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

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!