Beacon of Hope Uganda

Not Verified What's this?
8.7 / 10 after 23 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

Submit a review

We are a family of four who served with BoH in July 2015. We cannot recommend this org for many reasons, primarily what we perceive as lack of integrity of the director. We were to stay five weeks but we left after two. The accommodation had no lights, we shared the family toilet, a hole in the ground, the situation with the " new" volunteer house behind the director, Isaacs house, was unpleasant..no one offered to clean the room in two weeks, or ask if we needed anything, everyone was very busy at Iaascs house doing their own thing, and while did feel welcome, we never felt we got the experience we expected or paid a high price for. You should know if you are reading this, I'm a former peace corps vol, so I can stand it if there's no running water, what I can't stand is a cheat, and it was clear after a few days we were being taken advantage of.
We sent advance payment of $1400 usd and they were expecting more, but after seeing the situation we realized we would not pay or stay more...we got no drinking water, ( we bought our own at market) food was rice and beans nearly every evening, and even had to ask every time we needed transport and for this they wanted more money. When we asked for different food, such as meat or fruit we were told it was expensive, so we gave more money..then after paying equal to $30 to Scovia for chicken, we asked if we could have chicken Fri night, she told me that the money was already spent! This caused me to complain to Iasaac, who yelled at her in front of me, which was uncomfortable, and then, only then the food improved. But there was never really an attempt to make a nutritious meal on our behalf..and we have two small kids who were quite hungry most days..again, I realize we were going to volunteer we did not expect five star service but we we had paid 1400 for two weeks..and at least thought we'd have water and decent meals. We talked to Iasaac a bit about our concerns but we felt like well, let's not say too much, maybe the money is all going to good causes. But day by day we found deception and we didn't appreciate the way he treated staff..he had two boys working for him who HAD NOT GOT PAID for more than a month. We believe this to be true and when I asked Iasaac about this topic he got angry, ended up firing the guy who told us! What kind of leader is this?! From the actual director of the school (Moses) where we served, we found out Isaac doesn't have anything to do with the school oficially, and over three years he's partnered with the school to send vols he has not once helped the school financially, this news came as a shock. We honestly have no idea where our fees went, and on top of that we donated $200 extra to help some junior high kids in an athletic program my husband set up but after ONE DAY Isaac cancelled the program and said it was too expensive to run...no doubt he thought we would cough up more money but we told him that very day we were leaving his house and we moved to stay at African Village Hotel, where we paid half the price of what Isaac was charging us and of course we had showers, toilets, good food. All in all including the " extras" we kept getting charged for, we gave nearly $2,000 usd to Isaac and stayed with him two weeks...we haven't an idea because he never explained when asked, how the money was used but we are certain none of our money went to the school in Kilagi where we spent our time, which is sad because they desperately needed it. By the way, we were met at airport an hour late, got no orientation, no tshirts, no tour as they say on website..the site is deceptive! There was no plan for us, we were just told to go to the school then we did what we did on our own, with Isaac showing up one day only to snap pics.
My husband is an easy going guy and we decided not to confront Isaac on his behavior because we felt like he'd get defensive and we just didn't want to make things tense. For us, it seems he has confused the idea of non- profit with profit, and seems too keen on money matters..for example he was reading a book at home about "How to become a Millionaire" I saw this with my eyes, and sensed he's got money problems. He says he doesn't go to church because the preachers always asking for money..how ironic!
Anytime we asked questions, we got unclear answers or perhaps lies, we just don't know the situation well enough maybe he does spend every bit on the org but I'm saying from our experience at BoH we just didn't see it. We especially were upset about staff not being paid and school recieving little help from the org. So in the end, we cut our losses and after nearly two weeks at Isaacs vol house peeing in a hole at a high price, and five days at the hotel, enjoying amenities at a fair price, we left Uganda, earlier than expected. We took a bus to Kenya and had a lovely holiday in Mombasa then flew home. I suggest anyone wanting to volunteer in Uganda think twice, some people obviously have had good experiences with this org, but we did not and I see another guy in his review did not either. Don't make that be you, I suggest you go with an org that is tried and true...wish we had. We have since heard it's not difficult to start up a non profit org in Uganda and there is little accountability over them or their fundraising. We did love spending time with the villagers and kids etc, but overall it was disappointing.

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 24, 2015
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
By: Lefam
Age:
45

Comments

Thanks so much Ms. Sally Mcquinn for this feedback and review, we are very sorry that you had such a negative experience at our home and the organization in general, and it was unfortunate that you left after two weeks, but we remember everything was agreed on, especially its us who told not to pay us any more money, its not you who decided not to and we were very clear about the finances and what you had to pay for, and its Isaac who told you that you pay up the money to a better hotel, all our volunteers have used the same toilet and sharing with the families, we don't have special toilets for visitors because all human beings are equal, secondly don't expect WC in a third world country home, we are just building everything, wish you could see how the house looks now, hopefully current volunteers can confess, we are in building process. The school is 100% supported by Beacon of Hope Uganda and run by the community and volunteers who have been there know that, your husband Ken also worked at the construction and cementing of the classes, the money came from former volunteers. We have given out animals to children at the school. You said the boy asked money from you and you wanted some space and didn't like that, we are very open we can't tolerate that, if you say the boy wasn't paid for month...remember he started working in January, its means the last six months he was fully paid...you never paid 2000 USD madam Sally to us, you paid the booking fee and only program fee for 4 people, for two weeks and more over we offered a discount to you and your family, which was 30% from the normal fee and you never paid for the safari which we had already booked for you, which means we lost all the money you gave us and you directed us to pay for the safari, we provided transport for you always and its Isaac who drove you for free to African Village Hotel and actually its us who introduced you to the hotel and told you, if you are not comfortable with the home, its has better options, we discussed this upon arrival. We were with you in negotiating the prices of the hotel, its actually Isaac who negotiated the discount on your behalf, we told you about the T-shirt issue. Its very unfortunate, but we request our future volunteers to have little expectations, this is Uganda, a third world country and Beacon of Hope Uganda is a small organization with limited resources and actually its not only the volunteers to be super comfortable, but the host as well, we are in African but human beings, we need equal treatment, but Madam Sally, your demands were too high for the family to handle and actually all staff members were not comfortable, from drivers, cook and little children whom you didn't want to play with your kids. You never even felt happy your kids playing with the local kids!! This was too much, we have hosted families before and they have had great experiences. The good thing we made sure that you get your level of accommodation and service which we couldn't offer. Beacon of Hope Uganda

My placement was at The Hope Centre which is located about 18km out of Mukono town. The Hope Centre is in Kasala village and its only reached by private car or boda boda. I reached Kasala via a bumpy dirt road on a boda boda “motorbike taxi”. I have found that a boda boda ride was one of my favorite things to do in Uganda, especially when you get to view lush green beautiful landscape on route. Isaac Ssamba, a youthful “Independent Rural Development Expert” established The Hope Centre for Community Creativity in 2013 and its run by his organization Beacon of Hope Uganda. It began as a temporary project but Isaac confesses that it has “evolved into something so much bigger than any of us could have imagined”. He now plans to establish a Community medical clinic for people in the surrounding villages to access health care, a child development centre, primary school, community garden, and craft club, youth recreation house and so many other initiatives.

I felt so welcome in this community and I really believe in this project. I see how it benefits many people who did not receive any social support before it was set up. I have been doing many home visits in Kasala, with the Community Liaison Facilitator who seems to know everyone in the village and takes time to say hello to everyone and ask how they are really doing.
I have learnt in village life that people do the best with what they have got, they try and work together to share what they have. These people are so resilient and keep going despite what we perceive as a very poor lifestyle.

However I can see the richness in these people’s lives, they have an amazing strength in family and in God. I have heard so many times “God is good God is great”, “he will help us if we keep praying”, “one day God will save us if we believe.” I admire their faith and have begun to develop and entire new understanding of faith that I have learned from people I have met in Uganda.

Thank you Isaac for giving me the opportunity to work with you, your team and living with your family, I have experienced Ugandan culture and lifestyle at first hand

Program:
Location:
Posted: July 4, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: maclean
Age:
22

I stayed with Beacon of Hope for a few months during 2014. As a guest (I paid monthly rent to stay at the volunteer house), I repeatedly felt uncomfortable with his treatment of employees and pressure for funds. Had I not already been well underway in my project, and had I not felt safe and secure with the organization's only two employees (one who has since been fired and the other who has left), I would have left within weeks of arriving.

The head of the organization began by putting repeated pressure on me to donate funds that I had collected in advance of my trip, to projects that he was unwilling to explain in any detail. He was purposely vague and would evade any questions I posed on the projects. I eventually acquiesced to build goodwill.

In addition to this, the two employees at the organization were often yelled at, humiliated and disrespected in my presence. In fact, there were rare moments without tension at the volunteer house as a result of this.

And if it wasn't tense due to his aggressive and bullying demeanor, it was tense due to the multiple women he would bring back to the volunteer house. This began about half-way through my stay and came to a head when he brought back two women who were angry over the other's presence. It was difficult to be around considering the lack of doors at the volunteer house and the unexpected nature of these visits.

Eventually, after my research was completed, I left with much relief, although I continued to hear about the horrible treatment of his employees for many months after I left. These employees became like a brother and sister to me during my time there, such was their good natured, kind and caring approach, so it is with much frustration that these horrible stories continued to filter through.

I give this review in the hopes of preventing future negative experiences and impressions of Uganda, as I had an amazing time otherwise visiting warm and caring Ugandans in many other parts of the country.

Program:
Location:
Posted: June 13, 2015
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
Age:
31

Comments

Its unfortunate that we don't know who you are and you have not mentioned your names here, if you are legitimate and you know that what you are saying is true, you don't have to fear to write real names and who you are talking about, otherwise, we take this as total malice and someone who is on a mission to tarnish and destroy the name of the organization and regarded as false. Thanks
I have no doubt your experience is real and true, we had a similar experience and were very surprised the way Isaac treated his employess, family members...he had not paid them on time and this was the worst bit, we had just given him nearly 5 million Ushillings, and yet he had not paid staff for over a month. We were treated well by staff but not impressed with Isaac at all and do not recommend this org so we do believe you and your review will surely help those out there considering a trip thanks for your review, we have written our own just now as well...
From the story you can see who it is, because you know all of your volunteers and their situations. He did not use his name and that is fine, there is not a requirement that people do so. I believe his experience to be real and we also had a very unfortunate experience. We are the Le family and we will let people know that they need to be skeptical of this org.

PRE DEPARTURE: I was very nervous because I had never traveled alone before and have not done much traveling outside of the US. Isaac was so helpful and made me feel as comfortable as I could. He had me call the volunteer house at night so that I could speak to volunteers who were already there and he gave me emails of others who had recently returned from volunteering. This helped so much.

PLACEMENT: Excellent. I was placed at New Hope Junior School & Homeland Secondary school which is a half hour walk from the house. I chose to walk because the scenery is beautiful and the local people are very friendly (most of them are parents of the students at New Hope and Homeland. These are schools that need a lot of help but have amazing students and teachers who only want the best for each other. They are looking forward to having more volunteers.

HOST FAMILY AND MEALS: Amazing. It really felt like I was at home and that I was part of the family. Scovia really takes care of us and you can tell that she really cares. When I was on safari for four days I actually felt homesick and missed Scovia, Happiness, Diana and Helen. Safety was a big issue for me and I always felt very safe here. The meals were great. Scovia is a very good cook and everything tastes very fresh. It is also great to eat local food.

HIGHLIGHTS OF THE PLACEMENT: The people I met in my placement and the interactions I had with them was the best part for me. They were so interested in learning about America and I loved learning about how they do things here. Through there interaction, I think we all changed the way we look at the world. They have changed my life more than they will ever know.
My unique experience: My favorite part of this program was meeting other volunteers. It is amazing to spend time and get to know people who are interested in the exact same things like you. Karin and I were together for a week before more volunteers came and it was during this time that she became one of my best friends. We plan to stay in touch after this experience.

WOULD YOU RECOMMEND FUTURE VOLUNTEERS?: Yes - very much. This experience has changed me as a person FOREVER. It is a little tough at first because everything is new and the culture shock... But once I got used to it, I felt I could do anything. The project itself makes you very appreciative of what you have. It is a very humbling experience.

COMMENTS: Isaac is a very honest and professional coordinator, I really appreciated his work in Uganda, I actually I admired his creativity. He is very young energetic and very innovative.
I also think if a person is debating whether to go alone or with a friend then go alone. The experience is more meaningful and powerful because you are forced to leave your old life behind and are free to be opening mind and soak up everything around you.

Program:
Location:
Posted: May 10, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Claire D
Age:
20

As expected, I learned more than I taught. This experience has been transitioning into adulthood. I have been a student so long now and I know I am successful at that. Sometimes I think I doubt my capacities in other ways though, and that is why this time in Uganda has been so empowering- it made me start thinking realistically about my abilities and what I can share with others to help them or contribute to their cause. I got a rush from teaching. I also loved just sitting there, listening to people tell me their worries and their dreams.

I am walking away with their conviction that in whatever I choose to do from here, I want to work directly with other people towards a shared vision, to build on the sense of collective efficiency that Ugandans have so forcefully demonstrated to me. My experience with Beacon of Hope Uganda was so incredible that it’s hard to find words to give justice to everything I gained from working with the people in Mukono. I had a myriad of experiences while volunteering with BoHU that were very touching for me.

The most significant change was that my purpose and understanding of my role in life became clearer. I no longer saw myself as someone with restrictions or limitations. I realized that I am a change maker not just in my country but in this world. Being in Uganda made me realize this and that is why I knew I must return. Thank you team BoHU and I will always keep in touch with you guys.

Program:
Location:
Posted: April 28, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: tomyreg
Age:
24

Pages