Cultural Immersion and Community Service in East Africa
98% Rating
(4 Reviews)

Cultural Immersion and Community Service in East Africa

Backpacking with a Purpose: Apply by November 22!
If you're into cultural exchange, meaningful community service, and off-the-beaten path adventure, apply by November 22nd to secure an interview for your first-choice program!

Tanzania is most commonly known for Mount Kilimanjaro, idyllic beaches, and its vast wildlife reserves. It’s home to the Serengeti, Zanzibar, and Spice Island. But there is so much more just a few steps off the beaten path. The country is a cultural mosaic home to over 100 ethnic groups, creating a unique and dynamic vibe.

Meanwhile, Rwanda offers a picturesque landscape full of beauty and culture, but also a dark history. Over two decades after the tragic 1994 genocide, Rwanda is now the safest and cleanest country in Africa. Known as one of the new tech-hubs of East Africa, Kigali’s rising towers, paved streets, moderated transport system, and shopping malls are a testament to the changing times in Rwanda.

Our journey across this vast and unique region will give us deeper insight into the struggles and opportunities that abound, will unfold different perspectives and stories about everyday life, and will connect us to the real change makers pushing for and cultivating innovation.

  • Get an inside look at the hotbed of social innovation and entrepreneurship taking place in Tanzania’s urban areas.
  • Camp under the stars in Rwanda’s famous Akagera National Park where you’ll watch extraordinary wildlife and engage with local communities in their efforts to build a more sustainable form of tourism.
  • Run entrepreneurship and leadership workshops while getting a firsthand view of a women’s microfinance organization in rural Tanzania.
  • Work alongside the Jane Goodall Institute and community leaders working in animal and environmental conservation around Mt. Kilimanjaro, Tanzania.
  • Swim in the warm waters of the Kikuletwa hot springs while engaging with ecotourism and social enterprise in Moshi, Tanzania.
Africa » Tanzania » Arusha
Africa » Tanzania » Zanzibar
Africa » Tanzania » Dar es Salaam
Africa » Rwanda » Kigali
1-3 Months
Host Family
Starting Price
Price Details
Our program fee includes all on-the-ground costs including a comprehensive program itinerary and educational curriculum focused on the issues facing your specific region, accommodations, meals, transportation, excursions, and two experienced program leaders with you 24 hours a day.

The program fee does not include flights, insurance, or personal expenses such as souvenirs. We also ask team members for a community contribution that goes directly to support our local in-country partners.

As a registered non-profit, we're committed to financial accessibility. Our Financial Needs Grant can cover 15-25% of your five- or six-week program fee and is available for anyone experiencing financial strain, including individuals from low-income households, students, and recent graduates.
Other Locations
Moshi, Akagera, Musanze, Lake Kivu

Questions & Answers

Program Reviews

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Program Reviews (4)

Default avatar
23 years old
Toronto, Ontario

This Is Africa!


Volunteering in East Africa through Operation Groundswell was an invigorating, eye-opening and life changing experience! Their collaboration with local NGO's allows you to truly integrate into the local culture and community while making a real positive impact. By working with these local NGO's you ensure that the projects you are working on are not only helpful and useful, but something that the community truly needs.

Our Program Leaders Shamira and Julius unified our group and allowed us to explore what it truly means to volunteer abroad. The operations team at the OG headquarters made sure everything was in order and were very helpful when it came to answering questions and concerns. Given the chance, I would take another trip with OG in a heartbeat.

How can this program be improved?

I wouldn't change anything about the program but I would want to see a more thorough break down of the extra expenses we might incur abroad as well as how the program fee breaks down.

Default avatar
24 years old
Ottawa, ON



I was nervous about traveling by myself to a different country, but the minute I stepped off the plane I felted welcomed and secure. I got to meet amazing people, both in the program and along our travels.

Some of my favourite experiences where meeting different groups in the region who were passionately working to create change. For example, the Young County Change Makers (YCCM) is composed of some hard working individuals who are really inspirational! They helped us settle in and were really nice. We were able to help them build a community library that brings books, education, and recreation to the youth living in Kisumu.

The play part of the trip was also wonderful. For example, biking through Hell's Gate National Park (think Lion King) and being so close to wild animals. Zebra ran right past me! I also got to climb "Pride Rock" and walk through the gorge.

Overall, this is an experience that is well worth your time and money. I wouldn't be able to express in full how awesome it is on this website. It is something you really need to experience to understand, and trust me, you'll love it!!

How can this program be improved?

The long bus rides aren't the funniest, but that's something you have to deal with when you are backpacking. In the end, it was always worth it. Anyway, little thing that might have bugged me is completely forgotten and only the good memories live on!

Default avatar
24 years old
Baltimore, MD
Kenyon College

What backpacking should look like


This is an incredible program. They really attempt to help you understand and become part of East Africa. You stay in a variety of living conditions from camping, to a guest house, and many different kinds of hostels to show us the many way you can travel. They also provide you with the skills you need to get around despite cultural or language barrier and they teach you how to do it as cheaply as possible. I had never backpacked before this program and I felt comfortable traveling and staying by myself during our independent travel time. I never wanted to feel like I was a tourist looking at the sights while never actually seeing the country I was really in. This program provides you the opportunity to become a part of the culture while constantly changing you to ask yourself what your impact is and why your there.

How can this program be improved?

This program assigned us with host families whom we stayed with for a night and two days. I personally would have liked to stay an extra night or too. I do not think I was able to truly bond in that short amount of time.

Default avatar
24 years old
New York

OG is the best!


I can't express how truly life-changing a trip with OG is. My trip to East Africa was an incredible learning experience and was soooo much fun! Please please go! It's worth every penny in the world and as a student, I know the reality of being a poor student.

About The Provider


Operation Groundswell is all about backpacking with a purpose. With ethical travel at the crux of our philosophy, Operation Groundswell designs financially accessible programs that tell a story, addressing key challenges unique to each region and community we work with, told from diverse local perspectives.