The volunteer experience my partner Jenny and I had with ASTCF was everything we hoped it would be. If you are looking for a genuine, meaningful volunteer experience in Uganda, you should consider ASTCF.
From our initial application through to the time we had to say our goodbyes, our hosts, James, Joyce, and Jamilah, were nothing short of amazing, and we will always be grateful for their hospitality and friendship.
ASTCF was very thorough during the application process, ensuring an appropriate fit with their programs. Communication during this process was excellent. Dr. Isa, the program director, and all-around incredible person, was careful to answer all our questions and always responded in a timely manner. They went over-and-above by helping us organize weekend safaris and trekking adventures, and made sure we had the African experience of our dreams.
Now I should mention that I was a novice traveler before arriving in Uganda and had never been to a developing country, so I can tell you how relieved I was to see our hosts' smiling faces upon landing in Uganda! James and Joyce went out of their way to make sure my partner and I felt welcome, and took great care to ensure we were safe. They made our transition into the country much easier. We are so grateful they were with us every step of the way.
Uganda is a beautiful country, with beautiful people and amazing natural beauty. During my time with ASTCF (about 3 weeks), I had the pleasure of staying at the volunteer house in Kahangi Parish, which borders the protected area of Kibale National Park, about thirty minutes from Fort Portal. Instantly I saw why Uganda is referred to as the “Pearl of Africa”, as we were surounded by lush green hills, tropical forest, with frequent visits by several species of birds and monkeys! I would highly recommend spending the extra money on a weekend safari to Murchison Falls National Park – this was an experience I will never forget.
It's true that the volunteer house has no running water, but this doesn't mean you won't have everything you need. Jamilah, the hospitality manager, made sure my partner and I had plenty of hot water for showers and laundry. Fresh, filtered water from the ASTCF community well is not only refreshing, but perfectly safe to drink. Despite this, I would still recommend bringing plenty of bottled drinking water.
ASTCF offers a real 'African experience'. This means, hand washing laundry and dishes, bathing with a basin, preparing meals over the fire (we also used propane stoves), fresh garden vegetables, frequent power outages, using a latrine, and most importantly, meaningful human interactions. Some of this can take some getting used to if you've never been to a developing country, but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything.
ASTCF Volunteer Programs are flexible enough to allow you to apply your strengths and skills to whatever projects are happening during your stay. Projects are based on the immediate needs of the community, but emphasize sustainable economic development and empowerment. ASTCF is making a real difference in the community, and I saw this work first hand during my time at Kahangi. Their Youth and Women's empowerment projects are particularly inspiring, and offer plenty of opportunity for volunteers of all experience levels. I felt privileged to contribute to the Environmental Conservation program, and was grateful to James for matching my skills to their community needs.
Overall, the volunteer program at ASTCF offers exceptional value. The meals alone are worth the price. Joyce and Jamila are fantastic cooks, and always made sure we had plenty of delicious food to eat. I especially recommend the chapati!
I will never forget my time in Kahangi, nor will I forget the amazing people I met there. The world would be a much better place if everyone were like James, Joyce, Jamilah, and Dr. Isa. I thank them all from the bottom of my heart for the opportunity to be part of such an amazing team. If you are looking for a meaningful volunteer experience, I would highly recommend ASTCF.