Beacon of Hope Uganda

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9.2 / 10 after 36 Reviews Based on overall, support & value average ratings

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To describe each day thus far in Uganda as amazing is probably the understatement of the century, all days being no exception. On my arrival, we started the day with a bumpy motorcycle ride to a small village outside of Mukono town, where we were introduced to this simple but innovative and effective venture known as The Hope Centre. In a nutshell, its centre of all trades and ideas, the actual concept is quite simple, the Proprietor Master Isaac says, he wants to establish a one stop centre for all social services within the community of Kasala. So there will be a Microfinance bureau, youth recreation centre, women enterprising unit, a medical clinic, a school, a skills training centre, a guest house, café, museum, conference centre and several other projects.

Listening to his background story and how he started the organization Beacon of Hope Uganda, at 19 years in 2006 and what he has established, I believe he will make it someday.

At The Hope Centre I had my first Ugandan meal! The cooks made us a fantastic lunch of matoke, rice, stewed beans and beef which was truly delicious. Then we were given a quick tour of the project sites which involved the office, nursery school and the secondary school. The highlight of the day came after the tour which was when we actually got to play sports with the nursery school kids. We all had different sport stations and the kids did this “marching game” to go from one to the next. It was hot and sweaty but I haven’t had that much fun or seen that many genuine smiles in a while. At the end of the games session they all came and clamored to hold our hands and give us high-fives and fist bumps and tell us thank you; it was the perfect end to the fourth day of our Ugandan adventure!

Program:
Location:
Posted: September 28, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: NoreenC
Age:
25

I was in Uganda and worked with Isaac and stayed with his family and I would like to make it clear, he is the best host. The work is super meaningful, Isaac is a family man and he has to work for his family, so don’t expect him to be available like your bodyguard every day, it’s the reason he assigns counterparts upon arrival. Lets agree that truly even though we make payments to live at his home, managing people from different backgrounds, of different ages at your home isn’t an easy task, we should respect and appreciate his effort. He started the organization at only 19yr and for the last 9 years the organization is growing steadily with very limited resources.

We pay 500 USD a month or 300 USD for two weeks; this covers food, accommodation, laundry, staff support and project support! How much did you expect such amount to go, we should appreciate that and today the organization has visible development projects, like the Hope centre which will have a clinic, youth enterprising unit, women enterprising, sponsoring over 100 orphans and agricultural projects and water sources. Very few people raise extra bucks for this project as a donation, many of us, just pay up the program fee mentioned above and expect everything to move on the same fee and the young man has proved it’s possible to make developmental projects on such an amount.

When you go to Africa don’t expect everything to move according to plan, I have found this in so many manuals for volunteering, always go with limited expectations and RESPECT the local culture and way of doing things. Lets us also avoid our western way of doing things, let Africans come up with solutions to their problems; this is what exactly Beacon of Hope is doing. Isaac is a Christian, but BoHU is a non religious organization, and welcomes every Ugandan in need, it’s very clear since its formation.

Lets us also stop the wrong mentality that things are cheap in Africa, this is wrong, when you reach there, you will have hundreds of worthless money. We should not be judgmental, and we should appreciate those few individuals who have stood out to make a difference, before judging Isaac, ask yourself how many people’s lives have I touched, stopping people to go to Uganda helping the projects, then think about the 300 children supported by volunteers who appreciate the project Isaac started, think about the widows, raped and defiled girls supported, Isaac has over 1000 people appreciating his assistance in Uganda, how about you, how far did you expect your money to go? I don’t support misappropriation of funds, but when I reached Uganda and see what the young man has set up with almost nothing, I knew he was a HERO. He is a human, he has his flaws as many of us, but I ask people not to paint a picture of him which is not real, visit Beacon of Hope Uganda facebook page, see daily updates of work done, you will understand, I know he is dark skinned but not as dark hearted as some paint it. Actually he is far more than many of us. Lastly when going to Uganda, remember you are not there to help Isaac but the community, be part of the community, don’t try to be part of Isaac’s life, if you loved the work and the people, I guess 70% of your goal is fulfilled, its the aim of volunteering, we don’t volunteer to help program operators, but the people they support. I am available joshuaskyer@hotmail.com

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 29, 2015
Overall:
10
Support:
10
Value:
10
By: Joshua
Age:
36

This was the first time I ever went to volunteer to another country. My family and I went in July to help Beacon of Hope. I was so excited before I went because it sounded like a good opportunity to do good and see another place. The director arranged with us by email the plan and told me I would work with the school kids with sports and fitness, I am a trainer and swim coach, and also I wanted to teach swimming and he said that was great. But we got there and see the life is so difficult for everyone. I tried to help the kids as much I can to know about sports and stay fit and the kids loved our program that we did, but we ended up doing all ourselves without much input from the org or director on anything. The director Isaac, he didn't do a good job of organizing anything for us, and he didn't treat us well. We went to the school and did activities with kids then we went home and did nothing. He wanted more money for swimming and we gave him more but he did not plan it and I was very sad about that. I took all my swim supplies in suitcases, even donated new swimsuits, goggles etc...but no one use this because Isaac said it was too expensive to do swimming. Why didn't he say that first if thats the situation? He said swimming was for "rich" kids. What is that?

Our house was very poor, no water, no electric and the food was very little. We felt cheated and when we asked him what to do he just didn't say much. He was gone a lot, sometimes didn't come home all day, and didn't eat with us or spend much time at home. So we depended on the maid to cook for us and just made our own way. I played with kids in village and it was ok but we don't know why Isaac didn't make this a better experience for us and also having given a lot of money why the food and accommodation wasn't better. We washed our own clothes in a bucket and sometimes we made our own food. Their life is tough we can see that, but they were not really concerned for us and our time there. I think this is because after a few days only we told Isaac we were not happy with the housing and he knew we were planning to go sooner than planned so maybe he gave up on us, I don't know, but we did give a lot of money and we don't know where that money went. We wanted the money to go help the kids, not help himself! We got beans to eat most days, they never gave us drinking water, and it was not healthy food. They also didn't clean well and the situation could easily make someone sick. We are sure he could have bought more food for us with the money we gave for this but they did not, they were stingy. We don't know still about his finances but my wife and I guess he has some serious money issues and this affects him in a bad way. Also we saw he did not treat his staff very well. We learned after we left that he fired one staff for talking too honestly with us.

We thought it was a Christian organization after reading online, but Isaac said he doesn't run a Christian organization and doesn't believe in going to church, so we got confused about that because the school he sent us to was a church school. Be warned the website is way too good to be true.

I want to warn anyone to check carefully before you sign up, we had signed up for 5 weeks and he asked for full advance payment but we first sent half, then thank God, when we went to send rest of money the computer was down at the money exchange office. He pressed us for full payment but we didn't and thankfully we left early without losing too much.

Program:
Location:
Posted: August 25, 2015
Overall:
1
Support:
1
Value:
1
By: Kenle
Age:
35

Comments

Dear Ken and family, you asked us to book a safari for you and we paid it and you remember we asked you not to pay us, you only paid us 1000 USD which fully went to the safari and now Sally calls it 2000 USD, which you asked us to pay for the safari and stayed for free at our home and you said you are rich you can't stay or live with our family, we are very sorry but for us we host volunteers, people who really want to serve the poor, but not those who will flaunt their riches within a desperately needy community, the food might be poor but we provided and we always shared the same meals with you, if you needed special and luxury treatment, as you wanted, we are sorry we couldn't offer it, you should also understand all humans are equal, we really need volunteers who need to serve and understand they are coming to Africa, the good thing we never pressured any money from you as you claim....for those who want to flaunt your riches and thinking the people you are serving are stupid because of poverty, then ours is not the right place to be, your wife Sally said the boy always asked for money from her and she said the boy made her an ATM, how can we let the boy stay...but we are very sorry for the poor experience, but our future volunteers should know, its not only them to feel happy but the host family should be comfortable hosting you, too many demands, sometimes ends up making your experience negative, the organization is run by human beings who have feelings. If you treat the hosts rudely, thinking they are stupid, because you are rich... Very sorry for the bad experience once again.
This is an attack on us, because you are angry with our review. We never flaunted any riches, that's cray...don't you know where Ken grew up in Vietnam is also poor country? Don't you know Sally has many positive experiences leading teams and volunteering..India, Vietnam, Micronesia..so it's clear to our family as you say" we are all human beings" we know it, that's not even the point...think whatever you want about us, we went with clear hearts, good intentions and fully honest motives but cannot say the same for this organization. It's true after its all added up we gave close to $2000 usd to the organization and nothing made clear about where the funds were used, and we were cheated on the food, surely you know a family of four will not be happy with rice and beans, two dishes..for lunch and dinner..after paying a mystery " booking fee" of $400 plus $1000 more then $85 more for van, then $200 more for swimming lessons you promised but cancelled, then $30 more for food, then additional gifts to your staff who seemed to be need..yes, do the math. We gave nearly 2000 for staying less than two weeks..that's outrageous. Plus we paid our transport most of the time as car was broke down... You said you'd get money back for cancelled safari, that's not on us, that's you running your business, realizing things don't always go as planned. You definitely need to upgrade the guesthouse experience and improve food and this attitude that we thought locals were stupid, never, ever was that the case. You are upset and now you're making up your own prejudiced ideas about us. Saying that our kids didn't play with local kids is nonsense they were playing with the everyday only stayed away when the boys were clearly ill. All our pics at your place are of the kids playing together so your reply is rubbish.
Madam Sally, we respect you and can't attack you, but we don't need liars, you can't just come here to lie people about non real things, and for us we only provide three meals a day and its clearly stated in all our manuals, we advise volunteers to keep snacks in their rooms, you have the manual and the three meals were provided, about the swimming lessons funny enough we have pictures of Ken training girls from the high school swimming, were they ghosts?! We told you, how can you take kids to a 2 star hotel for a swim, without food, and we told you, its better to donate to their well being, but after pressuring we did the swimming, you know that very well, we have the photos and videos and you too have them, then why lying?!!! We are sorry we couldn't provide the luxuries you wanted and good enough, if 90% of our volunteers are happy...then we are happy too...we can't be 100% correct as you (an angel)...you always told us how UAE had spoiled your taste...we are not against any review because they always help us to improve our services, but lying against us is non human, and now you are adding up numbers, why not say the right figures of money you gave us and not adding up numbers, we never asked for any gift, how can you talk about a gift you gave to someone, were really of good faith or show off?!...we are sorry but for you, you have nothing to loose here...if you say Ken didn't do the swimming, are the pics and videos of students from the high school of ghosts...we are sorry but we couldn't offer more...we provided two rooms to your family and always had light 24/7 in your room and you are here saying you didn't have light, this is so sad. You said our organization was christian whereas you know very well our organization is non-religious...we were very clear in all manuals we sent you before arrival, just study them well and see if there is anything mentioned we didn't deliver. Thanks for the 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

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