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The Volunteer Experience in Uganda

Uganda. The Pearl Of Africa. Dangerous. Violent. Barren.

Tell your friends and family that you want to go to Uganda and they will probably have some pretty negative comments to make about how it is not safe….

Uganda is a complex, developing nation. But there is so much more to it than that image of a child with huge sad eyes and a swollen belly.

so, What is it actually like to live and work with the living music foundation?

1: The work

group of friends learn guitar
Learning to play guitar with the Living Music Foundation
community group in Uganda
Visiting communities is a daily part of life with LMF

Volunteering with the Living Music Foundation, your work day revolves around Music and Empowerment.

Volunteers teach music lessons to disadvantaged people and communities. We believe in the power music has to transform lives, having experienced it for ourselves (That’s why we set up the organisation!)

You will travel with us to women’s refuge groups, orphanages, schools, church groups… or any other community that we work with! This is where most of our training takes place.

Sometimes you may stay at the LMF office to undertake 1-1 music lessons.

read more about the importance of music education here

two boys play instruments

And the next day you may be with us performing at fancy functions!
If there is something Western Uganda enjoys more than eating Matooke, its a good function!

If there is a wedding, a give away or most any function near our town of Mbarara, you can bet we’ll be performing there…

two girls sing
Jean and Patience love to sing!

With the Living Music Foundation, through teaching music lessons volunteers are creating a positive and long lasting impact in our communities- without the damaging voluntourism!
Just musicians sharing music!

HOME life

Some volunteers are actually pretty surprised when they see we have full on houses here!
The most common image of life in Uganda is of hand built huts, like below.

However, Uganda has towns and cities too!

The Living Music Foundation volunteers will stay in a house with a local family from Mbarara.
Volunteers will have their own room, and a super lovely and welcoming family.
Here is one our families!

Happy Ugandan Family
LMF volunteers live with a lovely local family in Mbarara

Host families will treat you as one of their own children. As a volunteer you will share meals together, enjoy your evenings together and maybe even go for some weekend excursions!

All of our host families are wonderful and loving people- that’s why we chose them! Some of them are teachers or business people, some of them have farms, we even have some reverends! But they are all local people who want to get to know you.

What better way to learn about a people and their culture than by sharing a house with them!

the food

We already wrote a little blog post about Uganda’s favorite food items!

The photo below is an average lunch time meal in Mbarara.

As you may notice, it is all natural (except maybe the chapatti).

Avocados, tomatoes, rice, nuts, beef, matooke (a steamed banana dish), peas…

The West of Uganda (where our program is based) is rich in variety of yummy nutritious foods! Everything grows abundantly here, fruits, veggies, legumes.

Ugandan Meal

Volunteers need not worry about having enough to eat! If anything, you’ll eat too much as everything is so delicious!

Social life

Mbarara is a large enough city that there is always tons going on! From live local bands playing in the evenings to hiking groups!

A huge group of us get together and hike some of the hills surrounding Mbarara, starting at sunrise! Then we like to do some aerobics at the top of the hill. Much more fun than the gym!

Volunteering with LMF means you’ll always have friends!

Jean and Disan love going for the local bands.
Babrah and Patience always love to go hiking and Innocent is always down to hang out!

The best thing about our group is that we are all young people who like to socialize- who else would start a non profit organisation, travelling everyday to communities to play and teach music!

work colleagues have fun together
The Living Music Foundation is full of fun and friendship

So, is life here is different to how you imagined it?

We hope you enjoyed this little taster of our volunteer program!

If you want to learn more, click HERE

Fundraising Ideas For a Volunteer Abroad Program

Four Friends Travel

So you decided to volunteer abroad? Great!

Volunteers often find themselves surprised by the costs of a volunteer program as they generally need to cover the costs of transport, accommodation, food, and contribute towards the administrative costs for the organisation.

This may seem daunting, but don’t worry! This money doesn’t need to come straight from your pocket!

You are about to embark on a life-changing trip, for you and for the communities you want to work with.

There are lots of ways to raise money towards such a mission, leaving you able to enjoy the experience and make a positive difference!

Volunteers play game with local children in North Uganda
Volunteering abroad can be expensive

How Do I Fundraise To Volunteer Abroad?

Here are our 9 top ideas:

1.Define Your Motivations

The first thing you need to do is define your your reasons for volunteering.
Is it a passionate desire to help those less fortunate? Do you have statistics and facts that explain the issue you are going to be working for.
For example on our program you may explore the school drop out rate in Uganda, or impacts of music on youth development.
Having that passion and defined reasoning will be helpful when asking for donations!

Volunteer teaches guitar

2. FundMyTravel.com

Or any crowdfunding site. Fund My Travel is specifically for travelers looking to fund a trip! It is really simple to set up your campaign page which you can share directly to any online platform.

They also have fun extras such as Donor Rewards. These are promises to people who donate certain amounts. For Example: 10$ – I will send you a postcard, $20 – I will cook you dinner, $25- I will make you a bracelet with your chosen flag. It can be anything!

Group of friends in Uganda

3. Use your human connections

Fundraising doesn’t need to mean standing in the cold with a bucket for hours.

Chances are, you know some humans in this world.

Your friend who works in a bar could put a fundraising jar there for customers to put their change in, or let you host a pub quiz where the proceeds go towards your trip!

Does your aunt work for a large corporation that would sponsor you? (Great for their social media).
Or maybe someone works in an office where you could hold a lunchtime bakesale!

Sell tea and coffee at your little brothers Saturday football games.

Make a list of all your connections to see how they could help you fundraise towards your goal!

Volunteer group teach Ugandan locals how to make liquid soap

4. Social Media

Simply sharing your story and crowdfunding page link to your social media, family and friends is a very effective way to get donations!

Write about the work you will be doing and why it is important

For example why music is important in the lives of youths!

Use statistics and facts that relate to your volunteer work when posting on social media, and post regularly.

Ask your following to share your posts, so that people who don’t know you personally can donate too!

Share your link in relevant groups; such as a facebook fangroup dedicated to your favourite singer, maybe people will support a fellow Directioner/Beyhiver/Little Monster….

Landscape of North Uganda, huts, hills, green

5. Utilise YOur local community

Are you part of a faith group, such as a church or mosque? These are very effective groups to tap into for donations towards your volunteering trip.

Talk to local schools, especially your old school…

You can give a talk in an assembly about your volunteering mission!
Not only would this inspire the younger generation to get into volunteer work, they can fundraise for you.

Suggest a ‘no uniform’ day– where each student donates $1 on that day in exchange to not wear uniform
>>> This could raise a huge amount towards your trip!

Most schools also have monthly or weekly newsletters, you can ask to put your story and a link to your crowdfunding page!

Think about other ways to use the local community, such as any groups you are a part of, local newspapers…

Money in a hand
Your local community can help you raise money to volunteer abroad.

6. Do Something Crazy! for money!

You can get really creative here!
Sign up to run a marathon, cycle from Edinburgh to London, complete a thru-hike, do a skydive, shave your head, get a tattoo, complete the 3 peaks challenge…

One idea is to use Facebook live or use Instagram stories and ask for donations in exchange for dares.
For example someone could say I will donate $30 for you to dye your hair green / sing a song / eat a jar of pickles… And then you do it live on camera!
This brings in high volumes of donations!

Girl doing a skydive
A sponsored skydive is a great way to raise money

7. No Presents This Year…

If Christmas / your birthday / Eid / Graduation, or any other occasion you may receive gifts is coming up… tell everyone that instead of a gift for yourself, you want donations towards your volunteer trip!

If each family member that would buy you a present instead donated the money to your trip, you can reach that target much more quickly.

People might even be more generous as a result of your selflessness…

You can set up a Birthday Fundraiser on Facebook!

Pile of Christmas presents
Forgo presents this year to reach your fundraising goals

8. Ebay!

Create some space in your life and reach your fundraising total by selling that stuff you don’t use or wear on Ebay!

Those shoes never fit, that portable DVD player you haven’t used since you downloaded Netflix, a broken laptop someone could use for parts, your ex partners sweater… Sell it.

You can raise some serious cash AND de-clutter your life to make packing for your trip that much easier.

9. Use your skills

What skills do you have that you can use?

Maybe you can make friendship bracelets, hair wraps, take great photos, sing… offer to babysit, be designated driver for the month, write beautiful personalized wedding invitations?
Mow a lawn, offer to fix up a website.

Anything you can do in exchange for money! It’s getting you closer to your target.

Person cleans a toilet
People will pay you to clean for them.

Now you know how to fundraise, it’s time to apply for our volunteer program!

Click here to apply.

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 musicians should consider a volunteering trip overseas!

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

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.
Music!

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

In this blog post, we look at the positive impacts music lessons can have for a person, from positive results in schooling to improving self esteem. Thus, this explains why we are so passionate in our mission to make music education accessible in vulnerable communities.

Like what you read? Check our our volunteer program here!

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

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.

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.

importance of music in our society here

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

learn about my favorite musician in Uganda here

If you liked this feel free to follow our Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for more of what we get up to!

5 Local Foods To 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’.

Banana Growing Farm
Bananas grow all over Uganda and are an important diet staple.

So what food should you try when visiting Uganda? Read on to find out…

perhaps on our volunteer program?

1. 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.

Yellow banana dish - Matooke

2. Gnut Sauce

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.

Peanut Sauce on plate
Matooke with Gnut Sauce.
Credit: Empower African Children

3. Grasshoppers

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!

fried grasshopper in a bucket
Nsenene, or Grasshoppers, are a delicacy in Uganda.
photo credit

4. Kikomando

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?

Kikomando rice and beans served in uganda
Kikomando – Beans and Chapatti – is a very popular meal here particularly among students – photo credit

5. Rolex

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!

Learn more about Rolex here

rolex stand in uganda street food
Rolex stands like this are all over Uganda, with many making a living from them
Credit: Rachel Peet

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!