Volunteering in Uganda

Let’s Make the World Smile, One Person at a Time, Together!
For World Wide Smiles has been operating in Uganda since 2002, working to improve health care and education. This is accomplished with the help of subject-matter experts and locals volunteers. The primary goal of FWWS is to alleviate suffering from dental disease and teach dental hygiene especially to children.

This was in response to Dr. Shinn’s experience in Nepal in 1990 where he witnessed children suffering every day from infections due to abscessed teeth. The poor health care conditions and the lack of tools, expertise and education in these areas make it extremely rare and difficult to prevent or treat ongoing problems. He noticed the same issues in Uganda and the rest of Africa as well.
Our Story
FWWS’s main focus has been on orchestrating volunteer teams from around the world to travel to Uganda. FWWS arranges volunteers accommodation, locations available for setting up temporary clinics, and normally an excursion activity, such as a game safari.

Volunteers normally have previous volunteering experiences and are extremely adaptable to whatever challenge may come on their way. This can be a challenging and new work environment due to lack of equipments or lack of electricity or water, or uncomfortable weather condition.

For more detail about our trips, visit the What to Expect section of this page. If you are interested in joining us, please apply to become a volunteer and we look forward to meeting you!
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What to Expect

The work is hard but rewarding. We recommend that you have a previous volunteering experience before joining us in Uganda. This experience requires a kind and motivated heart, and a creative and adaptable mind! Please don’t hesitate to contact us with any questions you may have about the program. We hope you can join us to make the world smile, one person at a time!
  • Program Fees

    There is a flat fee of 2000$ for all volunteers for 15 days of travel. This will include accommodation, food, transportation and one safari ride. Any other expenses will be covered by by the voluneer separately.

  • Teams & Clinical Services

    Depending on the number of volunteers, our group may divide into 3 to 4 teams consisting of dentists, assistants, hygienists and other helpers. Each team is assigned to different locations. A typical clinic features about 5 dental chairs.

    We set up portable dental equipments in temporary clinic locations ranging from country schools to rural health clinics. We also might set up a clinic at the host hotel to treat there staff if we have enough volunteers.

    Children and adults come to us for basic dental services including cleanings, fillings, sealants and extractions. While we want to save every tooth possible, the reality is that the greatest need is often an extraction. All types of dentists are welcome. The typical general dentist will perform about 70% extractions and 30% restoratives. We do our best to match up dentists with teams that compliment their skills.

  • Education Team

    One of teams make visits schools in the area promoting oral hygiene. Toothbrushes, sometimes tooth paste and flosse are also distributed. The education component is considered critical to our long term goals of sustaining and promoting healthier teeth and gums.

  • Work Conditions

    Dental work in rural areas is challenging. Our volunteers often tell us “I never work this hard at home!” You will be working in a hot and humid whether, often in rudimentary buildings, sometimes with no electricity or water. We sometimes use portable compressors and generators which might be noisy. And sometimes, the equipments may not behave as expected and we should find createive ways to make thing work!

    All these challenges are part of the adventure of humanitarian projects! We support the teams as best as possible to keep things flowing and going and to make your work environment as safe and comfortable as possible.

  • Equipment

    The project provides patient chairs, sometimes stools, sterilization and delivery systems. Through the generous donations of various volunteers, we have newer portable ASEPTICO delivery units. These units feature standard 4/5 hole tubing for slow and high speed hand pieces, air/water, and suction. The suction evacuates to a saliva bottle on the unit that must be emptied into a toilet or pit after every patient.

    We also provide steam autoclaves at each clinic, along with amalgamators and curing lights. We are working to have digital x-rays at every clinic but this is not yet standardized. We have some Cavitrons and tips but we recommend that hygienists bring their own if possible.

    All dentists, hygienists and assistants must bring a headlight and we highly recommend that all other volunteers do so also. High lumen, focused beam headlamps can be purchased at REI or similar stores. Try Black Diamond brand!

  • Hand Instruments and Supplies

    Dentists and Hygienists are responsible to bring their needed hand instruments and supplies, including hand pieces and headlamps. Be sure you bring the couple/swivel that some hand pieces require to plug directly into the 4/5 hole tubing.

    Please email us to learn more about which disposable supplies to bring. You are more than welcome and encouraged to ask your suppliers to donated materials and pharmaceuticals.

    Volunteers sometimes use the 2nd extra fee bag to transport the supplies and hand instruments. You will be given more instructions during the process.

    Hand instruments and any other items you intend to bring back to the USA must be carried with you in your check-in luggage. Each volunteer must provide a list of supplies, medications, and hand tools you intend to bring so we can obtain appropriate approval in advance from the government for importation and tax waivers. More information about supplies and instruments will be given to volunteers after registration.

    Lack of instruments and supplies should never be a reason to NOT volunteer with FWWS. If you have trouble with supplies or instruments please contact us. We will work with you to try and provide what you need to volunteer!

  • Locations, Schedule and Accommodations

    The clinics are scattered throughout the Parishes. They are located in health clinics, churches, schools and other facilities. All clinics are less than an hour’s drive from the hotels. Each morning, volunteers leave the hotel at 8am by van, start work by 9am and return by 5pm. Evenings and SOMETIMES weekends are free and one weekend is spent to do a game safari. The first weekend is normally dedicated to orientation and setting up the clinic. Even though the project will not change, the specifics related to the hotel and location may change at any time.

    3 People to a Room with Couples exception…

    Each volunteer will share a room with one or two other people. Couples may choose to room separately. Please note that sometimes the rooms are small and often at least one person is assigned a roll away bed. Volunteers will be matched with roommates by request. We recommend organizing your group into 3s so you can be roommates with those you know.

    Airfare and Travel Dates

    Volunteers make their own travel arrangements but we are happy to help and provide guidence if needed.

  • Travel Documents

    All VOLUNTEERS are required to carry a passport that is valid passed their stay in Uganda. Americans, Canadians and citizens from several other countries ARE required to have a VISA to enter Uganda. You must get a VISA BEFORE your arrical to the countery through Ugandan embassy website.

    If you are not a US or Canadian citizen, please contact us to make sure you have the correct documentation for entry and return.

    You should always carry a photo copy of your travel documents separate from the originals in case the originals are lost or stolen. This will expedite permission to re-enter your country.

  • Water, Food, & Health Concerns

    We highly recommend you consult your doctor before traveling to any foreign country for current health considerations. You may also wish to visit the US Embassy website or CDC website for latest health updates on a country you will be traveling to. All volunteers are advised to follow normal precautions of wearing mosquito repellent and long clothes where mosquito are present.

    Water in most communities is not fully trusted. we will stick to bottled water which we should carry with us and we will try to buy and stock as much as we can get. The food is plentiful, delicious, fresh, varied and safe to eat.

    There are doctors and hospitals in Uganda and other countries we go to but emergency services can be difficult to obtain in a timely fashion. As is typical in any developing nation, the quality or availability of health care services may be well below what we are used to in America.

    Emergency evacuation to the USA for emergency medical attention may be required, depending on the severity and urgency of the situation. We strongly advise each volunteer secure their own emergency medical travel insurance and contact your health insurance company about what to do and what is covered in the event of a medical emergency. We also recommend you discuss an emergency plan with your doctor and that keep phone numbers of primary care providers with you at all times.

  • HIV

    In Africa and other places the risk of infection by an accidental poke with a needle or other sharp instrument remains. We place a high emphasis on safety with our volunteers to prevent any kind of accident. Testing (patients and volunteers) for HIV is possible in the field but sometimes it is not available in a timely fashion and sometimes the patient refuses to test. In the unlikely event you are poked with a dirty needle or instrument, you will have to decide if you want to take HIV medications (prophylaxis). WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND that you review this possibility with your doctor prior to participation and have a post exposure plan in place for yourself.

    If you have more questions, please email us info@forworldwidesmiles.org

Planning Guide

Here is a planning guide and list of preparations and necessities for comfortable travel as an outreach or volunteer group with For World Wide Smiles. Important: Please send a detailed flight itinerary of your arrival and departures reservations, times and plans to us at info@forworldwidesmiles.org
  1. Have your personal immunizations checked and updated.
  2. Consult with a travel medicine doctor about any specific recommendations for where you will be going.
  3. Have a doctor recommend and prescribe anti-malaria medication.
  4. Bring your own personal medications and hygiene items including toilet,
  5. Paper and/or baby wipes, Hand sanitizer, bug repellent (not aerosol), sun Screen, Head band to soak up sweat.
  6. Wide brimmed hat, light weight but long sleeved shirts and pants (Preferably with zippered or Velcro pockets) for Evenings (some are impregnated with bug repellent) rain coat, sweater and Light jacket for cool nights, comfortable but sturdy slip-proof shoes, Small backpack and/or fanny-pack. Cool clothing for warm daytime Temperatures. Loose pants or skirts that make it easy to squat over a pit Toilet. Swimming suit for the hotel pool.
  7. If you wear glasses get a safety strap to hold them on. Extra pair of glasses. For gorilla trekking: waterproof bags for your camera and other
  8. Electronics, rain pants or hiking pants preferably that draw closed at the Ankle, light weight gloves for sharp vines and branches. Light weight Hiking boots.
  9. Head lamp and extra flashlight with plenty of extra batteries.
  10. Camera with extra memory and batteries, binoculars.
  11. Your favorite snack foods and munchies.
  12. Mosquito netting (can be purchased in Kampala for Uganda volunteers).
  13. Daily journal, books or games for passing time, a travel book on Uganda or Haiti or wherever you might be going.
  14. Money belt, clip or security pouch for around your neck.
  15. One or two nice evening wear outfits for dinners and meetings with VIPs.
  16. Money There are some ATM machines in Kampala for Uganda volunteers but outside the city you must rely on cash in local currency (Ugandan Shillings) The only form of American money that will be accepted for converting into local money are new $100 bills, no older than 2003, preferably newer. Not folded or wrinkled. The conversion must be done while in Kampala or in the city you will be in not villages. You must order these ahead of time from your personal bank in quantities enough for the trip. Traveler’s checks will also work but are cumbersome in finding a place in Kampala for Uganda volunteers that will accept them without a huge discount. Outside the city they are useless.
  17. Put your check through belongings in regular travel luggage, this includes dental instruments you are bringing, in order to avoid undo scrutiny at airport customs. Bring a tireless supply of joyful energy and patience, and a go with the flow attitude. There may be some interminable delays and unplanned for surprises which may require some “recalculating.” One thing is for sure: We will have a safe, productive, and fulfilling, grand and glorious adventure!

Things not to do or bring

  1. No jewelry. Leave your fancy watches, rings necklaces at home. No short shorts. With the exception of a swim suit at the hotel pool, women should not wear any revealing tops or short shorts. Culturally this is distasteful and targets you for harassment for Uganda volunteers. Keep cameras and other electronics out of sight in a closed back pack.
  2. Do not take any photos of anyone in military uniform, military buildings, installations or vehicles. Ask permission before taking pictures of adults or their personal property i.e. a vendor’s fruit stand.
    Let’s be great ambassador from the USA. We treat everyone with honor and respect, acknowledging their personal greatness and feeling honored that we have the opportunity to be with them in their country. (Uganda volunteers) Let’s go see some lions guys!!!!!