I tried this a little earlier, then realized that everyone in 'Murica was still asleep.

Anyway, I work with an NGO that goes into the governmental remand homes to help provide education, counseling, medical care, food, and other things. Hoping there is some interest out there, redditors!

Edit 1: Sorry if my answers seem a bit hurried in places; we live in a house that currently has 8 babies and 9 adults in it. It's about dinnertime, so things are a bit hectic at the moment.

Edit 2: Alright, time for bed. This actually went much better than expected! Thank you all so much for the great questions and support. If you have anything else, leave it here, and I'll try to answer it tomorrow. Good night, Reddit.

Comments: 225 • Responses: 85  • Date: 

inquisitor_ir19 karma

Just curious, why have you chosen to work in this area in another country rather than your own?

ironic_platypus38 karma

Truthfully, because I feel the need for help is much greater here than it is in places like the US. There is more poverty, more disease, more despair... just more. I'm aware there are places of need in the states, but I was intentionally seeking an opportunity to serve people that were in the most terrible situations.

philoman7778 karma

I feel the same way. Also, there is a lot more red tape in the U.S. when it comes to helping the poor

licid4 karma

Another thing the OP might have neglected to mention is that the lack of red tape definitely means you can just go out and do things as there really isn't much stopping you (good or bad.) The potential for actual good work is very real and apparent, but of course it's easy to abuse it and be corrupt or exploitative as well. I knew of a Canadian man who setup a boys-only orphanage in UG, and it was known that he was an abuser and would stop paying for their schooling when they got too old or out of favour. Thankfully he died, there was a commemoration stone which I pissed on one day at the orphanage. Disgusting.

OP, May I ask where your NGO is approximately located? I lived in Fort Portal for a few months last year.

ironic_platypus2 karma

At the moment, we are based in Kampala, and have staff in Masindi and Gulu as well.

fixedzero15 karma

Weird downvote brigade in this thread >.<

Anyway, have you met many other foreigners who are there doing NGO work? Is this a long-term plan for you? Where do you think you'll go next if you stay in Africa?

ironic_platypus20 karma

Yea, I noticed that too... oh well.

We have met quite a few doing NGO work. It's actually kinda funny sometimes, simply because there's always some kind of friction between NGO's in the area. Because the government officials like to have their pockets lined, if you DON'T pay them bribes (like us), you're at a perpetual disadvantage.

In some cases, there are NGO's we used to partner with that now tell the government we don't do anything when we go to the remand homes, so we're constantly in a tenuous state with the government.

As far as long-term, it could be. We're open to staying for longer than a year, but we don't know if that will happen yet. If we do stay in Africa, I imagine we would stay in Uganda to continue the work here, unless we end up expanding beyond Uganda at some point.

TheyTookYerJob14 karma

1) How did you get involved? 2)How does it affect your family life/relationships back home? 3) How often do you go back home? 4) What type of money do you make? Enough to support yourself back home if you ever go back?

ironic_platypus21 karma

1) This was answered in a previous post, but the short of it is that we found this organization through my sister-in-law, who has adopted from Uganda twice now.

2) It's good and bad. Our families were SUPER supportive, and definitely supported us coming over here. It's tough to be apart, but with my wife living here with me, the blow is lessened.

3) We've only been here a few months, so never yet. Our plan (as of now) is to stay at least a year, and if we stay longer, we'll probably plan a short trip home around that time.

4) Honestly, we raised our own funding. We both had steady, stable jobs in the states, but traded that for uncertainty and craziness! Fortunately, we have enough saved from our prior jobs to reestablish life back in America when we go.

iamramy11 karma

What do you teach the children? Are they in prison indefinitely, or do they know when they get to go "home"?

ironic_platypus11 karma

In most cases, the children we enroll in our program have been released from their sentences, and are placed into boarding school. Truth be told, this isn't an IDEAL setup, and something we are working to improve provided we have cooperation from the Ugandan government.

In theory, these children have sentences that are clearly defined. In actuality, they end up staying longer because no one bothers to check their files or follow up. It's very, very, sub-standard, and we are actually working alongside some law teams that come frequently to help revamp the justice system (as it pertains to juveniles) here in Uganda.

iamramy8 karma

Thanks for the reply. I saw a TED talk (Can't find the link right now) noting that one of the biggest missing links in the justice system of countries like Uganda is that there is a lack of representation from lawyers. Are there any efforts in place to educate even young children about the justice system and send students abroad with the intention of returning to Uganda to build a better representation system?

Sorry if this does not pertain to the work you do! Possibly more relevant: what do you think is the most important thing to do to make sure that the victims of the injustice are able to lead productive lives after leaving prison?

ironic_platypus8 karma

Both really great questions!

There is a huge lack of legal representation in all cases, but specifically for juveniles, they are usually not represented. Part of the work that the "justice" aspect of our organization does is to educate the Ugandan judiciary on how to approach this. As part of this program, they recently introduced plea bargaining as a concept here. Because the majority of these cases lack sufficient proof, evidence, or resources, the use of plea bargaining has helped us (since institution) have upwards of 90% of juveniles released prior to trial.

As far as leading productive lives; that part is tricky. While education is a huge determining factor in that, I would say counseling is probably more important early on. These children are usually orphaned, abandoned, or neglected. Combine that with being accused of and/or committing crimes, spending years of your early life in a place where you have no rights or freedom... it's really, really tough. We have had several kids graduate from our programs now, and they have all started successful business ventures here in Uganda.

TL;DR - Not enough lawyers, working on that. Education and counseling, definitely hand-in-hand for effectiveness here.

MrChivalrious1 karma

Dude, pyschosocial and lifeskills education has become the holy grail of developmental/aid work. Seriously, all this...stuff....isn't going to be fixed anywhere near our lifetimes so, for me, the kids here represent a better future, even if not necessarily and perfectly "good"

ironic_platypus3 karma

I know it's not going to get fixed, but it isn't going to stop me from helping any way I can.

There are lots of issues everywhere, and as long as people are working toward those, it's important.

Living in Africa gives some people a "holier than thou" approach to their lives. I'm not in that camp, because I'm not naive enough to believe that these are the only problems worth fighting for. I just had to find my passion and dive in!

Whatever your passion is, pursue that; regardless of where that is.

notlurker10 karma

how bad is the homophobia in the region?

ironic_platypus23 karma

Well, I'm sure you've heard about the "Kill the Gays" bill.

It's pretty bad. Here in Uganda, you can even get thrown in prison for several years for failing to report homosexuality.

It's sad how dark this place is sometimes. I mean, even the most advanced nations in the world struggle with how to approach homosexuality; this place, in many ways, feels like it is still stuck in the Dark Ages.

ironic_platypus4 karma

Definitely more info than I could ever offer on the subject!


staydownchampion7 karma

I went to Uganda a few years ago and saw two men walking along holding hands. I thought they were incredibly brave. Then I found out that it is the norm for two male friends to hold hands, without any implication of homosexuality. Probably the oddest culture shock I had over there.

ironic_platypus7 karma

Yep, for sure.

Our Ugandan counselor actually frequently holds my hand when we walk around the remand homes. Totally weird, and incredibly uncomfortable for an American with the understanding that two men holding hands is just, not a thing... unless you're doing it ironically.

But yea, it's interesting that it's culturally acceptable here with all the fear.

notlurker5 karma

in that kind of society, how would you even deal with a child "coming out"? That's gotta be terrifying.

ironic_platypus10 karma

Truth be told, that child would most likely be completely kicked out of their home/village, and probably be reported for fear of being imprisoned yourself if anyone found out.

It's pretty common for the kids we work with to be completely shunned from their home villages; they won't even let them come back. We do a lot of work in resettlement, so in most cases, we can actually rebuild those bridges after some time and effort.

Unfortunately, however, I would say they'd probably be cast to the streets, if they aren't living there already.

notlurker6 karma

last question, do you think there's a chance they'll change their attitude (or at least relaxed)? Or is the fear so bad, any change is unthinkable?

ironic_platypus8 karma

Well, it's possible that things could change eventually. I imagine it's much like any misunderstood civil rights issue; we stay on the wrong side of it for way too long, figure out we need to do something, and then spend way too much time solving the problem.

The problem, I think, stems mostly from pressure from President Museveni. He has basically altered Ugandan constitution to make it impossible for him to get voted out of office, and essentially runs things as a dictatorship. Considering he is heavily in favor of the bill, and everyone here is afraid of getting thrown in jail for being "The Opposition," its pretty much at a stand-still.

TL;DR - It can get better, but it probably won't for a long time.

ice1092 karma

i wasn't going to say anything but i had to step in here.

the entire second paragraph is wrong. museveni distanced himself from the bill a long time ago (exactly because he knows foreign aid would be pulled), he does not run the country like a dictatorship (he doesn't do anything as far as i can tell actually and there were elections 2 years ago with many many contenders). and the nrm opposition is quite fierce. every other day i see things in the paper about it, and as recently as last week there was talk about impeaching him or something.

the bill is at a standstill because it's a talking point. every time something catastrophic happens someone trots it out to distract people. kadaga at the end of last year saying it'll get passed before christmas is a perfect example.

source: i'm a peace corps volunteer continuously living in uganda since feb '11

ironic_platypus1 karma

Good to know.

I've only been here a few months, so I don't know all the intricacies of everything that has happened here. It's nice to have other people that know the facts here.

Thanks for clarifying. TIL!

comparedtotrees9 karma

I really really really want to get into volunteer work in Africa one day. So far, what are the best perks? The biggest obstacles? The worst aspects? The greatest feeling of "yessss!" ?

ironic_platypus25 karma

Best perks - The pineapple.

Biggest obstacles - Everything that isn't pineapple.

Worst aspects - Seeing the heartbreak, pain, and suffering that surrounds you everyday.

Greatest feeling - So far, it's a little girl that I met at one of our facilities. She was an orphan, but not a prisoner... maybe no more than 2 years old. She had never spoken or smiled to ANY of us.

I brought a football one day to throw around with some of the older kids. I turned and offered it to her - she smiled, tossed it back, and then answered "yes" when I asked her if she liked football.

That moment hit me in the feels more than anything ever has.

NinjyTerminator1 karma

As somebody who lived in Uganda for three months as a "backpacker" - don't go to volunteer. Go with tourist dollars and spend it all. There's nothing worse than a white saviour taking photos of black babies to put on his facebook page and resume.

ironic_platypus1 karma

Just to speak to this point directly:

I have seen firsthand the people that come on visiting orphans trips. Most of them pass out toys, throw food around, hold babies for a few minutes, then leave the orphanages and other facilities a wreck, all for the sake of "feeling good."

It's terrible, does more harm than good, and creates a picture of westerners that reflects negatively on everyone. While all I really have to offer as a rebuttal for what WE do is my word, I can promise that what we do is not about showing off to the world or picking up babies for a while, handing them a granola bar, and then creating a Facebook album entitled "My day as the best person in the world."

I've even experienced some "ministries" that come here to baby shop; they go to orphanages under the guise of helping, then the leader of the trip uses his "financial contributions" as a justification for letting the people in his group pick out babies to try and adopt.

Visiting orphans trips rarely do any type of long-term good. I would even argue the short-term benefit is more substantial on the western end as opposed to the African end.

NinjyTerminator1 karma

Can you clarify what role Christianity plays in what you do? You avoided this question already, so I guess you'll do it again.

ironic_platypus1 karma

I missed your earlier question, but please don't mistake it for avoidance.

I am a Christian, and am not ashamed to admit that. It was the single biggest motivating factor in my moving here.

I didn't create this AmA for the purpose of bludgeoning anyone over the head with my faith. The internet isn't really the place for that, and I posted this for people who are genuinely curious about the work we do.

TL;DR - Christianity is why I do what I do, but it's not what I came here to discuss.

Survived20128 karma

There was a question below but I didn't know if your answer was sincere or not, so... have you actually caught Kony yet? And did the whole InvisibleChildren thing help at all?

ironic_platypus10 karma

Haha... sorry, I'm usually dripping in equal parts sarcasm and sweat.

Honestly, Kony and the LRA disappeared from Uganda (mostly) before that video even aired. From what I have heard now, he's probably in the Congo hiding out, and the forces have dwindled a ton.

Survived20126 karma

sigh oh well, here we go again guys...

KONY 2013

ironic_platypus7 karma


GenKan6 karma


ironic_platypus5 karma

The climate is hot and muggy, to be honest. It's usually around 80-85, humid, and rains pretty frequently. It's actually a very green/tropical place!

Here in Kampala where we live, it's pretty much poverty contrasted by wealth in certain areas. Most places are broken down, abandoned, or in poor repair. Money isn't really the issue, just the distribution of it.

GenKan5 karma


ironic_platypus7 karma

When I posted that answer, it was sunny and 85. It is now raining sideways through our windows. Free showers all around!

GenKan4 karma


ironic_platypus6 karma

I would have replied to this 5 minutes ago, but the power shut off randomly for the 6th time today. Maybe we should just combine our living situations and see how long it takes to freeze to death!

GoGoGadgetDownVote2 karma

Hello from another American currently living in Uganda. I love the weather here. I grew up in the Southern US so I'm used to humidity and the humidity isn't that bad here. I really only despise the traffic in Kampala and the lake flies.

ironic_platypus3 karma

Glad you are used to it! Being from AZ, I don't even know what humidity is.

Slowhand091 karma

Well I know you are not my friend Pete, cause he's from Maryland.

ironic_platypus2 karma

As someone not named Pete, I can confirm this.

freemarket276 karma

If you are not african american do you feel you are taking a job that a Ugandan or African American could be doing? Why does your NGO employer not train and pay Ugandans to do the work you and presumably others are doing?

ironic_platypus13 karma

Actually, it's a tricky balance.

The goal of the organization is to make this a sustainable, in-country thing, without the use of American intervention.

At the start of this organization, we actually hired a Ugandan man to be the director. He ended up blackmailing us, and the connections he had within the government threatened to derail the entire organization. We had to fire him, although his wife is still on staff as one of the nurses.

Anyway, we found very quickly that the sheer amount of corruption here makes it impossible to trust the organization entirely to Ugandans until we have a solid foundation in place. We are actually one of the few organizations here that refuses to pay bribes, so it makes the going tough. We employ Ugandans whenever/wherever possible, but I think it will be at least a few years before we can fully transition away from using Americans here.

Momento_MoriHL6 karma


ironic_platypus4 karma

My sister-in-law has adopted from Uganda before, and got affiliated with this organization through connections she made then.

She invited us on a one week trip in June, and we decided during our time here that we wanted to pursue it full time.

We ended up raising donations for everything, and all told, had to raise about $600 a month in recurrent support and $5,000 in one time to cover airfare and other expenses. We've been here for a couple months, and are planning on being here at least a year!

Lurky_Turkey2 karma

What are your plans after your year there is done? I can't imagine one spends a year working in such an eye-opening & probably life changing environment and then just goes home to some desk job in an air conditioned office.

ironic_platypus3 karma

Truthfully, no clue.

My wife is a pediatric ICU nurse by trade, so she'll probably just jump back into that. As for me, I'm an open book... I studied graphic design, and probably won't ever use that. I used to be in retail management, but don't see myself going back to that.

Not sure, but I agree that it'll be hard to go back to the normal.

leprachaundude836 karma

Was there a specific reason you chose Uganda as the country you would work in or was it just assigned to you? Also how developed would you say Kampala is, I know it got completely destroyed after the war with Tanzania. Are there still any lingering scars from the war or has the country completely moved on?

ironic_platypus6 karma

Sorry, was at dinner.

We ended up here as a result of this being the only country that the organization currently works in. :)

As far as Kampala, it's modern in some pockets. There are a few areas that I would say are "richer," but for the most part, it's pretty impoverished.

Most of Uganda is still feeling the results of the war with Tanzania, the after-effects of Kony and the LRA, and some parts of Northern Uganda were devastated by famine too. It's a long recovery on all fronts.

marverotha4 karma

Craziest shit that's gone down? Also are people generally accepting if help or do they think they will get in "trouble?" I'm not educated as to what is going on there. Lol

ironic_platypus8 karma

A lot of crazy stuff... most recently, a house just down the street was broken into by a man posing as a security guard, who proceeded to kill the entire family.

People are actually very eager to receive help. Aside from the kids we work with, there are a lot of beggars, and needy people in general looking for help.

Paremenides4 karma

Hope I'm not too late to the party! I spent a few months volunteering in Kampala, I loved it and I miss it.

Because you mentioned somewhere that you are christian, I'm wondering what you think of all the religious organizations in Uganda. It seems to me to be a place of extremism. It's great that people can find solace and positivity through a church, but there is just so much propaganda & corruption associated with the churches. HIV rates skyrocketing when the evangelicals decide condoms are bad, people being resigned to their HIV status because it's "god's will" (ummm no, god didn't will your husband to have unprotected sex with another person, and god didn't will your child to die because you don't have access to medical care). People in extreme poverty donating what they can so their church can build a massive crystal cathedral sized church and its leaders can get rich (I'm thinking of Watoto - yuck!). I've also heard of a lot of corruption at the lower level - bishops and ministers pocketing aid money or continuing to accept sponsorship money for kids who aren't actually enrolled in school. My time in Uganda has made me a lot more selective about the charities I give money to.

Corruption is everywhere in Uganda, not just in churches. And obviously many religious organizations are responsible for a lot of the aid that the country receives, and many organizations are genuinely working to improve living conditions. I guess I'm wondering if you think the churches do more harm or more good.

ironic_platypus1 karma

I think you pretty much answered a lot of this in your own post.

There are plenty of churches and religious organizations that do good here.

There are also plenty that don't do so good, and operate under the guise of morality.

As in the case of Watoto - mega-churches are pretty tough for me to deal with, even in America. But I never really expected to find something like that here. I haven't ever been to one of the services, and the points you touched on are part of the reason why.

The fact that Christians in general treat sex and sexuality like the plague is extremely problematic. In a place where HIV and STD's are so rampant, I feel the church should be at the forefront of educating safe-sex practices. I may be in the minority, but I'm not naive enough to believe that shouting abstinence at people from the rooftops is an effective strategy. We should be doing more on that front, but because it's considered so taboo in religious circles, it will never happen that way.

what_bitch4 karma

Are you a Christian?

ironic_platypus12 karma

Yes, although I know that's probably not the most popular thing to announce on Reddit.

It would be a bold-faced lie to say anything other than my faith motivated me to move here.

what_bitch4 karma

Thanks for answering. Especially so honestly. You're right; that might not be the most popular thing to admit on Reddit. But hey, who knows, maybe you've restored a little faith in Christians for Redditors. Things types of missions always interest me, because my sister is going to school for cross-cultural ministries and wants to be a missionary. I, on the other hand, no longer believe in God. Yet, I still want to help people i.e. do humanitarian missions or something. So, I was just curious if faith pushed you or something else. Either way, it's great what you're doing over there!

ironic_platypus2 karma

Trust me when I tell you, I think there are a lot of really terrible "Christians" out there. It's unfortunate, that for the most part, we don't practice what we preach.

I fully admit I have flaws, am not perfect, and consider my sin on par with everyone else. But I'm also entirely after the teachings of Jesus, and I'm doing my best to pursue "the least of these."

Even though there are some bad apples out there, I am glad to at least offer a different perspective on how some Christians actually live their lives.

what_bitch2 karma

I really appreciate your perspective. Of course I have come across my fair share of terrible "Christians." I have also been lucky enough to know some really great Christians. My decision to be an an Atheist wasn't because of good or bad Christians -- just personal, but that's another story. It's refreshing to know that whatever you choose to believe, you can still be a good person :) Good luck to you over there and wherever else you end up!

ironic_platypus3 karma

Thanks! Same for you :)

NeverGoThatWay3 karma

I am here, with one eye open. I will not scroll down, I will not even read your full description. It will haunt me, and I cannot.

I can say this: You are an Angel on Earth, you are amazing, you mean absolutely everything to these children. Thank you for being alive. Thank you for everything you do.

I am a massage therapist living in central Arizona. You have all the free massages you want if you're ever out this way, just message me!

ironic_platypus2 karma

That sounds nice... if and/or when I return, I might need a few!

Konstantynopolitancz2 karma

  • What would be a normal menu for a day for an average Ugandan?
  • What's your favorite / least favorite food you have been exposed to there?
  • What do you think of the Prime Directive? =)
  • What are some cool traditions there that we may not have heard of?

ironic_platypus1 karma

Normal menu - rice, beans, and posho (a flour and water combo). Or some combination thereof.

Fave food - I've obviously had it other places, but the pineapple is amazing here.

Least fave - Tough, but I'd probably go with posho... definitely not my thing.

Prime Directive - If I found the right thing via the Google machine, I never watched Star Trek. I brief glance leads me to believe that the situation I am currently in is in direct violation of the Prime Directive. In which case, I must not think much of it at all. :)

Traditions - I think the most interesting one I've met thus far is the concept of dowry before marriage. Essentially, you negotiate the worth of your wife with her home village. Something to the effect of, "I think my wife is worth 10 cows, 14 goats, and 7 chickens." Not sure how my wife would feel about the cow comparison.

Kingzit2 karma

Do you dare ride a boda boda? ;)

I spent a couple months over there, the drivers are CRAZY in Kampala!

ironic_platypus2 karma

Boda Boda's are actually my main form of transportation in Kampala.

They're faster, cheaper than paying for gas in our vehicle, and it makes the days here seem MUCH less hot.

Still need to invest in a helmet, though.

Kingzit1 karma

They're amazing, please invest in a helmet though, cause they are really dangerous! Its such a stunning place, if you have a little time you should head up north :)

ironic_platypus2 karma

I thought about starting up a designer helmet line for bodas called SixtyFaces (a play off our name, SixtyFeet).

It would be pretty awesome to see Batman on the back of a motorcycle.

Maiasaur1 karma

Be careful, especially in your line of work. When I was in Kampala with Heifer International, a kiddo fell from a boda his mum was driving... didn't make it.

ironic_platypus1 karma

So sad... thankfully, no accidents or close-calls on bodas yet.

imclone2 karma

A few questions:

Are you ever afraid while you are located in Uganda?

How does one sign up to take part in this and what kind of qualifications do you need?

ironic_platypus2 karma

I've had a few scary moments. Part of what I do is buying supplies for kids in our program, which requires me to venture downtown on a regular basis. Keep in mind, pretty much EVERYWHERE downtown is discouraged for visitation by the US Embassy because of personal threat.

I just hold my breath, charge in with a fistful of shillings, and run out with a pair of shoes and some toilet paper.

Marxist_Engels2 karma

Have you found Kony yet?

ironic_platypus12 karma


Chased him to the DRC, wielding my #Kony2012 bumper sticker and a dull machete. I was about 20 feet away when I got blindsided by a mother hippo who was feeling extra protective that day.

I've typed all of these responses with my nose. You know, since the accident and all.

Thompson_S_Sweetback2 karma

Any encounters with nodding disease? That shit is scary.

ironic_platypus3 karma

I'm not familiar with it. What is that?

Thompson_S_Sweetback2 karma

I'm no expert, but it's a disease found in children in Uganda with some very bizarre, specific symptoms. Iirc, children nod off to sleep like heroin addicts when they are shown food, and older children will wander off into the wilderness without knowing what they're doing. Parents have to tie their children down or they lose them. Children who suffer from it are malnourished, live like zombies, and I think are dead by twenty.

It's a recent disease with most cases occurring near a river in Uganda. I'm pretty sure nothing is known about causes or cures.

ironic_platypus3 karma

Wow... that's crazy.

Honestly, I have seen a lot of terrible illness here, but nothing thus far resembling that. Glad I haven't.

Iforgotmyother_name2 karma

So much of what I see on reddit seems to fall apart during the long term period of keeping up with things. Judging based on leadership that will remain after you leave, organizations in place, and social norms of the people; are you confident that what you are doing will last?

ironic_platypus2 karma

As long as there are people that believe in the cause, absolutely.

I think we are on the verge of accomplishing some really great things here, and we are still in our infancy as an organization. But I think there are enough good people out there who believe that the children of Africa are just as important as children anywhere else.

didyoureadthisreddit2 karma

What are your thoughts on foreigners adopting in Uganda? Do you get the feeling that the Angelina Jolie/ Madonna inspired trend of adopting from abroad is good or bad?

ironic_platypus7 karma

Honestly, I think foreign adoption should be further down the list of options.

Foreigners generally assume that getting the kids out of their current situation is the best option. While SOMETIMES that is the case, the majority of the time it is much better to resettle with existing family, or have the child be adopted in-country, by Ugandans.

I'm not against foreign adoption by any means, but I don't think it's the best solution in the majority of cases.

didyoureadthisreddit1 karma

Any advice for foreign adoptive parents? Do you think that maintaining a connection to the child's birth country is important?

ironic_platypus1 karma

I'm really not in a position to offer anything weighty in terms of adoption advice. I do, however, have ready access to my sister-in-law, who has adopted from Uganda twice. She has tons of great insight, and I'd be happy to send you some information from her when I can.

SecondStage19832 karma

Is there any opportunities for people like me to come over and volunteer or work with the NGO? I am a therapist who works with abused children and would really like to get overseas to help out organizations.

ironic_platypus3 karma

There might be, actually.

Luckily enough, our president is here for the week. I'll talk to him and let you know what I hear!

Pardner2 karma

I have a question for you. I visited Uganda to do some research (collecting ants in the Kibale forest) this summer, and one thing I noticed was that about 1/2 of the people on my plane were American missionaries - lots of high school students, and the ones I talked to were apparently evangelical and Southern. Can you comment on their presence in Uganda? I have negative associations with all of these things but, at the same time, they did more good than I did...

ironic_platypus1 karma

I really haven't seen much of them. Most of the people you would see on a flight like that are short-term people, especially over the summer. I could write a whole AmA on how those "short-termers" effect things here, but I'm running out of juice.

I came right before Christmas, and there wasn't a single mzungu (white person) to be found. There are more now, though!

Falconetti2 karma

What part of Uganda? What is the local language there and have you had a chance to pick up any of it?

ironic_platypus1 karma

We are in Kampala. Most speak Luganda primarily, with English being very prevalent as well. There are a lot of scattered tribal languages if you grew up in a village elsewhere.

I know some words and phrases in Luganda, but because English is pretty much spoken everywhere, there hasn't been much necessity to learn the language. I'd love to, but it's hard with the amount of work that I find on my plate everyday!

slothzy1 karma

No real questions, just wanted to thank you for what you do!

My parents are returning today from a village outside of Luwero called Kankoole. It was a life changing trip for them and I hope to go with them next time!!

ironic_platypus3 karma

You definitely should.

East Africa was a place I avoided like the plague until my wife convinced me to come.

After two days, it got into my blood in a way nothing else has before. I hope you experience the same!

khahn41 karma


ironic_platypus1 karma


Shadow_Director131 karma

I was in Uganda for about 10 months. I worked with an organization called Friends of Orphans up in Pader/Gulu/Kolongo area, then later Kampala. Which district are you in?

ironic_platypus2 karma

Right now, our focus is in Kampala. We also have staff in Masindi, Gulu, and Fort Portal, but the majority of what we do is focused in Kampala.

We're hoping to expand after we figure out what we're doing... whenever that happens.

ucecatcher1 karma

Is that waragi banana liquor as good as they say it is?

ironic_platypus2 karma

Haven't tried it, but I've heard that Uganda is pretty good at consuming alcohol. I'd assume that's a pretty good indicator, haha.

titchos1 karma

What is the payment like in NGO's? Often people say its close to nothing. I think your work is just amazing and more people should focus on helping people with their jobs instead of climbing the money tree.

ironic_platypus1 karma

As for me, I don't get paid. We raised all of our own funding to come over here. That may not be the case in all situations, but it's probably pretty likely that most places would want you to do a lot to pay your way there.

ADillPickle1 karma

Do you live in a village? If so, how is the culture? What was your favorite thing about their culture? What language do they speak?

Sorry for the massive amount of questions. You are living my dream right now.

ironic_platypus1 karma

I visit villages from time to time, but part of me is shamed to admit that we actually live in a pretty nice house that we rent in Kampala.

Favorite cultural thing would have to be how hospitable everyone is. They always greet you, always feed you, and always make sure you have a comfortable place to sit.

Languages can vary. Surprisingly enough, a majority speak English. Luganda is the primary language here, although there are also tons of tribal languages scattered throughout too.

ADillPickle1 karma

Amazing do you plan on visiting other parks of the country?

ironic_platypus1 karma

Just the other day we went white-water rafting down the Nile. It was pretty freakin' cool.

I'd like to travel a bit, but work makes things difficult. I'll try my best though!

white_headphones1 karma

Salutations from another American in East Africa! I would love to visit Uganda at some point, had a few friends who just trekked through there. Maybe we can have a Reddit party there at some point.

Also, I want to say good luck with the upcoming rainy season.

ironic_platypus2 karma

I love the rain here, so the more, the merrier.

kebzb81 karma

Can you tell us about the kids you work with? Maybe the craziest story you've heard of how they got there? Thank you for what you do btw, I love hearing about the kindness of others!

ironic_platypus2 karma

The craziest story I've heard thus far is from one of our kids in the program. He's currently 25, just finished vocational training, and was part of the LRA in its heyday.

He was actually pretty high up, and ended up running away after he was forced to cut off the ears of his own mother. He ended up at one of the facilities we work in, and after his sentence, we put him in school where he did really well. Great kid, terrible story.

kebzb82 karma

Wow. That is insane! Just shows how brainwashing/manipulation can truly influence someone's actions. Do you think this type of organization would be able to continue if there weren't people such as yourself and your wife that are willing to give their time to operate them?

ironic_platypus2 karma

I like to think that there will always be people willing to accomplish this type of work.

wildboy2111 karma

Sentence? How long was his sentence for?

ironic_platypus1 karma

It varies. He was actually sentenced for injuring his mother, even though it was as part of the LRA.

Sentences vary here, and I wasn't here when his sentence finished; but I would guess a year or two.

Lingulist1 karma

Do you think that advertizing African development aid with pictures of poor and uneducated people hurts the continent because it prevents companies from inesting and expanding to Africa as a business?

ironic_platypus4 karma

Honestly, not really. I've heard that east Africa is actually on the cusp of becoming the next great opportunity for business expansion. (Coming from an African native who lived in Missouri for 7 years and moved back for business opportunity.)

tinatm1 karma

How dependant is Uganda on foreign help and are there there plans to replace the positions held by NGOs with Ugandans in the future?

ironic_platypus1 karma

I spoke more about the transition to Ugandans from Americans/other foreigners in another part of the thread, but yes. We're trying to get there :)

Uganda gets quite a bit of foreign aid, although one of the things holding up the "Kill the Gays" bill is the fact that many countries threatened to withdraw all foreign aid unless the bill was dropped.

Raven_Rise1 karma

  • what's the NGO's name

  • There's a few people from Uganda in my city (they all have a very very distinct accent). do you know why they emigrate?

  • So from what I've read here, are homophobe guys like the "eat da poo poo" preacher from youtube the norm over there? If so that's bad, but there's just as bad people here as well.

ironic_platypus2 karma

1) SixtyFeet

2) No idea. Probably just trying to escape the craziness that is Kampala!

3) I don't really think that's the norm. It's more that it's something that isn't talked about too readily here. Everyone is afraid to say and/or do the wrong thing.


I am a college student looking to get into NGO work, how do you suggest that I or anyone else get into this kind of work? Does it always require money and do you need to self-support? How does that work?

ironic_platypus2 karma

Honestly, I just fell into it through a pretty sweet set of circumstances. Pretty much who I knew, combined with who they knew.

There is tons of opportunity I'm sure, but you may have to be active in seeking that out. It doesn't ALWAYS require money, but I'd guess the majority expect you to fund quite a bit of your own expenses. That's just guessing, though.

Eyehavenoidea1 karma

how can you compare NGO to peace corps? and also, what is NGO? because i'm totally lost. I plan on joining the peace corps but the requirements are a little much for just getting out of high school but i'd love to do what they offer. is NGO similar and more open? and whats the the most unique thing that these people consider normal that americans could never adopt into a daily life style?

ironic_platypus2 karma

I've never really researched the peace corps, so I don't really know. NGO stands for Non-governmental organization. Since I don't have much information for you, I'd just suggest doing some research into different organizations that align themselves with the same types of things you'd like to do!

Most unique thing... probably the fact that most people (myself included) ride on the back of motorcycles driven by (usually) unlicensed strangers that have no formal training on how to drive a motorcycle.

That, and the fact that power goes out at least 3 times a day here, and running water is hit or miss, even in nice areas.

redditedit11 karma

I really admire such work and I have a few questions. I'm a college student who is studying social entrepreneurship and I'm really passionate about the field.

1) Do you feel at danger being an outsider living in a developing country, especially doing work that some people there might wish you wouldn't do?

2) Not asking for specifics, but is there enough pay in the field to live a comfortable lifestyle? Everywhere I look to intern or work is pretty much volunteer work or pay to participate, and while I'm OK with that now I wonder if it is feasible for me to do after college with loan debts, etc.

3) How did you get involved with your organization/where should I be looking/what should I be doing in order to find a good/meaningful job in the field?


ironic_platypus1 karma

1) At first, yes. But once you start to understand the culture and the people, a lot of that goes away. I still watch myself wherever I go, but nothing crazy has happened to me.

2) I touched on this earlier, but I actually had to fund-raise to come. I'm working on a volunteer basis. The organization DOES offer paid positions in some situations, but that wasn't the case for me... yet? I don't know if that changes with other organizations, but I have heard that most places want you to raise at least some of your support.

3) This opportunity really presented itself to me through my sister-in-law. She invited us for a week in June (she was affiliated at the time), and we ended up coming full-time shortly thereafter. I didn't really look around for Africa; Africa found me.

mostfavorite1 karma

Do you have the opportunity to connect with Ugandans who are running charity/NGO operations? What kinds of development projects are Ugandans in your city prioritizing? Thanks for your work!

ironic_platypus2 karma

We have some networking with Ugandans doing this kind of work, but because I'm essentially a step removed from that aspect of our work, I don't know most of the ins and outs there.

I know the major focuses here are on things like health care, preventable disease, and development; so mostly education.

mread5311 karma

No question! Just want to say thanks for making the world a better place!

ironic_platypus1 karma


clauds0 karma

As a college student, would you recommend taking a year off to travel abroad and join an aid project in a developing country?

What do you think are the most important resources in the area you're in? Better education, or access to education? Donations? Resources?

ironic_platypus0 karma

I think anything you can do to help out those less fortunate is worth investing your time in.

As far as the most important resources... I would say that better education is a start. But it's hard to say that makes a huge difference in a place where they still struggle with clean water, preventable disease, poverty and the like. It's a question that doesn't have an easy answer, because everything trickles down in ways that I don't think any of us can fully understand.

aeisenst0 karma

Have you done anything about that Kony shit yet? Get on that.

ironic_platypus1 karma

Have you heard about him for a while?

There's a reason for that.

Nony 2013

prakis0 karma

Many times I wished to help but never able to take a step forward.You are doing something which I want to but I wont.


ironic_platypus4 karma

Honestly, thank you. I don't consider myself a hero; just answering the call placed before me.

I used to be that person, and I'll just say hang in there. Once your eyes are opened to this kind of thing, it's hard to ignore. Maybe try coming to Kampala for a week!

DISCLAIMER - Most people that visit Uganda run back to America screaming for their lives. You've been warned!

prakis1 karma

Thank you for your personal reply.

I am basically from India, moved to Ann Arbor(US) for education. I donated for orphans little help here and there but never gave my time and effort to really help them. That scares me I don't have such strong will. I will take your suggestion I will spend a week or two in a place like that in coming 4,5 years.

ironic_platypus1 karma

Pursue your heart, my friend. Africa isn't for everyone, and I definitely thought it wasn't for me. If you want to come, don't be afraid. It's not so bad once you get here!

forcefulentry-6 karma

Who cares

ironic_platypus4 karma

Not you, and that's ok!

W00ster-7 karma

What the hell is an NGO?

Maybe an explanation had been in place but I guess you expect everyone to be an expert on all abbreviations in the world.

ironic_platypus6 karma

Non-governmental organization.

Sorry, I guess I just assumed people might know it. Thanks for clarifying!

DumbassRetard-11 karma


ironic_platypus5 karma

Well, equal amounts of both are probably warranted.

If it helps, I got vaccinated for everything except nuclear holocaust and space bats when I came over.

bonterra3 karma

In Africa, names are very often used to describe details around an individual's birth. In this case, I think the parents' of our friend "DumbassRetard," followed suit.

Thanks for doing such good work! We need more people like you.

ironic_platypus2 karma

Thanks! I don't want to take too much credit; I just view it as an opportunity to help people that might not get helped otherwise.