Volunteering at the The Haven in Kampala, Uganda
When I’m away from home, if it’s for a few days, weeks, or months, what I miss most are my pets. I miss our routine-our daily hikes, petting and quiet time together, peering into each other’s eyes, and the joy of feeding time.
I know that plenty of pet owners agree that traveling is great because of the new experiences, the lack of routine, and meeting new people every day, but there’s a gnawing feeling that something is missing. Many of the experiences are fleeting, they may feel indulgent or self-absorbed, and they just don’t feel as deep or as important as our relationships and experiences that we have with our pets.
What to do if you love traveling–or if you have to travel for work–and you find yourself in Uganda and missing your pets?
That’s where I found myself for three weeks this this past March and April. So on my weekends, I went to The Haven, the Uganda Society for the Protection & Care of Animals’ shelter, the only companion animal shelter in the country.
If you have only a day or if you’re in Kampala for a year and missing your pets, the USPCA’s Haven is a great place to fill that void.
There’s always something for volunteers to do. You can:
- Walk dogs
- Bathe dogs
- Pet dogs
- Help at feeding time
- Help with clean up
- Pet cats
- Play with cats
- Help clean the cattery
- Help greet visitors
- Join a Community Spay/Neuter Clinic
- If you’re handy, there are always things that need fixing or building
- If you’re in town for a long stretch, you could foster a Haven cat or dog
Most of the animals at The Haven have been through really difficult experiences. But they are the lucky ones-they’ve been rescued and are at a shelter filled with love and hope. If you’re worried about visiting an animal shelter in Uganda…don’t. The USPCA Haven is not a sad place. Shelter Manager, Alex Ochieng, and his dedicated staff will help you acclimate and can find things for you to do in line with your comfort level.
Every weekend, I got my share of dog hugs and petting, cat rubs and purrs from about 180 dogs and 50 cats so in need of attention (much more in need than my dogs and cat at home!) Haven cats and dogs really need to experience human interaction that’s kind, respectful, and loving. Even after just one or two visits, I saw cats and dogs, who I had spent a lot of time with, come out of their shells-it felt like a great accomplishment for all of us.
You can keep helping the USPCA even after you leave Uganda (or if you’ve never been to Uganda and want to help, that’s easy to do too!) Animal-Kind International, a US-based 501(c)(3) organization (www.animal-kind.org) that I started to help fill the HUGE gap in funding for animal welfare organizations (shelters, humane education, community animal welfare) in poor countries, in particular, in Africa, raises money for the USPCA as well as for our nine other Partner Organizations and for our Africa-based grant recipients.
Together with the USPCA, AKI is running a special fundraiser to help raise enough money so the USPCA can buy land to expand the shelter. In part this will allow the USPCA to accept more cats and dogs. As the only companion animal shelter in a country where street dogs and cats are confronted with so much danger, the USPCA does all within its power to accept every cat and dog; to never turn anyone away. But we also envision a shelter with space for training and for exercise, comfortable areas to meet potential adopters, and quiet places for sick and shy animals who need time to recover. We want to create accommodations for volunteers and to become a center of learning for animal welfare advocates and shelter workers all over Africa (and even beyond).
The USPCA has a lot to offer Uganda’s dogs, cats, and the humans who love them. If you’re interested in visiting-or if you can’t go there in person, but would like to help, please get in touch, email@example.com.
By Karen Menczer