Why Music Students Should Volunteer Abroad

A volunteer program Abroad is essential for musicians!

Party in Canggu, Swim with turtles in the Philippines, Teach guitar in Uganda, roadtrip across Australia… there are many things you can do with your gap year | summer | half term.

Here is why we think music students should consider a volunteer program abroad

such as ours…!

boy plays guitar in grass

1.Alternative Travel

Forget travelling to hit up tourist hot-spots, party and move on without gaining depth of understanding about a place and its culture or people.

Volunteer programs allow you to travel new places in a very different way!

By volunteering abroad you’ll likely be in places completely off the tourist route.

Such as with us in Western Uganda!

This gives you the opportunity to become completely immersed in authentic local culture, and take part in different experiences to your peers (Uganda isn’t called the pearl of Africa for nothing!)

Staying with a homestay, as with most volunteering programs, means you live their culture and daily life. It is very different than staying in a party hostel in Budapest, here you become  a part of the family!

On a Music Volunteering Program you get to travel while using your passion for music to meet people, change lives and have a once in a lifetime experience.

Volunteer with host family in Uganda
Volunteer with their home stay family

2.Make a difference While travelling

Tourists are often known for causing trouble in the places they overrun on their gap years, causing degradation and multitude of problems (just look at Boracay…)

But what if you could travel to an amazing destination and enrich lives there instead of damaging them?

Rather than the ‘I don’t know how to build schools but I’m going to go to Africa and build a school’ program model, you’re using a skill you actually possess to enrich peoples lives.

Not only are you getting to experience a whole new country and culture. To meet wonderful people, enjoy new food, see new landscapes.
But while doing this you can make a real difference!

You can inspire the communities you are placed with, teach them lasting skills with their instruments, help them find their passion.

The staff here at the Living Music Foundation have transformed their lives through dedicating themselves to music, could you help a vulnerable child find their path?

Read about the advantages of learning music here

3. Not harmful ‘Voluntourism’

To add on to the last point….

‘’It is rare in the voluntourism industry to find projects initiated by a community seeking foreign volunteers’’ (Thinking Beyond Borders)

That is us.  We are a small local organisation, who local communities and people approach wanting musical training to improve their lives and enrich their futures.
We want overseas volunteers who can share their musical skills to help us train these communities!

This is not the harmful act of forcing things to happen to a community, such bringing in unskilled volunteers to build a school they did not ask for.

This is musicians sharing skills with one another.

Group of friends hiking in Uganda
All of the fun, none of the unintended harm

4. A project you’re passionate about

Sure. If you want to volunteer you can do so with any number of organisations and for many different causes.

You’ve dedicated hundreds of hours to your skill in music, whether that’s playing guitar, the xylophone or singing. Why is that?

You probably think other children should have the opportunity to learn  music and the chance to utilize its transformative power.

You probably understand the importance of music, and what skills it can develop, the places it can take you, the joy of playing!

We want musicians to share their musical skills with people that want to learn music

You’ll get to connect with people from a whole new country, lifestyle and culture, but you have one HUGE thing in common – a passion for music!

Here at LMF we have friends all over the world due to a shared passion for our music.

3 friends learning to play guitar together
LMF staff practicing with a volunteer

If this hasn’t inspired you to take part in a music centered volunteer program, check out our website and read more about our organisation!

The Importance of Music Education

Why music education needs to be accessible to all

It is important that music education of high quality is available to as many of them as possible: it must not become the preserve of those children whose families can afford to pay for music tuition. While music touches the lives of all young people, the disadvantaged can benefit most.

UK Government, Department for Education, 2011.

1. Brain Development

There has been a number of academic studies done, such as this one which prove students who also learn music have higher IQs than those who do not.

As our friends at NAFME found; music students are constantly using memory skills to learn instruments, learn to read music, memorize new songs.
This develops their memory skills far beyond their non musical peers.
Important skills like this serve students throughout their education and beyond!

Developing fine motor skills are a clear benefit of practicing music.
The physical act of playing instruments itself increases hand-eye coordination and dexterity, similar to playing sports.
Furthermore, deciphering a new language in the way of notes, decoding harmonies, rhythm, speed, tone… Tonara describes this as a great workout for your brain in their article!

child playing guitar

2. School

As we mentioned before children studying music have been found to have higher IQs than those that don’t.

Did you know that music education also complements their subjects?

Firstly it helps kids stay engaged; student musicians are likely to stay in school to achieve in other subjects (NAfME).

student writing on blackboard

Secondly, music education helps with specific subjects!

Let’s take Maths for example;  learning time signatures in music allow teachers to explain the fundamentals of fractions!

What about Reading Comprehension? Lyric analysis and songwriting help students use and understand language on a more nuanced level than their peers, as well as increased emotional development allowing them to understand meanings behind pieces of literature.

These skills are important throughout students academic career, giving them the ability to develop more thoughtful prose, comprehend questions, and understand mathematical concepts.

3. Sense of Pride and Self Esteem

child with rocket wings

The youths and groups that we work with come from very humble backgrounds. Battered women, young single mothers, orphaned children, families lacking financial security.

See Here

Learning music has benefits for the self esteem of these groups, and all groups in society!
This pushes them to excel in other areas of their lives.

A sense of achievement is fostered when one is learning music; to play a piece of music is challenging and requires commitment, but it is also a very achievable goal.
Reaching goals in their music education will foster self confidence that they can achieve in other areas of life with some commitment!
It shows them they are skilled individuals, capable of achieving many more goals!

4. Discipline

Inspired Classroom look at how music education teaches discipline to students.

To learn an instrument takes time and dedication, to practice for hours, and repeat the same sequences over and over until it is perfected.

Students therefore need to schedule regular practice around their other activities, teaching them to prioritize and time manage.

This creates disciplined individuals who will find it easier to learn new skills in the future, understanding the concepts of time management and prioritizing activities.

5. Social skills

Partaking in music lessons, a local orchestra, or church choir opens up a whole realm of opportunities to meet and work alongside new people.

Teamwork is a fundamental part of being in a band or orchestra; students learn how to work together and communicate effectively.

Partaking in these groups create a social community where you all share one huge thing- playing music! You make friends with whom you can create musical camaraderie (Tonara) whom you can discuss your favorite compositions with, practice with.

For vulnerable communities, this may mean students are socializing in these uplifting circles over less favorable ones where they partake in underage substance abuse (an issue among Ugandan youths) or crime, giving them the chance to break out of such cycles.

Aristotle music quote

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5 Local Foods You Must Try In Uganda!


Uganda, The Pearl Of Africa, is abundant in locally grown nutritious food. Ugandans can often pick the ingredients straight from their family gardens to cook amazing healthy meals every day!
Rather different to those of us who buy processed foods from the supermarket daily, this food is straight from ‘farm to table’.

Here are our top 5 picks of local staple foods you simply have to try if you are visiting….

perhaps on our volunteer program?

1. Matooke

Yellow banana dish - Matooke

This banana based dish is commonly referred to as Ugandas National Food. Particularly in the Western regions, such as Mbarara (where we are based!).

It is made from plantain (green bananas). These are steamed in banana leaves (or boiled) and then mashed.

This creates a banana product of similar consistency of mashed potatoes! It is often served with ground nut sauce, chicken or vegetables.

Matooke is surprisingly healthy as the main carbohydrate in a meal, mainly comprised of water and rich in potassium, with a number of micro-nutrients the steaming process maintains.

2. Gnut Sauce

peanut sauce dish served with matoke and rice
Credit: Empower African Children

Is a meal really a meal without this Ugandan food staple?

You would struggle to find a buffet that does not have Gnut sauce on its menu here in Uganda, and for good reason!
Peanut sauce is referred to as Ground nut sauce – or Gnut for short.

Gnut sauce is a delicious creamy condiment, made from sweet red peanuts.
In Uganda, it is served with almost every dish; matoke, cassava, sweet potatoes…

We prepare it by grinding the groundnuts until it resembles peanut butter. This is then mixed with hot water and brought to the boil. Then onion and tomato are generally added.

3. Grasshoppers

fried grasshopper in a bucket
Nsenene – photo credit

Grasshoppers, or Nsenene as the locals call them, are a Ugandan delicacy.

Following the heavy rainy season, these critters swarm in masses, to be fried and enjoyed by Ugandans. They are even exported to Europe and America and sell for high prices!

To prepare them, they are pan fried in their own fats with onion and salt to offset their naturally sweet flavors
They are caught and prepared by market vendors who can be seen along the streets selling them by the bucket!

This Ugandan delicacy is high in nutritional value- try something new when you come to volunteer!

4. Kikomando

rice and beans served in uganda
Kikomando – photo credit

Kikomando is a plate of chopped up chappati and beans.

It is a staple meal enjoyed by both rich and poor.
For university students, ghetto dwellers and street children this cheap, tasty and filling plate is a saviour!

So for travelers on a budget this could be your new favorite dish, at only 2000UGX per plate….

Did you know that the famous Ugandan musician turned politician and philanthropist Bobi Wine actually coined the term Kikomando in one of his songs?

5. Rolex

rolex stand in uganda street food
Credit: Rachel Peet

Ah, the humble rolex. There you are in our times of hunger, in need of a snack, or breakfast, or lunch.

Rolex stands are found almost anywhere in Uganda, on every street corner, on the side of the highways.

A rolex at its most humble is a chapatti and a two egg omelette rolled up together, sold for roughly 2000 UGX.
Often though they are prepared with cabbage, tomatoes and onions in the omelette.

Such is the Ugandan love for their rolex, restaurants are beginning to sell their upmarket takes on this basic street food with additions such as avocado… Yum!

Those are our top Ugandan staple foods

What are yours?

Come and volunteer with us, the Living Music Foundation and experience life here for yourself! 
>>> Check out our volunteer program here!


The Vessels band was hired to perform at a function in Lyantonde by a local businessman who had discovered them while in Mbarara. Part of the band’s purpose is to speak about the Living Music Foundation during the performances.

Before Babrah’s performance, she introduced herself and talked about how music transformed her life, later asking the audience to embrace and encourage their children to learn music skills.

The Director of St. Paul’s Kindergarten and Primary School was in the audience; she was excited by the performance and interested in the role of LMF, so she invited LMF to her school.

The School

St. Paul’s Kindergarten and Primary School is both a day and boarding school of all religious sects, but it is largely a Catholic school. The Director is a current member of Parliament for the area.

Why Invite the Living Music Foundation team?

The school was planning to have a Parents’ Day at the end of the year. As is normal, the children are supposed to make presentations in poetry, music, dance, and drama. However, the teachers were unable to provide presentation material for the kids.

After seeing and learning about LMF, the Director’s prayers were answered. She asked the LMF to compose some music and help train the children so they would be able to perform on time. Time was short (only one week) but it got done!

The Training

Disan composed the songs. Patience and Babrah went to the school to train pupils. The director provided all the meals, transport, and accommodation for the LMF team.

Patience training the children how to use microphones in one of the sessions

Both Babra and Patience spent three days at the school helping pupils learn new songs. The rest of the LMF team (instrumentalists) joined Patience and Babrah to add instrument backing to the songs.

The band adding instrumentals to the songs
Disan guiding the children
Children leading their own songs after learning them

The Parents’ Day

Living Music Foundation’s work was considered complete after having kids present their new songs to attendees on Parents’ Day. The Foundation concentrated on the music training and there were other activities that kids learned for presentation. The band helped by playing instruments as the kids sang and danced during their presentations.

Parents were happy and asking that their kids be trained always, as quoted from one of the speeches made.

Pupils in a presentation backed by the LMF team
Parents happy with the pupils’ performance

What happened after?

The director of the school officially declared a partnership with LMF in music training and was approved by the parents present.

She paid all the costs incurred by the LMF team and paid them in full.

The parents promised to support the director of the school in buying musical instruments so their children could easily learn at school.

It was a day well spent. It was great to see the joy of the director, parents, and the children all together.

More at St. Paul’s

Some of the children got a chance to try out instruments during the training sessions
Patience in a jolly moment with the children after a training session
Some fun with the children
Pupils in a traditional dance
The Director of the school looks on during performances
Children in their performance

The Muslim children in a special presentation
On the same day, the kindergarteners graduated to primary school

A visit to Kinoni Child Development Center (CDC)

Child Development Centers (CDCs) are projects run by compassionate international volunteers in partnership with churches in Uganda to support the neediest of needy children in different communities. The support is usually in basic necessities—education, meals at home, and clothing, among others.

The Center House
Some of the children having breakfast at the center

At the invitation of the Project Director, Living Music Foundation went to meet and talk to kids at the Kinoni Child Development Center about how music can help transform lives. She saw it as a good opportunity; these kids are in similar situations to most of the past LMF staff members who have also been transformed through music.

Once in a while, the kids gather at the Center for meals, medical checks, and to receive support through books, clothes, and many other services.

The project usually sets up Center days where kids come together and participate in several activities such as agriculture, music, sports, and many others!

25th January 2019 was set apart for music.

Living Music Foundation and the Children

Disan Kato sharing a moment with some of the kids

The Director of LMF, Disan Kato, took time to speak to the children and encouraged them to be good to those supporting and teaching them. He used examples of the team he went with—Jean, Babrah, and Patience. They later taught the kids some songs, sang with them, and performed for them.

Disan talking to the children about the transformative power of music
Nyamwija Patience teaching the kids how to sing on the microphones

Performances of LMF and the Children

Six-year-old Joy Brier performing for fellow children

The day was dedicated to music and the kids were given the opportunity to show their talents in music. They were split into several performing groups.

LMF, Center staff, and the kids in a joint performance

The center leadership and management promised to buy musical instruments to help the kids learn and train at the Center.

LMF accepted Kinoni CDC as one of its community centers to offer music lessons to in the near future.