7 Years Later: A Reflection on My Ugandan Volunteer Experience

It’s guest post time again! I love these. It’s a chance for our readers to live vicariously (and totally get inspired!) through the experiences of real former volunteers. Please read about Kristen and Haley in our past posts. Today, we feature reflections from Carolina Vila. She’s an American school teacher who volunteered with us in July, 2009. Thanks Carolina for your thoughts and love!

reflecting on my volunteer experience in Uganda I am grateful for the love and welcome shown to me by Ugandans from all walks of life. I spent 1 month volunteering in Uganda. I worked as a volunteer teacher. I went white water rafting. I went camping. I met friends from all over the world. It was an unforgetable experience!

“In 2008, at the age of 23, I decided to finally keep a promise I made to myself in high school. I would begin looking for a volunteer experience abroad for the following summer.

Being a teacher, I had few obligations during summer and could escape for a month to anywhere in the world. I had always been fascinated with the idea of traveling to Africa, and knew that going to the continent would be a perfect first solo trip.

Through some basic online searching I found Global Volunteer Network, a company which would later connect me to The Real Uganda in Mukono, Uganda. TRU is a much smaller organization that hosts volunteers and helps to set up unique volunteering experiences.

On July 1st, 2009, I boarded a plane and would never be the same. My 30 days in Uganda were tough, eye-opening, and beautiful. This post could not possibly begin to explain all the emotions I felt and all the adventures which took place. Instead, I’ll run down a few things that come to mind when I reflect on Uganda today, seven years after that memorable summer.


When I think about my month in Uganda…

I’m joyful and proud. I’m joyful for having experienced such a special place and proud I initiated that experience on my own.

I’m happy to have met other volunteers. Some of these friends I still follow on social media. I know we share a special bond.

I’m honored that Ugandans welcomed me with so much love and I’m honored to have been part of their children’s lives as their teacher.


I remember the day I spent whitewater rafting the Nile River. That’s still the most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.

I remember spending one day and one night in the rain forest as part of a “Survivor” style tourist adventure. Second most exhilarating thing I’ve ever done.

I’m thankful for the tough moments, including those times I was completely out of my comfort zone and feeling frustrated, homesick, or lonely. Interestingly, those are the moments I now cherish the most.

I’m glad to have spent a whole month in Uganda. Staying in one place for more than just a week or two lets you really settle in and taste daily life.


I’m grateful for the long-lasting effects. Because of my time in Uganda I have more inner peace and fewer materialistic desires.

If you’ve always wanted to do something like this, do it! And if you can, go for a month or two. I invite you to immerse yourself in the “Pearl of Africa” and let it challenge you, amaze you, and change you forever. If you have any questions about my experience, please contact me at carolina.vila.melo@gmail.com.”

Thank you Carolina for your words and photos. Any one here interested in looking into volunteering in Uganda? We’re looking for volunteers with 2 weeks or more to invest in learning a new culture and providing as much encouragement, creativity and love as can be spared!

16 thoughts on “7 Years Later: A Reflection on My Ugandan Volunteer Experience

  1. Love this guest post! I think it’s really important to reflect back on experiences later. Sometimes life is so busy that we just don’t do that enough. I had a similar experience volunteering in India many years ago and I totally agree that you walk away from an experience like this being less materialistic (and a better global citizen).

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  2. I’ve never volunteered abroad, although it is something I’d like to do. However I did spend 10 years volunteering as a leader of a youth group. I found I learnt many of the same things you did. Great guest post!

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  3. Wow, your volunteering in Africa and being a teacher to those adorable kids sounds like a lifetime experience isn’t it? And spending a night in the rainforest is exhilarating indeed 🙂 Thank you so much for sharing this inspiring story with us.

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  4. Carolina, the same as kids she worked with, got so much from this experience! True values, things which matter will always be in heart – her memories are so inspiring.

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  5. Such a beautiful post! I love reading about Carolina’s experience volunteering in Uganda. I can imagine that she must have faced many challenges that she eventually overcame during her 30 days. It sounds like she had a life changing experience that will positively stay with her forever.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I think it’s fantastic that you volunteered at the age of 23. You would have learnt so many life lessons that will shape your future. Keep on learning and travelling!

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  7. I love this series. Hearing volunteers speak openly about their experience and the long-lasting effect it has had on them is inspiring. Good on you for making this decision at 23 – not just the volunteering but doing things like the Survivor and White Water Rafting at the same time! Definitely a life changing experience!

    Liked by 2 people

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