● Location: We work in the Mukono District of Uganda, one hour east of the capital city, Kampala.
● Eligibility: Health care providers, providers-in-training, medical, public health, PA, nursing students, mature
undergraduate students and other non-health professionals with a passion to make a difference in a
sustainable, impact oriented program.
● Requirements: Volunteers are required to read our orientation materials beforehand, and to comply with our
staff's directives while in country. Volunteers also have a reading list and are asked to complete two papers:
a concise work summary, such that the next volunteer can pick up where the first left off, and a praxis
paper, discussing how the readings and the experience has affected them, their worldview and career plans.
Most volunteers will be involved in either an ongoing or planned research trial, or will develop something
of long-lasting benefit to the program/ community such as a quarterly training module, questionnaire data, etc.
However, there are volunteers who want only to experience the day to day work with the VHTs and go through
our daily work without taking on a specific research or training program. That is certainly fine with us. Many
students have completed practicum, MPH, MD or thesis requirements through our program model.
We strive to find the intersection of the area of any given volunteer's interest with the stated needs of the
community. Since the VHT program is so comprehensive, we rarely find a match difficult. We do not allow
program or research implementation solely for the sake of meeting an institutional requirement. All aspects of
our work and research must fulfill long-term goals of the Ugandan MOH and needs stated by the host
communities. Our work focuses on volunteers fully understanding how a community development model
fulfills a mission to address health inequity in a collaborative partnership that empowers the host community.
Volunteers should complete the program with a broad based understanding of global health inequality.
● Program Length: Most volunteers will remain in country for one month, though several programs require 7-8 weeks. The range has been one week to nine months.
● Cost: For a typical one month stay, cost breakdown is as follows: Airfare-$900-1500; Program & VHT Training
Fee, Room & Board, Transportation Fee-$2100; Medical/trip Insurance-$25, VISA $50; Vaccines $225. All inclusive average one month cost is typically around $3500. For those staying longer, fees vary depending on the associated school, but far less than most other groups out there. Since we have relationships with many medical schools and schools of public health, please consult with Omni Med for specific program rates. CFHI, GWU, GWUSON, UMiss, and others will all have different rate structures for short and longer term trips.
Although we have no formal scholarships at this time, please talk to us if you have special financial circumstances.
● On Local Travel and Time Off
We certainly understand that people who volunteer with us may also have an interest in seeing the surrounding areas. Many of our visitors have gone on safari or even climbed Mt Kilimanjaro following their work with us. However, we stress up front that our mission is to improve the health of the populations we serve. While staying with us in the Omni Med Compound, that means that you are working. We do not function as a travel agency nor do we promote "voluntourism." While you are staying with us you will have most weekends off, but the rest of the time should be devoted to the work before you. Over the years this has rarely been an issue due to self selection; people understand our mission and choose us because of it. Should someone have a burning desire to perform some far flung activity, we have in the past granted a Friday off during a rotation to comprise a three day weekend. That day off should be made up on a subsequent weekend. At no point should volunteers be gone during the work week, and rotations should be completed to their end. Any additional time off should come through a request to local staff with confirmation from the Omni Med office in Newton, MA.
● Transportation: Omni Med has several drivers, one of whom will pick you up at Entebbe International Airport. If you are arriving at night, it is unsafe for drivers to pick up volunteers due to the difficulty of driving in the dark. We recommend you stay in a hotel in Entebbe or Kampala. It is best to sleep until late morning, then have breakfast in the very good and safe restaurant within the hotel. The driver will pick you up in the morning in Kampala, then transport you directly out to our site in Makata. Those arriving during the day will go directly to the site. This trip is covered in the trip costs. Since departure is far easier and is readily available by matatu, volunteers are responsible for getting back to the airport on their own. One suggestion: take the matatu from Mukono to Namenda, then transfer to the matatu heading toward Entebbe. However, instead of going directly to the airport, stop off in the Entebbe Flight Motel, rent a day room for very cheap, shower, repack, and relax prior to your long flight home. Cleaning off the road dust and sweat makes for a far more comfortable long flight home. Of note, we work in the Mukono District of Uganda, one hour east of the capital city, Kampala.
VOLUNTEER: LOGISTICS & FAQS
Raising money for your trip can be an opportunity: to learn useful fundraising and marketing skills, to let people know about what you are doing and why it is important, helping to crystallize your own thoughts in the process, and to become informed and invested in the work you will be doing. Fundraising can involve obtaining grants or scholarships, donations, matching gifts. Also, because we are a non-profit organization, you can off-set costs via tax write-offs.
If you are going to school, the best place to start by exploring the resources and support available to you through your institution. Check out the office of international programs, or its equivalent (if possible, arrange to meet with someone.) Look into grants and databases the school might offer. Also look into any opportunities available to you through other organizations you may belong to.
Explore scholarship opportunities.
Utilize employers’ matching gift programs. Even if you don’t belong to a company with this program, you may be able to utilize the programs offered by a spouse’s organization or one that you retired from. These programs work in various ways, so it is best to get in contact with a representative from the companies human resources office to learn more.
Use tried-and-true fundraising methods like running a race or holding a fundraising event, such as a party, dinner, raffle, or sale (garage, bake, etc.). Try to keep the costs associated with the fundraising event to ¼ of the income received.
Support your efforts by writing or photographing your experience, then submitting it to be published. While this is unlikely to become a significant source of monetary support, it may make you eligible for more grants, and publicizing your efforts is an important step in advocacy.
Take advantage of your contacts. A good way to start is to draw up a list of every source you know or know of who might be able to help. Take advantage of social networking websites or blogs. One of our volunteers raised nearly $5,000 in donations from friends, family, and colleagues.
Please note that if you choose to raise funds via crowd-sourcing or by sending out fund-raising letters to family and friends, Omni Med will not be able to write tax letters for each donor. We have a relationship with Mighty Cause (https://www.mightycause.com). For a small fee, they will compile the donations, send tax receipts and host a site where donors can track your progress and trip.
Handy details about Omni Med for fundraising purposes
Omni Med is a registered U.S. non-profit 501(c)(3) organization.
Omni Med has no political or religious affiliations
Omni Med was founded in 1998, and has worked in Kenya, Belize, Guyana, and Uganda. Our work focuses on global health, health inequity, community empowerment, and social justice.
An average month in the life a volunteer looks like:
Training: When we conduct new VHT trainings, we spend part of the first week preparing for the training. On the Sunday before training we all load up supplies and get on the truck to get to the training site (or boat if on the islands). The training week is spent camping at the site, usually a church, school , or civic center. Training goes all day, starting with greeting the VHT learners and wrapping up with dinner each night. It is an intense week, but one that gives a good understanding as to how the program works. During the last day of training, we wrap up, give out certificates, and then head back to Makata. When there are multiple volunteers present at a training, we often try to schedule other activities locally. For example, while one or two are involved in the day’s teaching, others go out with Henry, Elizabeth or Edward to conduct a focus group or quarterly meeting. Still others may go out to work on a research project, an upcoming protected water source construction, etc. Everyone should participate in a training while in Uganda. However, as you will see, there is much sitting while others teach, particularly given our emphasis on Ugandans doing most of the training, as they should. Try to plan activities ahead of time to get as much done as possible during training weeks. While out on the islands, there are fewer options, but there is still a need for quarterly meetings, focus groups and research.
For many volunteers, there will be no new VHT training. Over the course of 2014-15, it became clear to us that we need to concentrate on the VHTs we have trained already and to decide how best to keep them engaged and active. As such, much of the emphasis will be on VHT teachings, new study roll-outs, and our ongoing projects with cookstove and protected water source constructions, the new ITN roll out, and a new Ministry-assisted VHT maintenance program.
Most weeks for volunteers will look like the following: Most VHTs work as subsistence farmers and they are almost all out working on their farms in the early part of the day. As such, we conduct our focus groups, quarterly meetings, and many other activities after lunch. Please recognize that activities will be coordinated by the Omni Med staff in Makata, so the following are merely guidelines to help orient you. Mornings are the ideal time to work on research activities, coordinate Prompt distributions during home visits, or spend time at the Kojja Health Center or other local clinics to better understand how the health systems work locally. The work week is typically Monday through Friday, with some work occasionally done on Saturdays. The weeks are best thought of as morning and afternoon activities. Some volunteers will spend time clinically with either Dr Kabali in his office in Kampala, or at Kojja Health Center IV, coordinated by Dr Anthony Kkonde. Another morning may well be spent helping to facilitate VHT based health education in local schools. One or two mornings will be spent working out details of research related activities. I would also suggest that volunteers spend one morning per week reading. There is a reading list for volunteers to get through during the course of their experience and it is reasonable to use some of the morning time for this. There is no set pattern for how mornings are spent, but this will be worked out during the rotation. Some may well spend more time in a particular program such as teaching in schools, while others will focus more on one aspect of the research or another program. That is fine. We strive to expose all volunteers to all aspects of the programs we are involved in. No one “owns” any particular program. Please recognize that we are all serving for brief periods of time, helping the local Ugandans improve their health.
Afternoons are all spent interacting with the VHTs. Two afternoons are typically spent doing home visits. At least 2, possibly 3 afternoons will be spent conducting quarterly meetings with the ICCM and other training materials. Another afternoon may be spent constructing cookstoves. You may well be involved in other coordinated activities as per Edward, Elizabeth and Henry. Judith and Ruth cook lunch and dinner every week day and Saturdays, and you will find time in the evenings to read, socialize, or watch DVDs rented locally. Weekends are typically off. Please be extremely careful when planning activities outside Omni Med work. The biggest risk you face in Uganda is road travel. Be sure to check with Edward, Henry and Elizabeth about getting around the country. And let someone know where you will be at all times.
View the volunteer orientation guide here.
Volunteer feedback on Uganda programs:
Since our start in 1998, Omni Med has sent close to 300 volunteers to our many programs overseas. We have sent over 80 to Uganda alone. We have always sought to provide a powerful, life transforming experiences to them, while insisting that while with us, our volunteers provide valuable and sustainable contribution to the local people. For years, we have done so. Here are some comments from our volunteers in 2015:
James Spratt, MS-1, Georgetown: “I felt a sense of ownership in the work I did in Uganda. We students weren’t just following the outlines of some lecturer or obeying a treatment algorithm; we were discovering solutions on our own and working through the problems that unfailingly arise out of any great solution. I would highly recommend Omni Med to anyone interested in global health. The staff and leadership provide a great structure and framework to help the community, but still allow freedom to take initiative and find creative ways to augment that mission. I have never participated with an NGO that was able to balance meaningful organized activities with independent idea development as well as Omni Med did. I wish that I could have spent more time in Mukono and am grateful for the friends that I made there.”
Mallette Asmuth, MS-1, George Washington: “This was a great opportunity to learn about public/ community health and sustainable health solutions, to gain exposure to tropical diseases, and to see from the ground the social, political, economic, religious, infrastructural and technological challenges to solving the problem of inadequate health care. I feel that many of the lessons that I learned in Uganda can be translated to work in the United States. The healthcare infrastructure is disjointed, there is gross inequality and there are social, political and economic challenges that I am now more equipped to face.”
Stephen Stone, MS-1, U-Miss. “I’m grateful for my time in Uganda and am hopeful that I can use what I’ve learned to truly make a difference in the future.”
Sara Porter, MS-1, U Mississippi, wrote about her experiences teaching school children about malaria and talking with the school headmaster afterwards, He told Sara that the volunteers were great role models, motivating the children to succeed. The volunteers taking time to learn about malaria and then travel all the way from the US to teach about it, “was an act of encouragement and solidarity with the people of Mukono District… Sara added, “We inspired the students that want to be doctors to work hard, since they got to see how doctors can help the community. As a future doctor and a Christian, this struck me as the core to everything that public health and medicine can do… By encouraging and uplifting one another, we have an even greater impact. What we give above everything is a relationship that can be a light in a person’s darkest times. Fir this insight, I am completely grateful for the opportunity to have worked with Omni Med in Uganda.”
Corinne McNichols, MPH-1, Tulane: “I was quite impressed with the way Omni Med was designed… focused on training VHTs and building up expertise and capacity from within the communities… the main emphasis is how to supply Ugandan village members with the information and resources to help their own communities and maintain long-lasting health objectives that are going to make a difference in their villages.”