Volunteering in Uganda, safer than a walk in Central Park?

It is strange to think about how we live and travel. So many people are excited about the idea of going to Brazil or living in United States, yet those [...]

It is strange to think about how we live and travel. So many people are excited about the idea of going to Brazil or living in United States, yet those same people would baulk at the idea of volunteering in Uganda. “It’s not safe.” It’s almost laughable. Two American cities are listed in the top 20 most deadly cities in the world (St Louis and Baltimore) with Detroit and New Orleans not far behind. Yet none of the cities in any African countries are listed in the top 50. Dangerous cities are hot spotted to South America, America, South Africa and Mexico.

So what is it about travelling to Africa has people so disproportionately unsure? Where is this gossip coming from that takes away the opportunity of exploring this incredible and vibrant country?

Staying Safe In Uganda

I guess, like any rumour or nasty whisper, the only way to get to the bottom of things is to find out for yourself. I know that I have never, and none of my volunteers have ever experienced anything but pleasure and wonder from their time volunteering in Uganda.

So if you want to see a really amazing pocket of the world and do so while staying safe and being healthy, look at Uganda and look at what we know from our experience so you can have an experience all of your own.

Uganda Safety Tip Number 1. Don’t take the tourist route

Firstly you don’t really get to experience anything, secondly this is the place you are most likely to get scammed. For a safe and authentic experience, stay in the villages with local people. Here you will receive the warmest welcome, and be shown the respect and love you would expect from your family or best friend.

The warm welcome you get as a volunteer in Uganda is one of those memories that will last a lifetime

Uganda Safety Tip Number 2. Drink plenty of water

Hydration is really important in hot sweaty conditions. Just like at home you’ll need to keep your fluid intake up and be aware of how much you drink. You should aim to drink at least two litres of water a day and rest in the shade during the hottest parts of the day. Replace lost salt and minerals by adding electrolyte supplements to your water every now and then. Grab some from the chemist before you leave. Hydrolyte is a great brand and tastes pretty good. A lemonade or soft drink from time to type will give you a little sugar boost, or for natural variants try some local fruit or sugar cane.

Uganda Safety Tip Number 3. Protect yourself from mosquitoes

No one like a mozzie bite, but there are certain areas where you really need to protect yourself and take precautions to stay healthy. If you get a mosquito carried illness, get it treated. This is not an issue confined to African countries, in fact, if you are in Queensland you need to be so careful about mosquito bites that can cause Dengue fever. There is no preventative tablet for Dengue, however, there is a treatment tablet for Malaria so take yours.

Also, sleep under a mosquito net. These are light enough to allow the breeze through and also protect you not only from Malaria but also from itchy bites and other insects. It’s a myth that Malaria is with you for life. It is very treatable and the clinics in Uganda have a quick and accurate diagnosis and effective treatment on hand.

So be sure that you know the symptoms and alert someone straight away if you are feeling unwell, however using a net and taking malaria tablets will most certainly keep you out of trouble.

Uganda Safety Tip Number 4. Enjoy fresh food

The food in the local villages is always fresh. Everything is prepared and used immediately meaning no bad taste before or after. Food is not only fresh but also has lots of variety. Cooking is done either steamed, boiled or smoked and is always eaten immediately while piping hot. Roadside stalls selling tasty snacks have a really high food turn over. Go to sellers that are busy for authentic fresh food that will leave you wanting more.

Uganda Safety Tip Number 5. Pay attention

When walking you will most likely want to use the road. It’s smoother and the going is faster. Other people use the road too and you will be required to make room for them.

It is essential that you be aware of traffic and move off the road when required (a sharp toot will alert you to get out the way). Don’t listen to music or obstruct your hearing in any way and be sure to pay attention to traffic.

Uganda Safety Tip number 6. Dress down

While you might think a tiny top and hot pants will go well in the hot climate, it really isn’t a great idea. Not only will it increase your chances of sunburn it’s disrespectful to the local people.

Dress in a manner that is comfortable and will keep you covered. It protects not only your skin but also your modesty. Dress should be over the shoulders and knees as it’s more conservative, and it’s always wise to bring a formal dress option as attending a church service on Sunday is an incredible experience, even if you’re not at all religious. Come with a friendly and open mindset and, since you are on a working holiday, keep the work part in mind in how you conduct yourself.

Modesty also means any gadgets you may have that are flashy, such as iPhones, tablets, expensive cameras and jewellery. When out and about these should stay well hidden or be left home if possible, don’t carry excess cash and be modest about what you have. The majority of people you meet will be genuinely friendly and curious.

Uganda Safety Tip number 7. Tell your friends and family

Tell everyone about your adventure. The more people who spread the good news means more ammo against the negative gossip. Let’s share our stories and the stories of the people we meet and give the people we assist a chance for the whole world to know them and share their journey to freedom.

You may initially have friends and family warn you off visiting and volunteering in Uganda, know that they do this simply because they love you and want to protect you. Share with them all the information you have on how safe and protected you will be through African Volunteer Aid, how good the work is, and how much you and your resume will grow from this experience. Put them in touch with me if you like. I’d be more than happy to tell them of my personal adventures and how I return home safely to Sydney full of optimism, warmth and happiness.

Jess

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