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Volunteer Abroad in Ethiopia

Ethiopia Program General Information

The population of Ethiopia is estimated to be more than 80 million, and over 50% of the population is under 20 years of age. Ethiopia is relatively less developed comparing to some of its neighbors, such as Kenya. People in Ethiopia appear to be more skinny and less well fed comparing to Kenya. Volunteer and interns can make a great difference by contributing to the local communities there.
The average number of inhabitants per square kilometer is 69. Ethiopia is a multiethnic state with a great variety of spoken languages. There are eighty three languages with 200 dialects, and the three main languages are Amharic, Oromifaa and Tigrigna. English, French, Italian and Arabic are also spoken, mainly in Addis Ababa.

Ethiopia is the only country in Africa that has never been colonized. The people of this country have a proud tradition of fighting for their independence. The country is also unusual for its rich Orthodox Christian heritage, which the Ethiopians maintained even when all its neighbors embraced Islam in the 7th century. The landscape of Ethiopia is fabulous, the people will make you welcome, the sense of history is tangible and you won’t have to worry about crowds of snap-happy tourists.

Locations of Ethiopia Volunteer& Intern Programs

Available locations include but not limited to: urban and suburban areas of Ethiopia. Participants will be placed at their chosen preferred location according to their interest. Locations include but not limited to:

  • Addis Ababa and surrounding locations

Please note that not all works are available at all locations.

Start Dates and Durations

We pride ourselves for our flexibility. You can arrive any week of the year. Either because of a personal reason or because of a discount promotional flight that you want to take advantage of, we can arrange for you as long as we are given enough advanced notice before arrival.

You can volunteer for periods of 1 week to 6 months. In the end of your program, if you wish to extend your stay, it is also possible with enough notice.

Ethiopia Volunteer Work Placements

Our volunteer/intern work placements include the following projects:

    (1) CAREGIVING

    • Orphanage Work
    • Caring for the Elderly or the Disabled

    (2) COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

    • Sharing Your Skills
    • Microfinance Work or Business Coaching
    • Construction or Painting Work

    (3) HEALTHCARE

    • Medical Placement (for Doctors and Nurses)
    • Assisting Healthcare Professionals

    (4) HIV/AIDS WORK

    • HIV/ ADIS Awareness Education

    (5) TEACHING

    • Teaching at Orphanages or Schools
    • Sports Education (Outdoor soccer, netball, volleyball, basketball coaching, etc)
    • Assisting Needy Children with tutorial Classes
    • Special Education
    • Training Teachers on Stigmatization and Its Consequences
    • Training Guardians, Caregivers, and Parents on How to Treat and Educate Children

    (6) OTHER WORKS

    • Environmental Work
    • Tourism Work
    • Marketing Work
    • Culture and Language Immersion Activities

Please note that some work placements may require a surcharge since they are harder or more costly to arrange. Also, more works can possibly be arranged upon request.

Ethiopia Volunteer/Intern Requirements

  • Age Requirement: You can apply on your own if you are 18 years or over at the start of the program. For participants who are 15-17 years old at the start of the program, it is possible to enroll if the legal guardian gives permission and signs our waiver form to waive our liability.
  • Language Requirement: You must be able to speak English.
  • Cooperation and Adaptability: You should be able to work well with others, including people who are quite different from yourself. You should be able to adapt to foreign environments and new cultures. International volunteers and interns need to be cooperative, flexible, and respectful. You need to respect the local culture and local ways of living. The more interest you show to the local coworkers and host family, the more interest they usually show in you and your learning. The success of doing a project abroad also depends on you.
  • Some medical positions may require volunteers/interns have relevant training or certification.

Ethiopia Program Prices

Our fees are the lowest in North America and extremely affordable. Our program fee starts as little as USD$180. Program fees mainly help us cover the variable costs, such as meals, accommodation, and orientation, etc. Program fees vary according to the length of your program.

Program Length Program Fee USD$
1 Week 180
2 Weeks 350
3 Weeks 470
1 Month (4 Weeks) 580
5 Weeks 680
6 Weeks 770
2 Months (8 Weeks) 980
10 Weeks 1150
3 Months 1320
4 Months 1630
5 Months 1950
6 Months 2300

To see an estimate of these prices in your local currency click here.

Note: There is an additional fee of USD$290 (enrollment fee) on top of the program fee for all the programs. This enrollment fee helps us cover mainly the fixed costs, such as program inspection, staff salary, marketing cost, etc. Also, certain work placements and certain locations may require a surcharge since they are harder or more costly to arrange. In addition, there is usually a small fee of around $50 to cover banking/transfer charges to transfer relevant fees to local parties. Participants are fully responsible for any surcharges and transaction costs.

Total Price = Program Fee + Enrolment Fee (plus transaction costs and any surcharges)

What is included?

  • Arrival Welcome
  • Accommodation and Meals
  • Program Orientation
  • Volunteer Work Placement
  • Hotline for Local Support
  • Regular Cultural/Recreational Activities (Personal spending not included) are Provided by Most Hosts

What is not included?

  • International and Local Transportation Costs (One way local bus tickets are affordable)
  • Medical/Travel Insurance (Optional but recommended)
  • Visa Application Costs and Personal Spending

Regarding the 24/7 hotline for in-country support in Ethiopia, please be aware:

  • When traveling in rural areas, our partner staff may loss cell phone signal for a moment. In this case, a text or voice message can be left and our partner staff will call back as soon as they get the message.

Working & Living Agenda of Ethiopia Programs

Accommodation and Meals

Accommodation and meals are included. Volunteers live with a local home-stay family or guest house or orphanage home.

Most of our home-stay families in urban locations can provide the following features:

  • Electricity
  • Running Water (both hot and cold)
  • Bedroom with basic furniture (either private or shared with another volunteer of the same gender)

In the rural areas, the resources are very limited and the living condition can be very basic.

Meals

Three meals a day are provided by the home-stay families.

Lunch is usually packed by your host family in a lunch box so that you can eat at your project if you wish.

The national dish of Ethiopia is called ‘Injera’ baked like bread but thinner and more flexible than bread. It is made of “teff” which is rich in its iron content. It is usually complemented by sauce called ‘wot’. Ethiopia is one of the countries that raw meat is eaten. The dish ‘doro wot’ literally means ‘chicken sauce’ is the best cultural food in Ethiopia. There are a lot of breweries in case you want to drink beer. It is cheaper and a bottle costs less than 1$, it costs 12-16 birr.

If you are a vegetarian or if you have other special eating needs, you can indicate that while applying. Even though special eating needs are not something we can guarantee, we will do our best to meet your needs.

It is exciting to live with a local family. This way, you can easily learn the local way of life, meet local people, and feel more like a part of Ethiopia rather than just a tourist. We strongly encourage you to try the local flavors and experience the local culture and traditions as much as possible. Keep in mind that it is important to be open-minded and to be flexible. You shouldn’t expect that you would eat the same food or have the same lifestyle as you do at home. Actually, one of the most important things you will learn abroad is how their way of living is just as correct as ours.

Keep in mind that it is important to be open-minded and to be flexible. Generally, Ethiopians are friendly and sociable. Social life is more dominant in Ethiopia than individual life.

Arrival and Orientation

Day 1 (Arrival Day)

You can arrive any week of the year with advanced notice. On Arrival Day, we will

    1) Meet you at the airport upon arrival

    2) Then we will introduce you to your home-stay family.

Orientation Day (Saturdays or Sundays)

The orientation is very important for ensuring a safe and pleasant stay.

    1) Introduction to Work Program

    • You will be introduced to the expectations of the institution and the host project.

    2) Introduction to Your Environment

    • We will show you how to go to some important places (such as town center, the supermarket, the ATM, etc.
    • (Usually it costs vey little for bus tickets in town.)

    3) Introduction to Ethiopia

    • Culture
    • Language
    • Communication
    • Transportation
    • Safety
    • Travel Opportunities

    4) Getting Connected

    • After the Introduction to Ethiopia, you will be given some time to exchange contact information with other volunteers. After getting connected, you may want to socialize or plan your weekend trip together.

Workweek and Workdays

Our volunteer work projects run from Monday to Friday. You can either do full time or part time work depending on your preference. (Some projects are less flexible than others.) Some volunteers would like to work a lot, while others like to have more free time to travel, socialize, and relax.

The amount of work will be customized for you. Certain work placements do require full time volunteers or have a fixed schedule, but many works can be very flexible.

  • If you think it is more important to get your favourite placement rather than your preferred work schedule, please indicate that while applying so that we can put more weight on work type when we customize the program for you. If you don’t indicate anything, we may give your preferred work schedule more consideration while we customize the program for you.

Workweek Options:

  • Workweek option 1: (Regular) Work from Mon. to Fri.
  • Workweek option 2: (Long weekend) Work from Mon. to Thursday.
  • Workweek option 3: (Work and Rest) Work only on Mon., Wed. & Friday.
  • Workweek option 4: (As Much As Possible) Work 6-7 days per week if possible.

Workday Options:

  • Workday option 1: (Full day) Approximately 8 hours from 8:30am to 4:30pm.
  • Workday option 2: (Part time early bird) Approximately 4 hours from 9am to 1pm.
  • Workday option 3: (Part time afternoon) Approximately 4 hours from 12pm to 4pm.

Leisure Time (Enjoyment and Friendship)

Our volunteers usually form life-long friendships with their host family, workplace co-workers, and other volunteers.

We aim to fulfill your leisure time with enjoyment. Many host families will get the volunteers involved in their recreational activities. You can join weekend tours or add a tour after your volunteer program for an additional cost. We recommend that you compare prices before you purchase any tour.

Other Useful Information

Ethiopia Entry Requirements (Visa Information)

If you are going for the cultural immersion program and do not plan to work, then you may only need a tourist visa. Tourist visa may be issued for three months on arrival at Bole International Airport for nationals and residents of the following countries: Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kuwait, Luxembourg, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Democratic people’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea (South Korea), the Russian Federation, Slovakia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America.

Visas obtained at Bole Airport upon arrival are normally valid from thirty (30) to ninety (90) days. Visas obtained at Ethiopian embassies and consulates abroad can be valid for as long as two (2) years.

For these who are going to do volunteer work in Ethiopia, a business visa will be necessary. It must be obtained before entry to Ethiopia at an Ethiopian embassy or consulate abroad. Visitors who arrive in Ethiopia on a tourist visa may not change from a tourist visa to a work visa. To convert the visa type, visitors who are already in Ethiopia must exit the country and re-enter with a new business visa.

You must have a business visa in order to work in Ethiopia. Oftentimes pro bono or volunteer work, including University research, is considered work by the Ethiopian government. Please check with your host organization to insure that you have the correct type of visa.

To avoid possible confusion or delays, volunteers and interns are advised to obtain a valid Ethiopian business visa at the nearest Ethiopian embassy prior to arrival. Visas can be extended by applying at the Main Immigration Office in Addis Ababa.

Travel Services (Tours and Flights)

Whenever our volunteers need, we provide travel services/advices. If you are going to buy flight and book tours on your own, we strongly recommend that you get price quotes from different sources and compare them before you make your purchase.

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Ethiopia Country Profile and Pictures

Ethiopia Capital: Addis Ababa (population: 5 million) (Major cities: Dire Dawa, Nazret, Gondar, Dessie, Mekelle, Bahir Dar, Jimma, and Awassa.)

Population: 80 Millions

Official Language: Amharic

  • Different languages are spoken in Ethiopia like Oromipha, Tigrigna and Amharic as well as many other tribal languages. Amharic is the national language. The people are so friendly. You can usually get by with English. English language is the medium of instruction in schools, colleges and Universities. All foreign people are called ‘Ferenji’ in Ethiopia and people are happy to use English to talk to foreigners instead of the local language, especially outside the urban areas and in remote parts of the country.
  • English is the language generally used in government and business. It is also used in most of the schools, although there has been movement towards using mother tongue at elementary schools as the teaching language.

Time Zone: UTC+3

Climate

  • Ethiopia has two main seasons. The dry season lasts from October through May, and the rainy season starts in late June and ends in September. Though it fluctuates, the average daily temperature is between 20 -27 degree Celsius. Generally, it is comfortable for living.

The Local Currency

  • The local currency is Ethiopian birr (ETB). Ethiopian currency is denominated in “Birr” and “centimes” (coins). The exchange rate fluctuates. The current exchange rate is US $ 1.00 = about 18 birr. There are exchange bureaus where you can exchange your money. However, we strongly recommend that you bring a debit or a credit card for ATM cash withdraws. ATMs are easily accessible in Ethiopia and most of them accept international debit and credit cards. It is probably the safest and easiest way for you to access your cash.
  • Bank Holidays include: Orthodox Christmas Day, Ethiopian New Year (Enkutatash), Battle of Adowa, Prophet’s Anniversary—Eid-Milad Nnabi, Orthodox Good Friday,Labor Day/May Day, Patriots’ Day, End of the Military Regime (National Day), End of the Military Regime, Finding of the True Cross (Meskel), End of Ramadan, Eid-ul-Adha—Feast of the Sacrifice.

Personal Expense in Ethiopia

As food and accommodation are both included, you don’t need to expect to spend much money at all. You will probably find that $20 is enough for your weekly personal expense, but this figure can vary largely due to personal spending habit and whether you plan to take tours.

Safety

Going global can be an exciting experience and nervous at the same time. Regardless of where you are in the world, safety can never be guaranteed. However, Ethiopia is considered to be a relatively safe country to travel to comparing to many other South American countries. However, for your own safety, we recommend that you take the following precautions while living there:

  • If you must carry a handbag, try to keep your handbag in front of you.
  • Try to keep in groups at night and never walk alone dark streets.
  • Try to leave your valuables behind.
  • Be careful when crossing the streets.
  • Listen to local people about which areas is safe to go and not safe.
  • We recommend that you bring two bank/credit cards when you travel but keep them in different places. You can probably keep one in your wallet with you for daily use and keep the other card in a very safe place for back-up purpose. In this case, if anything happens, at least you won’t loss both cards at the same time.

While it is unlikely for something to happen to you, we do recommend that you take these precautions.

Communication

Communications infrastructure is reasonably good in Ethiopia. It is easy to call and to send emails. Internet cyber is also affordable even if internet may be very slow. The country code of Ethiopia is +251. You can get a local SIM card for about 1 USD and then you will have a local cell phone number.

Religion

There are various religious factions in Ethiopia. These are Orthodox Christianity, Muslim, Catholicism, and Protestantism. The major ones are orthodox Christianity and Muslim. There is no clear figure about the followers of each religion. Anyone is free to follow any religion, but politics is a very sensitive issue in Ethiopia. It is good for volunteers to stay neutral regarding politics in their stay in Ethiopia.

Vaccinations for Ethiopia

The following are recommended:

  • Tetanus Diphtheria Polio
  • Polio Hepatitis A
  • Typhoid
  • Yellow Fever
  • Malaria – Tablets

Things to Bring

  • You should at least bring your own sleeping bag, a lunch box, a water bottle, and other personal necessities.
  • A plug adapter is strongly recommended as you will probably need to charge your electronics.
    • Electrical Plug/Outlet and Voltage Information for Ethiopia:
      • Primary Socket Type: Three round pins arranged in a triangle; two round pins
      • Voltage: 220V
      • For Multi-voltage electronics/appliances (laptops, etc.), you only need a plug adapter.
      • For 110V appliances, you will need Plug adapter + step-down transformer.
  • A digital camera is recommended.
  • Laptop is not necessary, however many volunteers like to bring their own personal computer.
  • If you forget to bring some things (such as basic shampoo or basic water bottle), it is easy to buy them in Ethiopia. Other things (such as electronics or a special brand of body wash) can be hard or more expensive to get in Ethiopia.