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Edirisa short term volunteer infoEdirisa short-term volunteer info
You have downloaded this document because you are interested in coming to Uganda and
experiencing Edirisa (www.edirisa.org) as a short term volunteer.
We will first cover volunteer application and orientation and then deal with
cultural/environmental issues and travel advice.
Part I: Application and orientation
Short term education volunteers will be automatically accepted (after receiving an application
form and criminal record check) as long as there is space at The Heart of Edirisa/Teach Inn. Be
advised that we operate a first-come-first-served policy so applying some time in advance is
Short term volunteers wishing to volunteer for multimedia and crafts must as well submit an
application form and criminal record check but also have to meet their nearest country
representative. These are experienced members of partner organisations or volunteer
veterans. The role of country representatives is to ascertain whether potential volunteers have
the skills we need at any given time and if you will be able to fit into Edirisa’s ethos. If you
successfully fulfil the requirements of the application stage we will put you in touch with your
nearest country representative.
As Edirisa first began receiving international volunteers, they were given a brief introduction to
the Edirisa locations and activities, and were then generally left to themselves. They often felt
unprepared as they began their work. Learning from this mistake, we eventually created a
comprehensive 2-day orientation to help volunteers settle in.
There are two different orientations depending on where you’ll be based, Nkozi or Kabale.
Day One: Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi Hill and local markets, a Luganda (local language)
lesson and relevant cultural information.
Day Two: 30-minute walk to the equator, a drive to Ggolo Beach at Lake Victoria and an
introduction to Studio Edirisa (including a short journalism course when needed).
Day One: A tour of Kabale Town including the main market, Makanga Hill and our cultural
museum, a Rukiga (local language) lesson and relevant cultural information. Organised at The
Home of Edirisa.
Day Two - The Heart: Arcadia Cottages for stunning views over Lake Bunyonyi, introduction to
The Heart, visit to Bufuka and Kyabahinga primary schools, canoe steering lesson, a
presentation of Edirisa’s fair trade crafts activities at our shop at Bunyonyi Overland Resort.
Day Two - Teach Inn: visit to the weekly market at Bukinda, introduction to Teach Inn and
Ryabirengye Primary School, a climb of Mashure Hil for wonderful views of Rwanda.
2-day orientation costs 40 euros when started on a Wednesday, otherwise it will cost 60
euros. This includes food (not drinks), transport and accommodation for the two days.
In addition to 2-day orientation many short term volunteers choose to join our Lake Mburo
National Park trip and/or canoe trekking.
Lake Mburo National Park (www.edirisa.org/mburo)
Lake Mburo begins every other Tuesday; volunteers will need to be at The Gardens (or in
Kampala) the night before. It was created to make the long drive to Kabale more pleasant, so it
makes less sense for The Gardens-bound volunteers. It is a chance to learn more about Edirisa’s
locations, gather some cultural advice as well as visit a beautiful, unfrequented national park.
Lake Mburo is home to various animals, including hippos, zebras and leopards and you will
have the opportunity to participate in a boat safari and an early morning safari walk.
Canoe Trekking (www.edirisa.org/canoe)
Canoe trekking can be organised any weekend. Edirisa wil try to ensure that
volunteers' trekking happens at the time most conducive for bonding between volunteers
from different locations. It is a three-day combination of canoeing and hiking around Lake
Bunyonyi. Volunteers get to know seven islands, stay in tents at local families' compounds,
meet the Batwa ('Pygmies') and learn a lot about the rich history of the place.
Part II: Culture and environment
Topics of culture play a large role in orientation. You can prepare for cultural differences in
advance by reading everything you find about Uganda, Kabale, Nkozi and the local tribes, in
your library and on the internet. Or you can arrive without prior knowledge and leave it all to
us - we don't mind, that's our job. If you cooperate in one crucial way: that you’re willing to
fight your prejudices.
Everything here certainly has a certain logic, and there is likely an explanation for it all. And that
explanation is not in the stereotyped perception of Africans that you most likely have. The
picture is far more complex. If you don't understand something, ask someone local - please
don’t make gratuitous assumptions. You have been conditioned to see Africa in a certain light
throughout your life, and it takes energy to open yourself up to conflicting information. It’s
hard for a human brain to open a new area of thought, we try to get everything to reconcile
with what we already "know".
It takes a flexible mind to question your culture instead. Let's use one practical example: You
will see how "dirty" African kitchens are. Strangely, international visitors do not have to worry
about illness due to these conditions. Yes, it is important to be hygienic but you can easily lose
sight of the big picture. Has your culture maybe gone too far with cleanliness? Have you been
obsessed with meaningless things? Is Africa too dirty or Europe too clean?
An important fact about Africa: time gets a different treatment here. Few people are enslaved
by the clock, something that is pretty difficult to comprehend to someone from a city where
the arrival of trains is displayed in seconds! Prepare in advance: life will be slower here. You will
"waste" many minutes waiting for this and that. You can spend them relaxing or being
productive - just don't focus on "losing time". Remember: time is merely a concept, something
some of us agree to measure even though it may not actually exist. Obsession with time is one
of the main causes for stress, and everyone would like to escape stress, right? Taking a deep
breath now and again could be worthwhile.
On a similar note, we hope you didn't come to Africa to change the world in just two weeks -
changes take ages, and we can't hurry them. There is no hurry in Africa, as the saying goes.
Male/ Female Relations
Another traditional element, this time a very sad one, is the male superiority complex. Yes, yes
you will say that men around you tend to show it too. That's child's play compared to what
you will see in Uganda!
A woman is seen as less valuable than a man. A young woman who has not yet "produced"
(given birth) is a girl, therefore even lower in the system.
Most of our volunteers have been women, or to be more exact: "girls". It has been amazing to
observe how local men found it hard to treat them as equals. Even those men who are allegedly
more educated or open minded!
Ladies, mentally prepare for that. Find a good strategy. Think twice before you start fighting. If a
man irritates you, better not to counter him in public. Approach him in privacy, maybe send
another man to mediate the situation.
Women have over millennia developed very efficient approaches to get what they want. We
know who actually runs this planet, don't we? ;-)
Mind you, we are not saying that you should give up, and accept this sexist rubbish. During a
short stay, confrontation will not achieve anything, and will only create tension. If you’re here
for longer, work on women's rights, but do it in style.
Girls: prepare for having to reject marriage proposals. Ugandan men are crazy about the idea of
having a white girlfriend - they are convinced white people are honest and would offer them a
financially better life.
Also, the ideal form of beauty for many is opposite to the West. If you are curvy, many will
prefer you to slim women. If they call you ‘fatty’ or ‘big one’, don’t be offended, it’s a big
Flexibility with truth
Africa is community-based. A person is not an individual but a member of his/her extended
family, clan, tribe. In a traditional society, the group matters. Nobody should disturb its peace.
Do you have a problem with someone? Solve it quietly. A public display of disagreement may
equal humiliation, loss of respect and authority.
Is it totally clear that someone else is the bad guy in your story? Doesn't matter, the
community will demand that both of you accept a part of the blame.
It will help you immensely if you note that Africans treat "truth" in a very elastic way. They will
tell you what they think you want to hear.
"Is this the way to the bus station?"
"Yes, yes!" .
"Oh my, I am late, I went the wrong way! Have I missed the bus?"
"It may still come."
At the end, the situation will naturally become problematic. Perhaps even explosive. But we are
in Africa, you know. It is now that matters, who will think of tomorrow?
There can also be a difference between what people say they will do and what they do in
reality. Expect it, and take it easy.
Ugandans are widely known to be extremely welcoming and friendly people. However don't be
concerned if you encounter some stern faces (particularly among the Bakiga), they have
nothing against you, it’s just their way. Most African people are informal and demand a
relationship first. Do not expect to have something done simply because a person is paid to
provide the service! Develop a friendship and everything will become possible.
After you spend some time in Africa, you will understand how impolite it is in fact is to
approach somebody without a greeting. In Uganda you can not ask what time it is without a
prior exchange of pleasantries. Even if you think that you are in a hurry. (By the way, don't be
shocked if somebody wears a broken watch - it's for decoration purposes.)
Children will normally love to be in your photos, but others will be offended if you don't ask
first. There is a common belief that tourists sell the pictures for big money, so a demand for
some coins is understandable. A better alternative might be to spend some time with the
person, converse, buy something from a market woman - and then photo sessions will be more
As a mzungu (a white person) you will be expected to be eccentric. You are an alien after all, a
visitor from another planet. If you, on the other hand, want to be respected, wear decent
clothes. Shorts are acceptable but not appreciated (they are children's wear here), and
women's tops should hide the shoulders. Because even a Ugandan in the remotest village
manages to flat iron his clothes and polish his shoes, the standards are pretty high.
Feel free to hate the missionaries who brought such ideas to Africa. But think twice before you
say it. Any religious doubt will easily result in a long discussion with only one aim: to show you
the right way - to convert you. Ugandans will not scream if you tell them you are not a believer,
however, they will consider it their duty to help you see the light.
Ask your (great) grandparents how they feel about nudity and kissing on the streets, and you
will understand Africans better. Ugandans are happy to touch, hold hands, put a sleepy head
on a stranger's lap - there is no concept of private space. But there must be nothing sexual,
passionate about this. Friends will walk hand in hand on the street, lovers never. It's the
western world turned upside down: you can be cosy with somebody only if you are not a
You will see men very close to each other. Don't misunderstand. Homosexuality is a crime here.
Africans believe that it was introduced by the whites, that foreigners come here to convert
innocent people into "homosexualists". If you have such preferences, strictly keep them to
yourself. You could be playing with your life!
Tobacco is Satanic, marijuana only for criminals. Enough said. Quit or do it in privacy.
Ugandans focus on quantity, not on variety. They don't like new things. Prepare for
monotonous food if you don't cook by yourself or frequent restaurants. Travellers' stomach
isn't an issue because locals cook everything, even salads (unfortunately).
Have you ever seen a child browsing through trash for food? A disabled person whose only
option is to beg? Children wearing something that maybe resembled clothes two generations
ago? Uganda is a very fertile and potentially rich country, but still many Ugandans are very
Is your idea of African wildlife something like . a lion? You will see many more rats and catch
fleas, even in a good hotel. As for snakes, you will likely see none.
Are you used to silence? It can be overwhelming for some. And the conditions in the village
could be much too basic. Visualise a pit latrine to which you will need to stumble with a torch,
and then squat, not sit. Can you handle it?
Do you believe that leadership should be democratic and that any use of force is repulsive?
Ugandan children are beaten at school. Students' strikes at secondary schools automatically
end up in destruction. Adults vote for generals. There must be "a stick" somewhere, a strong
leader - or there is no respect. We need to comply, compromise our beliefs.
On the other hand, for people of the same rank, decisions can be made by long discussions and
much compromise, so prepare for slower-paced meetings.
It is very possible that you are heading for a severe culture shock. That's understandable; we
have been there before. Do not blame yourself. You are not spoiled, you are not to blame if you
can't adjust. Talk, let it out. It will get better.
You will be surrounded by natural beauty, but prepare for a simple life. Squat toilets, cold
water and limited electricity are (in most cases) as far as it goes. For additional information on
our locations please consult:
Part III: Travel advice
Uganda, straddling the equator high on the central African plateau and perched on the
northern shore of Lake Victoria, has a fantastic climate tempered by its high altitude. It is a
landlocked state, bordered by Sudan, Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda and DR Congo. Much of the
territory to the south is swampy marsh, to the east is savannah and to the west are the
margins of the Congo forests. Rainfall is adequate and water supplies are plentiful. A quarter of
the country is covered by fresh water.
The country has made a remarkable recovery in the last 20 years. It is generally peaceful and
stable, and the growing economy means improving living conditions.
The official language of Uganda is English, which is spoken widely. Despite its official status,
Swahili is not in general use, but is understood. There are over 30 local tongues, the largest
among them Luganda, the language of the central region (where The Gardens is).
To learn more about The Pearl of Africa, please become a devoted reader of Bradt's "Uganda"
(by far the best book on Uganda), Lonely Planet's "East Africa", or books published by
Footprint and Rough Guide. No kidding, purchasing such a book (the latest edition possible)
will save you more money than you will spend on the guide, and save us from worn-out
However, we will still try to give you all the essential information right here.
A certificate indicating vaccination against yellow fever is required, although hardly ever
checked at the border. For other recommended vaccinations consult your nearest health
institution. Make sure you acquire the information early, as some vaccinations must be
received at least three months before leaving your country, or received more than once.
Malaria is a serious risk, and appropriate prevention tablets, sleeping under a treated net and
the use of insect repellents are a good investment. Mephaquin tablets (similar to Lariam) are
cheap (about USh 18,000 for four) and widely available everywhere in the country, so don't
purchase too many in Europe. Every Edirisa location has mosquito nets, but if you do want
your own you can get them cheaply in any town. Insect repellents are very costly, so it is
advisable to bring them with you (containing at least 26% DEET). The same applies to
It is not safe to drink local water. It should be boiled or bought bottled.
Uganda is a success story in terms of HIV prevalence- it has gone down to 7%. Nevertheless, be
mature and don't "play" (as Ugandan's say) with "live" (unprotected) sex. If you’re in a
relationship with a local, both of you should get HIV tested together.
Be careful when treating bleeding wounds. We recommend that you bring surgical gloves and
bandages with you, especially when working with children in areas with no medical facilities.
Shoes and clothes
Shoes: it is wise to have good sport or trekking shoes because of the rainy days and the
resulting mud; also a pair of light summer shoes are necessary (sandals . ) and sneakers if you
want to do some sports (like jogging). Locals wear flip-flops most of the time; you can buy them
cheaply here (USh 2,000). High heels - only if you have too much space in your backpack
otherwise somewhat redundant.
Clothes: weather changes from a cold, rainy, autumn-like to very hot summer temperatures
but most of the time it’s something in-between - that’s why you need a waterproof jacket, a
warm sweater, long trousers (skirts) and also shorts, T-shirts, a hat . Because of dust and mud
we don’t recommend night gowns, tuxedos and white dresses, still do bring some smart
clothes (see Part II).
If you are going to be located at The Gardens pack some more nice clothes as you will be close
Kampala, known to be more fashionable than the rest of Uganda. The dress code at the
university is otherwise pretty casual, and the climate on the equator is much warmer than in
Kabale. You can buy nice second-hand clothes for very cheap prices in Kabale and Kampala.
Don’t forget your swimsuit!
Technical and other accessories
We have electricity at all our locations - solar power at some structures of The Heart, the grid
at The Gardens. However these solutions are not 100% reliable and no place is without dark
areas. Bring a torch.
You can empty the contents of your camera onto our computers and burn a CD/DVD. If your
camera isn't digital, you can purchase photo films quite cheaply; developing and printing are
also decently done (but ask us where to go). It is hard to find films for slides, and developing
them is difficult (available only in Kampala) and expensive.
Binoculars and good lenses should certainly be in the luggage of bird lovers, there are hundreds
of bird species around The Heart and in the swamps close to The Gardens.
A tent can be useful if you intend to travel around. Bring a sleeping bag even though we
provide sheets and blankets - especially if you’re participating in canoe trekking or Lake Mburo.
It rains quite a lot; you can buy an umbrella in any town.
In Kabale Town almost everything you dream of is obtainable and reasonably priced (OK,
maybe not your favourite flavour of crisps). You can find a couple of well-stocked
supermarkets so you don’t have to carry a three month supply of cosmetics with you. You can
eat well at several restaurants (including The Home, of course).
At Lake Bunyonyi, the choice is more limited. You can buy certain things at the Rutindo trading
centre and at Bunyonyi Overland Resort, but it is wise to come from the town well-stocked. If
you don’t want to cook every meal at The Heart there are several nearby campsites that cater
for tourists and a Teachers' Centre with local food. You can boil lake water for drinking,
alternatively you can buy bottled water.
The Gardens is located just a few hundred metres from Nkozi trading centre which has several
places to buy food including a supermarket. A short boda boda (motorbike taxi) ride away
there is also Kayabwe trading centre.
If you don’t feel like cooking one lunchtime/evening there are several places to buy food,
including the university, local restaurants (mainly based in Kayabwe) and street food stands, as
well of course as The Gardens snack bar.
Bottled water, and other drinks, is widely available in Nkozi trading centre.
Free wireless Internet is available at The Home and at the university just near The Gardens. Our
computers are few, so you might want to bring your own laptop.
Mobile phones (if you can not live without them) can be used, all networks are available at all
locations. Don’t joke with roaming, you can cheaply buy a SIM card from one of Ugandan
mobile phone providers.
Some useful contacts in Edirisa:
The Gardens; [email protected] +256 75 2558 558
The Heart; [email protected] +256 75 2558 123
The Home; [email protected] +256 75 2558 222
Postal services are quite reliable. It takes a letter about 2-4 weeks to reach Europe, and some
weeks (or months) in the opposite direction. Every package arrives open, and some little things
might get "lost".
Edirisa’s address: P.O. BOX 77, Kabale, Uganda.
There are only two currencies we can advise you to have: pounds or euros. If you are
American, come with your dollars but be careful: nothing printed before 2001 will be accepted
(or it will get rock-bottom rates) and notes smaller than $50 will fetch a lousy rate. If you make
the mistake of coming with unwanted dollars, pay a visit to Barclays in Kampala. Their rates are
the same for all denominations.
If you are Australian, take into account that Africa isn't Asia and that Australian dollars just
won't kick it. (We wouldn't write this obvious fact if an Aussie didn't request it! ;-)
Do not bring traveller's s cheques please.
Only cash matters in Uganda. Even for a big purchase like a permit to visit mountain gorillas you
will need banknotes. Plastic money can be useful not for paying but for withdrawing cash from
an ATM (at the Barclays branch near The Gardens and at several banks near The Home). You
will get money from any card but a VISA/MasterCard debit card seems to be the best option. A
spare card makes a lot of sense.
You can check the current average exchange rate of the Uganda Shilling (USh) at
www.newvision.co.ug or www.monitor.co.ug.
Western Union money transfer is available at Barclays near The Gardens and at many banks in
Finally, if you don't have it yet, it is wise to arrange an Internet banking solution before your
departure. Africa is amazing, you might end up spending more time here than expected!
A sample packing list
- flat money belt for when you are on the move,
- trekking shoes and sandals,
- 2 pairs of long trousers made of light materials
- skirt (useful for visiting churches; should cover you knees),
- some T-shirts with long and short sleeves (avoid white, it’s difficult to keep them clean)
- warm sweater,
- a thin jacket (the area gets pretty cool),
- some socks,
- sleeping bag (optional but useful),
- waterproof jacket,
- knife (do not put it into your personal luggage on the plane),
- plasters, bandages,
- contact lens fluid if you use it,
- some tablets to help in case of pain, fever, allergy . ,
- something to stop diarrhoea and something for replacing the fluids,
- antiseptic fluid,
- small backpack,
- personal hygiene items,
- USB flash disk,
- some energy/meal bars (if you depend on them),
- spare batteries for your mobile phone/camera/laptop (a fantastic investment as power is
- photocopies of your passport and flight data, .
Please tell us if you have some space left: sometimes people want to send us something or we
might need to buy a piece of hardware through you.
If, on the other hand, you would like to bring your own supplies for educational workshops
(especially needed at Teach Inn), pack some of these:
- paper (white and coloured), pencils (normal and coloured), markers and paints
- footballs and pumps, tennis balls
- skipping ropes, frisbees
- nursery school books
You can write to [email protected] to learn what is most needed at the moment.
Visas and arrival
You will probably land at Entebbe Airport, 30 km away from Kampala. If your travel agent is
slightly on the ignorant side, s/he will look for Kampala Airport and declare that you can not fly
to Uganda. Entebbe (EBB) is the place.
If you get a much better deal in Nairobi, Kenya, you can fly there and then come by bus to
Kampala. Nairobi can be an unfriendly city, full of crooks and other traps for a newbie,
therefore think twice before choosing that route.
Nationals of most western countries require a visa to enter Uganda. Do not waste your time
obtaining a visa before arrival, it makes no sense, takes a lot of time, and might include
unnecessary troubles. It is possible to obtain a visa at the airport and other border crossings,
the process is very quick and easy and no photos are needed. Ask for a tourist visa which costs
$50 (or 50 euros if you like!). The duration of the visa is in the hands of the border official, so be
your friendly best and try to get the visa for two or three months. Later you can extend it once
(or more times), free of charge, at the nearest regional immigration office.
IMPORTANT: Remember not to ever mention volunteering, this means complications
and a higher charge! Be a tourist and nobody will be bothered. If possible, avoid Kampala
for immigration solutions (it takes longer, is more complicated, and they might demand
a return flight ticket).
Right at the exit from the airport building there will be many "special hire" (taxi) drivers
competing for your attention by swinging a car key in their hand. Everything is orderly and
friendly though, there is no harassment and (except overcharging) there is no danger at all.
Special hire taxis should cost around USh 110,000 to The Gardens (40,000 - 50,000 to
If you still prefer to be picked by somebody Edirisa knows, tell us in advance. We will likely send
Ken (+256 77 219 9629).
Getting to The Gardens
We encourage all short-term volunteers to arrive on any first or third Monday of the month.
Our official pickup place is The Gardens. To reach there, we can arrange a special hire taxi
straight from the airport for you (the ride takes 2-3 hours).
Alternatively you can make your own way to The Gardens using public transport. This will
require you getting a special hire taxi to Kampala, and then you can take public transport to
The Gardens. To get there you go to Kampala’s New Taxi Park and ask about Nkozi. A taxi
(minibus) will charge USh 5,000 and drop you at Kayabwe, a trading centre just after the
equator. Board a boda boda for USh 1,000 to be taken to Nkozi. The Gardens is the last place
before the university.
At The Gardens you can stay for a night for free, enjoy a beautiful location, meet Edirisa's
multimedia team and listen to the directors explaining the background story. If your
destination is The Heart, you will have less distance to travel the next day.
You are free to reach The Gardens on any other day but the presence of the directors is not
You can also skip The Gardens entirely, and head straight to Kabale from Kampala. Buses to
Kabale are waiting for you at the bus station near the New Taxi Park. Show up sometime in the
morning, there is no schedule, buses leave when they are full. You will pay about USh 20,000
(this can double in December). Try to stay away from Kibungo buses that might be cheaper
but will take ages to fill! The bus will need approximately eight hours to get to Kabale. A bit
slower option is a Post Bus that leaves exactly at 8 am every day except Sunday. Be at the main
post office at about 7.30 as there are no reservations possible. These buses drive less crazily and
they are normally less occupied.
In Kabale, find The Home of Edirisa opposite Hot Loaf Bakery.
Accommodation in Kampala
If you want to stay in Kampala at any time during your stay we recommend New City Annex
located on Dewinton Road, just near the national theatre. Phone: +256 41 254132.
While your guidebook might pitch Backpackers or Red Chilli, the two most known places for
backpackers, we don't find their remote location, accommodation options and mzungu prices
Twin Rooms at New City Annex cost Ush 30,000 with shared but clean toilets and singles cost
Ush 18,000. We suggest booking a double as singles aren’t really worth it. Note that the
southern wing is much better than the rest of the hotel. Rooms 120-123 are what you should
The hotel has a good, inexpensive restaurant, and there are loads of other eating options
around. An internet cafe is just some metres away. Plus two supermarkets. Across the road is
the national theatre and the main craft centre, followed by the parliament of Uganda. Some
ten walking minutes away is Garden City, a shopping mall with a great bookshop (Aristoc), a
cinema and everything else. All in all, an excellent and safe location.
If you’d like to stay in Kampala before arriving at your location we can book a room for you, just
let us know in advance.
Moving around Kampala
Within Kampala you can use public transport, these are the so-called taxis or minibuses (USh
500 to 1000). You might find the taxi parks very chaotic - but don’t worry, just ask a local
person to help you; they are very nice and they will escort you there
There are also boda bodas, motorcycles with a seat for a passenger, but it is not advisable to
use them in Kampala's Wild West traffic.
All prices in this document are for orientation purposes only - they change regularly.
in use from 7/9/2009 - please send any feedback to [email protected]
CREUTZFELD-JAKOB : ON N'EST PAS TIRÉS D'AFFAIRE À peine vous avais-je envoyé ma dernière lettre sur le retour annoncé des farines animales (voir ici) que j’ai appris qu’un nouveau cas de Creutzfeldt-Jakob venait d'être détecté en France. Ce nouveau malade du variant "vMCJ" est le 26ème en France depuis 1996 et le premier cas depuis 3 ans ! Cette annonce tombe a