We have found in the past that volunteers sometimes inadvertently behave in ways which, although they may be acceptable in their home countries, can upset people in Teso and cause problems, although they will never show this as they don’t want to offend their guests! This Code of Behaviour has been written to safeguard you and your hosts, and to help you establish good relationships and get the most from the experience.
When you are ready to book, please also complete the Volunteer Agreement form at the bottom of this page.
- Please be very careful not to break down or flaunt Ugandan ways of relating. So many problems have been caused by volunteers and visitors who have behaved in a typically European way which is very inappropriate in Uganda, especially in an area such as Teso which is relatively remote and traditional and not yet used to tourists.
- Ugandan children have a very respectful, distant relationship with adults and often appear very shy, especially girls. They are always well-behaved.
- Adults don’t usually play with children as they do in Europe. If you want to do activities with children, organise it formally with a nearby school – you will be very welcome. But discuss your ideas fully with the teachers and check out what is appropriate.
- Do not invite or encourage children into your room or even into the compound where you are staying.
- Husbands and wives, and boy-friends / girl-friends, never display affection or physical contact, even in the home. If you are in Uganda with your spouse or partner or boy-friend / girl-friend, we ask you to be very sensitive about this. Please do not hold hands or kiss or cuddle in public. If you want to share a room with your boy-friend/girl-friend/, then please indicate that you are ‘married’ in some way. It is very important that you respect their culture and don’t set what could be seen as a bad example to young people by relating inappropriately.
- If you are young and single, please be very careful how you relate to young Ugandan people of the opposite gender. They do not normally relate in the very open and physically intimate way that we often do in Europe, but are reserved and distant. Be very careful not to “lead them on” or encourage unrealistic expectations of your friendship. It is not acceptable to flirt or get too familiar, as many younger people do when on holiday in Europe.
- If a Ugandan boy takes a girl home to meet his family, it means that they are intending to get married, so a young woman should not accept an invitation from a boy to go alone to his home, even if you don’t think he is expecting anything from the relationship with you. His family, at least, will be expecting it to lead on to marriage!
- Never invite someone of the opposite gender to stay overnight with you in your room. If you want a friend to come and stay, ask if a bed can be put in another room.
- To safeguard yourself, do not give out your phone number or email address unless it is necessary for work purposes or you have established a close friendship which you want to maintain in an appropriate way.
- Homosexuality is not only totally unacceptable in Uganda, it is actually ILLEGAL. There are serious penalties for those convicted of homosexual acts. People may ask you what you think and what happens in Europe. If you are gay or lesbian, keep this to yourself, for your own sake as well as out of tactfulness for their culture and laws. If you do not feel able to hide the fact, then it is probably best that you do not visit Uganda until things have changed in Uganda! However, there is no problem with two people of the same sex sharing a room. There is a gay rights movement in Uganda, but they are persecuted and some have been killed. A programme on British TV in February 2011, about homosexuality in Uganda, was entitled “The worst place on earth to be gay”. The Archbishop of Canterbury wrote to President Museveni in January 2014 challenging the laws against homosexuals.
- Although it is not acceptable for husbands and wives, or boys and girls, to hold hands or display affection when walking or sitting or talking, it is common for two men to hold hands and even show ‘brotherly’ affection, which rarely happens in the UK unless they are gay!
- If you are in any doubt about what is appropriate behaviour, always ask your Tour Guide or host before you give an answer or do something.
- Smoking is rare and is not generally acceptable. It is prohibited in all public places, workplaces, transport and other outdoor places within 50 metres of a public place. Electronic cigarettes are banned. There are penalties including fines and/or imprisonment. If you must smoke in your room, please do it very discreetly and don’t leave evidence of smoking anywhere that members of your local host community can see.
- Drinking alcohol is a serious problem in many families and is therefore not always acceptable. All protestant Christians (about 50% of the population) abstain totally from alcohol. If you drink alcohol when in a restaurant or cafe, please be discreet and restrained, and do not leave evidence of drinking alcohol in your room or where members of your local host community can see.
- There are some local bars and even some night clubs in the towns. Since such places are not part of the normal local culture, they are only frequented by somewhat disreputable people, so be wary of going to them!
- In Teso, women are asked to wear dresses and/or skirts (below knee length) with blouses/T-shirts (preferably with little sleeves). It is not appropriate to wear anything too ‘revealing’ such as straps, low neck-lines, short skirts or long slits in skirts. Although it is becoming more common amongst the educated girls in the towns in Teso, it is still not acceptable for women in Teso to wear trousers – and certainly not shorts. Please do not offend people in Teso and give tourists a bad reputation by being indiscreet. (You may wear trousers and shorts in the evenings in and around your own room or when travelling around Uganda as a tourist.)
- Men rarely wear shorts in Teso, even when doing manual work, unless they are very poor and have nothing else. It is therefore advisable to wear trousers most of the time in Teso, unless you are in your room or travelling around Uganda as a tourist. It is not necessary to take a jacket unless you want to, but you may like to take a tie for formal occasions. Short sleeved shirts (at least one smart one), polo shirts and T-shirts are fine.
- Be very discreet about underwear. These are considered such personal items that they are never seen lying about or hanging on a line outside. Nor will anyone wash someone else’s underwear. So please wash your own, even if someone washes your other clothes for you, and hang them discreetly in your bedroom or bathroom.
GIFTS and BEING APPROACHED BY PEOPLE IN NEED
- Every time there are ‘white’ people staying in Teso, word gets around and there are always desperate people who come and ask if they can be sponsored at school or helped in some other way. You may hear some tragic stories, which are genuine, and meet children who have been “chased” from school because they could not pay the fees. Other people may come to you asking for help with medical treatment or because they have no food. If you want to help someone, always discuss it first with your Tour Guide or someone else whose judgement you trust – ask if they can find out more about the situation and what they would recommend.
- Remember that if you give anything to anyone, the local community will begin to expect gifts from any ‘white’ person who comes to stay in Teso which will cause problems for others coming after you.
- Unlike in the tourist regions of Uganda and most other countries, where children often stand by the roadside with their hands out asking for gifts or money, this doesn’t yet happen in Teso. So please do not give gifts (especially sweets – they don’t have access to dentists which causes serious problems in tourist areas) to individual children. If you stay with a family, you could give some little gifts to the adults to distribute amongst their children if you want to.
VOLUNTEER CODE OF BEHAVIOUR AGREEMENT
Please complete and send this Agreement with your Booking Deposit.