Here is a preview of what you can expect to experience with us along with some information on how to start planning your trip.
Safety is always one of our biggest concerns. We take extra precautions to ensure that our volunteers and staff are safe. We also require volunteers to maintain a buddy system at all times and we have a curfew of 9 pm. The premises where the volunteers stay is also fenced in and a guard is on duty throughout the nights. Although we have never had issues with safety in the past, we want to make sure that everyone feels safe.
Theft is the biggest concern for volunteers but as long as you are not moving alone or at night and are keeping a close eye on all valuables, you will be okay. In fact, Kampala, Uganda is known as being one of the safest cities in Africa. But like any other city, be conscious of your surroundings and don’t flash any valuables around. For Kenya, be cautious with all valuables whenever you travel and only carry what is necessary every day.
All volunteers and teams will stay at the Empower a Child guesthouses. All living quarters are secure, westernized houses. The atmosphere at the guesthouses is very community-oriented. You’ll be living with other international volunteers and a few of the Empower a Child Ugandan and Kenyan staff members, giving you a chance to get to know the team very well.
For Uganda, you will be staying at the village compound. The compound has electricity, running water, and showers. You will have your own bed and mosquito netting in a shared room with others of the same sex. There may be times when we have no electricity or running water so be prepared to shower with a bucket of water or baby wipes, and to use a squatty potty! (hole-in-the-ground toilet) There is also no hot water in the village so be prepared for a cold shower…which actually feels good after a long day in the sun. For Kenya, you will be staying at a western guest house with electricity, running water, showers, and a toilet. There may be intermittent outages so you may have to flexible! There may be a small amount of hot water available.
Drinking water from the tap is not recommended. The guesthouse in Kenya boils water to kill any germs and bacteria. The compound in Zirobwe has a no-heat filter. You may also purchase your own bottled water (at your own expense) if you choose not to drink the water provided.
Breakfast usually consists of toast and tea. Lunches and dinners are prepared for the entire team except on weekends retreats in the city. The normal lunches are beans and rice. Dinners can range from the typical Ugandan or Kenyan meal to simple American meals such as spaghetti. The typical meal is meat or beans mixed and fried with vegetables, rice, matooke (a boiled plantain) posho/ugali (mixed cornmeal), potatoes, and fruits. We advise you to bring some spending money for westernized meals outside the guesthouse or when we are in the cities.
There are a few options for washing clothes. In Kenya, you may go to a laundromat near the house, give your clothes to our housekeeper who will wash clothes once a week for a small fee (usually $2-$3), or hand wash them yourself. In Uganda, the staff can teach you to hand wash your clothes.
We encourage and will assist volunteers in contacting their families once they land safely. Afterwards, we let the volunteers decide whether or not to use their cell phones. We do encourage limited use to allow for more dedicated time reading, studying, and letting the Holy Spirit work in this hallowed time.
Some cell phone companies have plans that work in East Africa. If yours doesn’t, you can certainly bring a cell phone if it takes a SIM card. Once you get to your destination you can buy a SIM card with an Ugandan or Kenyan number for about $5 and a data plan for $30/month. There is also the option of buying a phone in Uganda or Kenya for $40-$80. Nairobi have wireless Internet access, although it may be much slower than what you are used to. There is no access to Wi-Fi in the Ugandan village.
Getting vaccinations is essential before going to Africa. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) also has detailed information on their website about immunizations recommended for traveling. Yellow fever is REQUIRED to enter East Africa.
The following immunizations are recommended: Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, Typhoid, and Tetanus. Your physician, a local health clinic or a travel clinic are usually set up to handle travel immunizations and medications. Insurance doesn’t always cover all of the vaccinations and travel clinics also generally don’t accept insurance. So check with your insurance before getting your shots.
To avoid malaria, you will need an adequate supply of anti-malaria tablets. Please consult your doctor as to which tablet to take as they know your medical history best and some tablets have side effects.
If you are going to Uganda then you will fly into Entebbe International Airport (EBB). If you are going to Kenya then you will fly into Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (NBO). We ask that MSTs try their best to fly in on a Monday. An Empower a Child representative will pick you up from the airport and drive you to the guest house. They will have a sign with your name on it so you know who to look for. There are airlines that operate in East Africa and there are several travel agents that offer missionary rates, which can sometimes be cheaper or allow you to bring more bags. The most popular ones are Fellowship Travel International and Ministry Travel.
The rest of your transportation will be provided while in country. If you wish to go with a staff member to sightsee or do some shopping, you can hire a motorcycle taxi or jump in a van taxi at your own expense.
We believe that if God wants you to go on a trip then He will provide the means to allow you to do so. We have had many volunteers that thought they would never be able to afford to go, however they relied on God and He provided. Do not let money make your decision. This is in God’s hands! There are a variety of ways that past volunteers have been able to successfully raise the necessary funds to go on their trip. Check out the fundraising page for some ideas.