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

Amazing time

Reflecting on my time with The Real Uganda, I have such positive memories. It was truly an extraordinary adventure where I experienced and learned so much. The first week was challenging due to the significant differences. While I anticipated it would be different from what I was used to, you can never fully prepare for it. Once I adjusted, though, I cherished every moment. Leslie and Liz welcomed me warmly, which was very comforting. They helped me with everything.

Initially, I went to Uganda with the intention of teaching at the primary school, but I quickly realized it wasn't quite the right fit for me, so I decided to spend my time differently. I started a crowdfunding campaign and managed to raise a significant amount of money. With this fund, I, along with the local community, renovated the school building, built a playground from wood, and purchased toys. This truly made my time there special, and I'm grateful to have been able to leave something beautiful behind. I'm incredibly thankful for this experience.

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Yes, I recommend this program

Mukono with the Real Uganda

Incredible experience. Super challenging. Leslie was a fantastic support through the whole program. Felt like I received a genuine Ugandan experience. Leslie connected me with a fantastic local organisation that is really in it's early stages of development. Spending time in the villages and meeting true locals and hearing their stories has changed me. Uganda is a beautiful country so spending a month it wasn't difficult to fill my time. Go into an experience like this with an open mind and heart.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
Go in with an open mind.
  • Culture
  • People
  • Music
  • Food
  • Difficult life in the villages
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Yes, I recommend this program

An Amazing, Life-Changing Experience

I participated in The Real Uganda's Public Health Improvement program and spent most weekdays volunteering at a health center (which had an outpatient, antenatal, and antiretroviral therapy clinic). Sometimes, I also built mud stoves during the day and bonded with my host family in the evening.

Although I traveled to Uganda as a volunteer, I gained more from my experiences with the locals than I could have ever imagined. I formed such strong bonds with the people at my volunteer site and my host family -- we keep in contact to this day.

While in Uganda, I lived in a village with the sweetest and most caring family. There was so much love and happiness within their house, and we now consider each other family. Side note: Although I thought it would be difficult to get used to having no running water (which meant using outdoor pit latrines and taking cold bucket showers), I adapted to it pretty quickly and it was just fine! Please don't let this deter you.

This program allowed me to be fully immersed in Ugandan culture and I LOVED that. The Real Uganda is the absolute opposite of "voluntourism", and exactly what I was looking for. Ugandan culture emphasizes joy, gratefulness, community, and kindness to all. While living in Uganda, I learned and began to embody the country’s values. It was typical to remain leisurely and take the time to fully experience the surrounding people and environments. So if you decide to participate in this program, please allow yourself to enjoy this way of life.

Leslie (the program founder) was amazing and extremely helpful, from start to finish. As soon as I confirmed my program dates, Leslie began helping me prepare. In the months leading up to my arrival, she continued to walk me through each step of my international travel journey. While in Uganda, Leslie became my second mom. I always went to her with questions, funny stories, and any concerns, and she was always empathetic, honest, and transparent. I also think it's important to note that she conducts this program out of the kindness of her heart. Although she experiences small financial gain from it, Leslie understands the value of the experience she is able to provide to travelers/volunteers at an affordable price. Volunteering through The Real Uganda is 100% worth it, and I would do it a million more times if I could.

At the end of my fourth and final week in Uganda, I called my mother and told her I wanted to live in Uganda -- The Real Uganda fostered the love for this beautiful country that grew within me. Ugandan holds a big piece of my heart, and I plan to return within the next year and travel through The Real Uganda once again.

What is your advice to future travelers on this program?
When you arrive at your placement in Uganda, don’t hold back, try not to overthink the little things, and live in the moment. Take every opportunity to try new things, say hi to everyone around you, and speak the language as much as possible. The people are so friendly, and you will not regret interacting with them as much as possible.

Also, I would advise taking others’ comments with a grain of salt, prior to departure. My family was nervous about me traveling so far alone, and they continued to warn me of all that could go wrong. If I could do it again, I would instead arrive at my placement thinking of all the things that could go right, and everything that I might (and ultimately, did) gain from the experience.
  • Full cultural immersion
  • Opportunities for connection and relationship building
  • Real, meaningful and impactful volunteer work
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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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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.