally speaking you do not need any qualifications for our projects – just a desire to help and use your unique skills and talents. Part of volunteering is also about learning new skills and gaining a greater level of experience. Time in our projects will enable you to increase your knowledge in areas of: conservation, community development, social support work or even sports and nutrition.
However, It is important to note that for the majority of our Medical and Health projects, volunteers must be qualified or training in a relevant medical field (documentation to be presented to the In Country program Coordinator on arrival in host country).
Will I Be Working With Other Volunteers?
On the majority of AVA programs, volunteers are placed in small teams at placements and can expect to be working with at least two to three other AVA volunteers. Some of our programs are flexible and if you wish to be placed by yourself our local team may be able to accommodate this, however in most cases AVA volunteers live and work together in small groups.
Is Travel Insurance Included In The Program Fee?
Travel insurance is mandatory in order to volunteer abroad on an AVA volunteer program. To keep costs as low as possible for volunteers, we do not include travel insurance in our fees. While AVA does everything it can to ensure your trip abroad goes smoothly and is a fantastic, memorable experience, it is imperative to ensure you have adequate travel insurance should you fall sick, your bags go missing, or something is stolen. It is therefore mandatory that you get travel insurance which covers your medical emergencies, emergency evacuation, trip cancellation, personal belongings and personal liability before you travel.
Do I Require A Visa To Travel To Uganda?
You will need a valid visa to be able to stay in Uganda. Visas are issued on arrival at the airport at a fee of US$100. Volunteers must hold return or onward tickets, proof of their yellow fever vaccination and two passport size photographs. You can also get visas from the Ugandan High Commission in your own country. There are generally no problems however with the issuing of visas on arrival at the airport and this is the way the large majority of our volunteers to Uganda obtain their visas. A Ugandan visa is valid for three months initially. For those who intend to stay for a period longer than three months, after your visa expires the program staff in Kampala will help you to renew your visa at the Ugandan immigration authority in Kampala.
We recommend simply writing down on your immigration form as you enter Uganda that your purpose for travel is tourism or vacation (AVA trips fall under the category of volunteer tourism). All AVA volunteers travel to our programs on tourist visas/stamps and there are no problems upon arrival at all providing you have a valid passport and tourist visa. If you write down work or volunteer work as your purpose, immigration often demand you pay extra and acquire a work (employment) visa which is not necessary for the volunteer work you will be doing (these visas are provided for long term (in excess of 6 months) volunteers).
Will AVA Provide A Reference Or Act As A Referee For Me Once I Finish Volunteering?
Your AVA Program Manager can provide you with a letter of reference at the completion of your trip, upon request.
Can I Bring And Use Appliances From My Home Country?
Yes, but you will need an electrical converter. Your local small appliance speciality or travel retailer can advise you on plugs and voltage converters.
Is The Running Tap Water Safe For Drink?
No, tap water is not safe to drink. We recommend that you purchase bottled water for your consumption, but make sure that the cap’s seal is not broken! You can also request that your host family boil water for you each day for you to consume.
What Are The Health Requirements? Do I Need Vaccinations?
You are solely responsible for taking all appropriate medical precautions. AVA does not recommend any specific vaccinations, but we do advise that participants visit their physician or a travel medicine clinic for recommendations. However, a Yellow Fever vaccination is legally required to enter Uganda.
What Are The Sanitary Conditions In Uganda?
Be prepared and never expect a clean toilet 100% of the time. Carry some tissue in case you need to use the public toilet. In Uganda, toilets generally do not do well when flushing large amounts of items or feminine hygiene products so do not flush them and throw them away in the trash. In some areas/restaurants, toilet systems are old, have very narrow plumbing and are easily blocked. In these cases, a small basket is usually placed beside the toilet (for your used toilet paper). Use hotel lobby toilets; these are everywhere and are tend to be clean. Still, they may not always have toilet paper.
Are ATMs Easily Available?
Major towns have ATM machines, although not all will accept international cards. You can withdraw cash from most international banks from ATM machines, but $2-4 surcharges apply for each transaction.
Master, Visa and American Express cards are usually accepted at the more expensive restaurants and hotels. Use Caution: when paying by credit card as there is potential for fraud.
Ensure that you notify your home bank of your intent to travel to Uganda. This will provide you necessary information and alleviate any confusion at your home bank regarding international transactions (which can result in a cautionary freeze on your account in some cases).
How Much Money Should I Bring With Me?
AVA manages food and rooms for our volunteers throughout the assignment; therefore, you will not need more money to pay for these expenses. However, if you plan to take part in activities outside of our organization or buy some mementos, you will need to bring extra money.
On a side note, you must also remember the fee for visas, which can range from $50-100 depending on the length of stay. There may also be an airport tax that you pay upon your departure from Uganda. You will want to determine the amount of extra money you bring based on these factors.
How Can I Maintain Communication?
AVA coordinator has a mobile phone so participants are able to reach him with questions and concerns. We recommend that you ask questions and make comments regarding your experience. Many minor issues can be avoided with a just little extra communication before they develop into major issues.
Your project will have local staff members in addition to our coordination staff. If your project is located a great distance from our offices, then our staff will communicate via email and/or phone. It’s our job to make sure that you are safe, healthy and happy.
How Can My Family Members Contact Me?
Many parts of the country have good communications infrastructure. You will be able to easily send and receive emails and call internationally. You can also use a mobile phone. If you bring a mobile phone that is SIM card compatible you can get a SIM card and a Ugandan mobile number for approximately 3,000Ush (US$1 – $2) which is great for keeping in touch with other volunteers and also home. Both International and local/long distance calls can be made. Most American phones will not accept Ugandan SIM cards as they need to be unlocked. However, getting a Ugandan phone which you can get for as cheap as US$20 is often far simpler. NB: The country code of Uganda is +256. You will be guided more on this during orientation.
What Should I Know About Religious Conduct In Uganda?
Uganda respects different cultural backgrounds, religious beliefs and moral concepts. You may practice on your own accord.
Important note: About 85% of Ugandans are Christians, followed by Muslims with about 12% of the population, other religions include: Hinduism, Judaism and indigenous beliefs.
How Do I Respect The People Of Uganda?
Uganda’s culture is rich in customs and traditions. People of Uganda enjoy sharing their customs and traditions with foreigners so feel free to take part with them. You can go with your host family on outings if they ask you to or invite them along with you to go on an outing. Be inclusive and show respect of their culture.
What Is The Climate Like In Uganda?
Although generally equatorial, the climate is not uniform as the altitude modifies the climate. Lightweight clothing and rain wear is recommended as well as warmer clothing for the evenings (light jacket and/or light sweaters). A solid pair of walking shoes is highly recommended for trekking.
Do I Need To Be Able To Speak The Local Language?
Volunteers are generally only required to speak English to participate on an AVA program. AVA volunteers are provided with basic language lessons during their orientation and we recommend that volunteers take additional language lessons where available. The more you can speak and converse in the local language, the more you will be able to immerse yourself into the program and local culture.
What Are The Specifics Of My Placement?
Placing a volunteer into an accurate project or placement, requires our program staff to consider a number of factor such as
- The program you have applied for.
- Your skills, interests and qualifications.
- The projects and work that are currently are available.
- The projects and institutions most in need of volunteers.
- Demographics of the volunteer.
- Your satisfaction with the placement.
Therefore the actual institution or place where a volunteer will work is not finalized until the volunteer arrives in country and meets with program staff. Before the volunteer arrives in country, the project staff will draw up a potential placement for you. Once you arrive, program staff will discuss this placement and introduce you to it (after meeting you in person they may change their mind and decide you are more suitably placed somewhere else). If at any stage you are unhappy with the placement please contact the program coordinator or program staff to let them know this, so they can find out what the problem is and if necessary, place you in a different institution of project. We will work in collaborations with the volunteer to match the project that suites with the volunteers experience or expectations.
How Long Will The Work Day Be?
Daily life on a program is dependent on the location and specific project. In general, AVA Volunteer Program participants work 25-40 hours per week at a meaningful community service projects and participate in varied cultural activities and excursions during their free time.
Here is an example of a typical weekday at the project. This serves as a guideline only and we ask that volunteers stay flexible as itineraries may change to best serve the community.
Monday – Friday
Rise and shine! Volunteers wake up early to start a great day. Take breakfast of cereals, bread, tea or coffee. Refreshed and nourished you are ready for your project work.
Travel to the project! It typically takes 15-30 minutes to reach your volunteer assignment.
Dig into the project! You do your volunteering job assignment.
Lunch break! You will return to your home-base or host family for a delicious lunch. If the distance is too great, you’ll enjoy the box lunch you brought with you.
Finish up your volunteer project work! There’s always plenty to do.
End your work day and enjoy your leisure time! You can rest, explore the local area, hang out with other volunteers, study or plan for the next day, whatever you want! This is your time to spend it how you like.
Dinner at your volunteer house! After dinner, you’re free to continue your local explorations before settling down for the night, thinking ahead for another fun, busy day.
Saturday & Sunday
This is the time to enjoy safaris with our beautiful country, exploring Uganda and its many attractions.
How Will I Get To Work? Do I Have To Pay For Transportation To Work?
Most of our accommodations are within a short walking distance though in other projects the volunteer will have to take a public transport to get to the project site. The volunteer will have to budget $25 a week to cover for the local daily transportation to and from the project site.
What Is Covered In Your Program Fee?
In all projects you will be provided with: Accommodation, Food, Training, 24/7 Support, Airport collection, Informative welcome pack and an Eco Safari adventure if you wish.
Here Is What Is Covered In Your Program Fee
- Airport pick-up
- Food – 3 meals a day – Breakfast, lunch and dinner daily.
- Accommodation – Safe, clean, comfortable local housing, inspected by our local project coordinator with a 24hrs WIFI internet access.
- Orientation (which is comprehensive) Carefully researched and personalized projects
- Assistance and support (24/7 support)
- Program supervision – field guide
Program Fee Excludes
- Airfare (both domestic & international)
- Passport/Visa (appropriate travel documents)
- Return trip (arranged at an extra cost)
- Airport tax (related with arrival or departure)
- Daily transportation (to and from your projects)
- Personal expenses (outside of the project)
- Travel & medical insurance
- Soft drinks, wines and spirits
- Travel arrangements for excursions
Can I Go Travelling And Sightseeing During The Weekends Of My Volunteer Program?
At AVA we believe an important aspect of any AVA volunteer trip abroad is the sightseeing and tours that volunteers can do outside of their volunteer work. Although we believe an AVA volunteer trip abroad is the most authentic way to experience a country through living and working with locals, we also understand that many of our volunteers wish to visit and experience sites like regular travellers. As part of your experience, in the majority of our longer term projects, we give you the chance to take part in a range of different adventure activities. You can take a tour during the weekends.
Uganda is a large and extremely diverse country in terms of both culture and nature. For three days you can undertake a safari that ushers you in the vast Bwindi Impenetrable National for Gorilla Trekking or the Murchison Falls National Park for Uganda Wildlife Tour or the famous Queen Elizabeth National Park for Uganda Bird Watching, or the Kibale National Park for Uganda Chimpanzee Trekking. You can also take a journey for Cultural Tour from Central to Eastern Uganda, to tour Kampala the Capital City of Uganda, Buganda and Busoga Kingdom, or to Western Uganda, to tour Bunyoro, Toro and Ankole royal monarchy, tradition and culture. The adventures will provide you with a break from your project, a chance to see your host country from a different perspective, and time to maybe live out a few dreams!
What Happens When I Arrive?
You will be met upon arrival at Entebbe International airport by a friendly AVA representative and taken to your hotel or guest house for an overnight stay. Once you have had time to rest, the AVA local staff or program coordinator will be conducting an orientation with you. Orientation begins on the morning of your chosen start date and covers everything you need to know for your volunteer program in Uganda – introduction to Uganda, culture and customs, rules and expectations, safety, language basics (luganda), travel opportunities, introduction to project and placement. The orientation will also give you a chance to meet other volunteers and swap contact details for weekend travel and socializing.
And after the orientation, the program coordinator will introduce you to your project and the local area. Your in-country coordinator will be more than happy to help you settle in and acclimatize; you’ll feel at home in no time in this friendly, vibrant country.
What Should I Do If I Get Delayed Or Miss My Flight?
Call AVA office from the airport to notify us of the possible delayed arrival time. Once you arrive, call us again so that we can arrange a new pick-up time.
How Can I Get To My Accommodations From The Airport, If I Did Not Connect With AVAs Representative In The Airport?
In such event, you should hire a taxi at the airport. Request the taxi deliver you to the hotel designated in your placement details/pre-departure information. Remember to request a receipt from the driver.
Important: Ensure that you have contacted AVA office BEFORE boarding a taxi.
What Do I Need Prior To Departure From My Home Country?
- Make sure that you pack all your necessary documents:
- copy of passport, and
- at least one other form of picture ID.
- Bring your volunteer assignment placement details.
- Prepare financially to cover unforeseen expenses up to $50-100/week for extra expenses and travel to your project each day.
- Prepare your mind and spirit for the experience to which you have committed. Culture shock affects everyone and it may be so strong that you want to quit the week after arrival.
When Should I Depart After My Program Assignment?
We ask that participants depart from Uganda on Saturday following the completion of their assignment.
Who Will Bring Me To The Airport For My Departure?
AVA does not offer airport drop-off services. You will need to arrange a taxi or bus ride to the airport following your assignment’s completion. This is a simple process and our coordinator will normally be very happy to assist you with the arrangements.
Can You Connect Me With Other Adults Who Might Be Going At The Same Time As I Am?
Yes, but this depends on the exact assignment and accommodation placement. If you want to travel with a companion or group, we allow and encourage this option.
What Should I Pack?
Usually, items of daily use are available in Uganda at a cheaper price than in your country of origin. However, we suggest volunteers pack the following items:
- Insect net/repellent
- Water purification tablets
- First-aid kit (medical)
- Electricity adapter/converter
- Footwear (for work and travel)
- Work gloves (for conservation or construction projects)
- Over the door organizer (with several hooks – for towels etc)
- Flashlight, lantern(in case of power outages)
- Towel and personal bath kit
- Sunscreen, hat, sunglasses
- Mobile phone (unlocked – for local SIM card use)
- Ear plugs (for light sleeper)
- Gift from your country for host/housekeeper
What Gift Should I Bring For My Project?
It is a common courtesy to bring a small gift for the staff who will be your hosts. You are not required to do so, but if you choose to bring a gift it can be simple. We suggest a box of chocolates, a small perfume, body cream, a t-shirt with a hometown/ country logo, pictures of your family and local post cards.
If you want to bring gifts for your project and if you are working for a school, please bring pencils, pens and paper, art supplies like markers and construction paper pads, as well as soccer balls and games for the children to enjoy. Remember that every child will need these items so you may wish to bring enough for a number of children.
We encourage our volunteers if they can raise extra funds to donate to our local projects. Your project donation will be used for the purchase of essential equipment to facilitate your work in the project