Jason’s photo diary: what volunteering in Uganda really looks like


On his two week placement to Uganda with Tearfund Go, photographer Jason Wain captured the amazing experience in pictures. Here are 16 shots that sum up his volunteer journey.

Arriving in Uganda’s capital, Kampala, is something of a shock to the system. Having come from an ordered and relatively sedate Heathrow, the colours, noise and intensity of this vibrant city take some adjusting to. As we had an eight hour drive to our destination in the south, Kabale, we spend the night in Kampala before hitting the road early the next morning.

Left to right: The team - George, Kemi, Jo and Jason.

Our hosts delighted in taking us to see the highlights of Uganda. Here, as we headed towards Kabale, we stopped for a break at the not-so-subtly signposted equatorial line.

Shared with George, this was my bedroom for the majority of the two weeks. Washing with only a bowl and learning to work a broken toilet flush were new and invaluable domestic experiences for me.

The house had some personal touches – always good to start the day with a toast to the Spirit!

Once we'd been briefed by Tearfund's local partner the Kigezi Diocese Water and Sanitation Project or (KDWSP) for whom we were working, we could hit the roads.

And hit the road we did! Much of our time was spent on the road travelling to communities with which the KDWSP was working. There is never a dull moment when driving in Uganda. From the urban roads and their exotic methods of transportation....

...to mile upon mile of rough dirt tracks, crucial for accessing remote villages which were sometimes high up in the mountains.

(...though they occasionally would take their toll...)

Arriving at a community would typically kick off with a meeting in the local church. We introduced ourselves and the locals would do the same, before either explaining how their lives had changed as a result of the KDWSP’s work.

Peninah smiling as she showed us the village.

In one rural mountain village I met Peninah. Prior to the completion of the KDWSP project in her village, Peninah had to walk the long distance down to the local streams to collect contaminated and disease carrying water. However there is now a pump in the village that supplies clean and accessible water. Peninah explained to me the amazing difference this has made: ‘water borne diseases are no more, there is no more burden of carrying water. Life is much easier.’

As volunteers we were encouraged to use our skill-sets to contribute to the KDWSP’s projects. For example, Kemi (right), is a water engineer so was able to assist in the planning stages of a Gravity Flow Scheme for one of the remote communities we visited. As a photographer (and occasional writer), I was able to work with KDWSP in putting together a press release that would showcase their work and help them to apply for government funding.

One of the unexpected joys was experiencing the breathtaking vistas of the local geography. The rewards for the long drives were views like this.

A visit to a community would typically end in a meal at either a community leader or pastor's house. The meal nearly always consisted of sweet potato (that's the thing that looks like a banana, a lot drier and yellower than our sweet potatoes), groundnut sauce, kidney beans, rice, eggplant and inevitably goat in a broth. It was humbling to experience the way the locals clearly pulled out the stops to provide a feast.

...and occasionally a visit would end with a dance! New dance moves were not on my list of expected take-aways from a volunteering trip to Uganda, but they were definitely a highlight!

As the sun sets on my volunteering experience (and here, Kampala), you inevitably leave with lots to reflect on. The warmth and joy of the people visited leaves an indelible impression whilst also raising questions. Many of those you visit won't have the opportunities and choices you do. My time in Uganda challenged me to question: how can I use the freedom and opportunities I have well? Where do I choose to spend my money and time? And how can I continue to seek, understand and join with the mysterious and marvellous work of God across the globe?