The Real Uganda logo is a traditional grass thatched hut

The Real Uganda

Why choose The Real Uganda?

Why volunteer with The Real Uganda?

• Immerse yourself in the beauty and complexity of Ugandan life.
• Build relationships with ordinary Ugandans working hard to improve our society.
• Learn what Uganda has to offer its people, and look for ways to improve access to it.

The communities we work with want to learn from international volunteers. They also want to show off their own knowledge and traditions. Ideas and cultures are exchanged and appreciated in true collaboration.

Volunteers offer their time, and learn about our way of life, through:
• Teaching in primary schools
• Assisting in rural public health initiatives
• Maintaining organic farms
• Supporting women's empowerment groups

We have volunteers arriving and departing on a rolling basis. Our placements begin on the 1st and 15th of every month and last 2 to 12 weeks.

Please click the links get to know more about us!


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Yes, I recommend this program

The Real Uganda

The Real Uganda is an exceptional program. It's powerful in giving you the best experience possible and humble since it focuses on Uganda and nothing more. If you are eager to know the country or don't know at all the Sub-Saharan Africa this is the right place to start. I don't believe there is a more local program than this out there. Moreover, not every program in Africa offers you the opportunity to live a 100% African live such as with this program. More beautiful than the country itself were the relationships this program allowed me to form.

  • If you like to be surrounded by people of your culture this may not be the program for you, unless you bring friends.
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Yes, I recommend this program

An experience I’ll never forget

I first stumbled across this incredible program doing an assignment about malaria for my undergraduate degree, and quickly was drawn in by everything it stood for. An organization dedicated to sharing culture, embracing the uncomfortable, helping communities without damaging, and doing away with what I loved hearing Leslie call “Poverty Porn”. Now, between me finding this organization, and working out going, a little thing called Covid 19 hit and there really was no in and out. Leslie kept in contact with me for the 2 years that I was interested, and when boarders opened up and things felt safe for travel, she was so supportive in helping me make sure I was going to be able to come over safely with all the precautions I would need so that I wouldn’t bring any illness with me. This was a first for both of us, me, a 24 year old, traveling by herself for the first time, to the other side of the globe no less, and for Leslie, I was her first volunteer to come after borders opened up with covid. Leslie checked in with me all throughout my flight, arranged a ride for me to her home from the airport, and welcomed me into her home with a hot meal, a big hug, and a very much needed bed. I always think about sitting at her table, laughing and sharing food with her and Esther’s kids, and going through what to expect for the next 11 days I was there, and what I would be doing in the different districts. The next morning, things quickly changed when I got a notice from the Ugandan Government that my Covid test came back positive. I had taken every precaution before coming, with every vaccination, booster, and even 5 negative tests before flying. It was scary, confusing, and I was wracked with guilt- I came here to put my Public Health degree to use and instead I’m this plague rat who traveled during a pandemic and brought it with me. Leslie, while also panicked for her family, helped me stay calm, and figure out what to do. She worked with her friend (and soon to be mine as well) Jonathan to find me a home to quarantine in, and kept checking in on me every single day that I needed to stay quarantined. Jonathan was an incredibly kind man to a confused & so painfully American stranger, coming to check on me every day to make sure I took walks and got to talk to someone. Leslie and Jonathan helped show me the beauty of Entebbe (masked & socially distant) and the incredible heart and hospitality of Ugandan people. Once I tested negative, Jonathan took me out into the city with his wife & kids, and I got to see, taste, and experience more of Uganda. Leslie talked me through (and laughed ) my first boda boda experience, and although it’s been a little over a year since I went (Jan 2022), this was truly the experience of a lifetime that I will never, ever forget. 38 hours of travel time, lost luggage, Covid Positive, across the globe, and I never once felt alone. I am hoping to go back again, hopefully for a few months at a time and not bring a virus with me. I learned so much, and this truly was an experience I will never forget. Plus, I did not realize how badly I would crave a cold cup of mango juice, cassava & rice. This is an incredibly long review, but a quick version if you’re debating this volunteer experience: do it. You’ll be so supported, cherished, and have an experience unlike any other.

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Yes, I recommend this program

A Meaningful Adventure

My time spent with The Real Uganda was and still remains one of the highlights of my young adult life. Supportive in every way from application to departure and beyond was Leslie’s and Esther’s strength. I felt protected, cared for and listened to during my few months in UG. It may have been some years ago but I find myself still going back as often as my life allows me just to visit and reconnect with the folks I met when I was there. To live amongst every day Ugandan people learning from their ways, and approaches to modern days’ challenges was pivotal to the way I navigated the world after. Even today. I’m able to critically assess organizations and projects based on a lot of the knowledge Ugandan folks taught me. The way TRU and their partners communicate and bring you into their home is like nothing else I’ve ever experienced. You may arrive as a visitor, with an outsiders POV, but you will absolutely leave with a family and with insight that you will gain in very few other exchange experiences. Don’t hesitate! Go now! -Alyssa

  • Community support
  • Comfy living
  • So fun
  • You’ll never stay long enough!
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Yes, I recommend this program

The Real Uganda

I volunteered for 2 weeks with The Real Uganda in 2017, which was my first exposure to this beautiful country. Leslie could not have provided better information, details and support from the time I signed up to volunteer, and we actually are still in contact! I would not hesitate to recommend TRU to anyone, and highly encourage the “Agriculture and Conservation” project. You will not regret meeting Leslie and her team, and you CERTAINLY will love all that Uganda has to offer!

I loved it so much I’ve now been back 3 more times, with a 4th trip scheduled :D

  • Organization knowledge and support
  • Stunning country
  • Beautiful people
  • Stay hydrated and listen to Leslie!
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Yes, I recommend this program

2 amazing volunteering experiences!!

I volunteered on 2 occasions with The Real Uganda - the first time in a local Mukono school, the second time with a local NGO partner. I can't say how transformative that Leslie and the team had on me personally. I could see the impact of my work every single day. I cannot recommend The Real Uganda enough. From early conversations with Leslie, the safety and thought that goes into the experience, and then the credible partners you get to work with -- its incredible. I've been back a 3rd time already on a holiday and plan to re-visit again in the not-too-distant future.


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Staff Interviews

These are in-depth Q&A sessions with program leaders.

Leslie Weighill

Job Title
Director and Volunteer Coordinator
Leslie is the founder of The Real Uganda and has lived in Uganda full-time for over 15 years. Currently the organization’s executive director, she ensures The Real Uganda continues to build new partnerships and keeps projects community focused. Leslie's passion is introducing international volunteers to real life in Uganda and giving them the opportunity to work on locally-led initiatives.

On top of her dedication to The Real Uganda, Leslie is mum to a lively 7 year old boy, whom she's proudly raising in Uganda.
Leslie posing in a field

What is your favorite travel memory?

Wow - there are so many! From soca dancing in a random Jamaican bar, to attending a traditional wedding in Ghana, to road-tripping through Israel, to being proposed to by my long time boyfriend on the steps of the Sacre Coeur in Paris.... how do I choose just one?

Perhaps it was while volunteering in Ghana, I had hurt myself slightly and my students gathered around to sympathize and comfort me. It was about 10 days into my 3 months and we hadn't properly broken the ice. My vulnerability allowed the kids to physically touch me and examine me up close. I was their first international volunteer teacher, and up to then, they were a reserved bunch. After that, it was smooth sailing for all of us!

How have you changed/grown since working for your current company?

I spent my 20s working and traveling - gaining skills and experiences - and landed in Uganda at the age of 30 to volunteer in mid-2004. I absolutely fell in LOVE and founded The Real Uganda, in order to stay in this wonderful country long-term.

These past 16 years have grown me into a confident community collaborator and youth mentor. I've also become a mother.

Living and working in Uganda has made me recognize, understand, and own my white/western privilege. I'm doing my best to help international volunteers through this process as well. Volunteers are always welcome in Uganda. We simply need to remember that it is Ugandans who are in charge and then support them whole-heartedly. Which is exactly what The Real Uganda expects its volunteers to do.

What is the best story you've heard from a return student?

This is another very hard one to choose. After hosting over 1,000 volunteers, we've seen it all!

I've had so many students come to get international work experience through volunteering - and return year after year to East Africa in paying jobs in their field. We get to resume our relationship as equals.

I've watched volunteers meet each other in Uganda, fall in love, get married, and come back to enjoy their honeymoon with us.

I've written recommendation letters for former volunteers in order to get into graduate school, who go on to achieve their professional goals. They are international teachers, logistics professionals, social workers, doctors, nurses....

A number of our former volunteers have also gone on to found non-profit organizations in their own countries that responsibly support those in need in Uganda and around the world.

If you could go on any program that your company offers, which one would you choose and why?

This one is easy! Our Empower Women in Uganda program. I actually do join our women's groups in the field more than a few times each month. It's cathartic, joyful, and physically invigorating - absolutely amazing for my soul.

Together we dig in their communal gardens, make jewellery and baskets, cook, and watch our children run around free as birds. Immersing myself into traditional, rural, Uganda life is like coming home. The solidarity among our women is deep and beautiful to behold.

What makes your company unique? When were you especially proud of your team?

The Real Uganda is indeed different from other international volunteering organizations.

Way back in 2005, we started as an initiative to bring skills and funding to locally-led community-based organizations. The Real Uganda has since evolved into a network of international volunteers and Ugandan leaders transforming communities.

We're not here to 'save' Uganda - but rather introduce volunteers to the beauty and complexity of Ugandan culture and encourage them to build relationships with ordinary Ugandans working hard to improve their society.

We're not aiming for economic self-sufficiency, but group solidarity, team building, and shared leadership. These are the underlying cultural values found in Uganda. This is what our Ugandan partners want from our volunteers. And that is what we strive to bring them.

Sounds pretty empowering, eh?

What do you believe to be the biggest factor in being a successful company?

There are 4 main reasons why we've continued to host international volunteers for over 15 years.

1. We’re Local: Our offices, staff, and partners are fully located in Uganda. The Real Uganda is on the ground with encouragement and support to ensure volunteer success. 100% of our funding stays in Uganda.

2. We’re Experienced: We’ve hosted over 1,000 volunteers from all over the world. Myself and The Real Uganda's staff and partners have worked successfully with international volunteers for over 15 years. Just check out our reviews on this site!

3. We’re Relevant: Our partner organizations are Ugandan-run and engage in Ugandan-led activities. Activities that help and develop real people and communities, on their terms.

4. We’re Specialized: This is REALLY important - we focus on Uganda and do not maintain remote relationships with programs all over the globe. Not only are we on the ground to support volunteers, but we are ourselves immersed in Ugandan life and experience all its successes and challenges everyday.