How to Volunteer in Ethiopia

There are so many good reasons to apply, this is the ultimate way to give back, escape your comfort zone and feel like being in another world. Ethiopia is a very poor country and on the ground there are lots of local NGOs and projects in remote villages and the bigger cities.

People from all around the world - individuals, couples, families, students, and groups e.g. churches, colleges, and student associations apply to volunteer in Ethiopia every year.

Most projects are very flexible and you can join every month of the year but please research all projects before applying, this country has extreme poverty and sometimes this can be quite shocking to see up close.


Volunteer in Addis Ababa

Most programs are running in the capital Addis Ababa and in the surrounding suburbs.

Addis Ababa is the capital city of Ethiopia with a population of 5 million inhabitants and founded by Emperor Menelik in 1887. The famous locations in town are the Mercator, the largest open market in the Africa, the National Museum where 'Lucy', the 3.5 million year old hominid, resides and the Ethnological Museum that exhibits the culture and arts of the Ethiopian ethnic groups. Local people in Addis Abeba live peacefully and are very friendly towards foreigners. You manage well with English.

There are also outreach teams which work in more rural parts of the country or you could join a community initiative where there are operations running e.g. Nazareth which is a small town located around 60 miles from Addis Ababa.


Types of Programs

You could help community inititives helping improve lives and living standards, teaching, coach sports, working at orphanages, contributing to medical and healthcare projects or joining journalism internships.


Education, Sports Coaching & Teaching

Educational projects at schools in Ethiopia can be challenging but also very rewarding, you will get help from other participants and local teachers. Tasks will involve leading lessons and creating games to keep children busy and engaged during the day.

You might not know but English in the official foreign language of Ethiopia and is taught in most schools, children are always keen to learn to you will be able to contribute to their listening, writing and speaking skills. On these projects you will usually work Monday to Friday around 4-8 hours per day depending on the school.


Childcare Programs

Local children might not have enjoyed the best of lives and some participants can be affected by several issues. If you are considering these placements please apply for a long term duration, the constant change of volunteers weekly can have a negative effect on children.

When applying to join these programs you will be expected to help and sometimes work hard, not just have a relaxing experience taking pictures.

There are lots of orphanages in Ethiopia due to parents being lost as a result of HIV/Aids and famine or they have been abandoned, some children even live here from when they are born to around 13 years old. The orphanages here do really amazing work and you will be able to help local staff who aim to make a positive contribution to childrens lives. Many people who join these programs then go home, fundraise and go back - you really see the impact you make.

Tasks can include cooking and preparing food, getting children ready for the day, teaching English, making games, coaching sports, offering counsel, general assistance and taking some of the work off the local staff hands. You can also join similar placements by applying to volunteer in Kenya.


Medical & Healthcare Placements

These placements are perfect if you are looking to gain hands on experience for a future career, or if you already work in this industry or if you would just like to make a difference.

There are skilled and un-skilled placements available which are perfect for pre-med / medical students, qualified medical workers (nurses, midwives, dentists, physiotherapists) and anyone wishing to help in a healthcare capacity. On some medical placements in Ethiopia where you will get to work as part of outreach teams and in hospitals assisting local doctors and nurses with their daily schedules.

Large international charities have been operating in Ethiopia for a number of years placing skilled professionals on placements, these are a great way to do something rewarding and give back to people in need. We often get asked about paid positions but these are difficult to find unless you work as an in-country coordinator. You will work at hospitals, community centres or in clinics set up in rural areas.

Tasks can include observing and working to assist doctors and nurses, accompany doctors on rounds, doing medical checks and offering assistance to local people. Awareness are also projects which need help, HIV and Aids has ravaged this country and more needs to be done to stop the spread of the disease.


How to Apply

There are short and long term programs available, most organisations require you to join for a minimum of 2 weeks. Some organisations offer structured placements which include pre-departure information, placements, meals, accommodation, orientation/training, 24 hour emergency support and also a donation.

You will need to be aged 18 (there are no upper age limits), be in good health, eligible for a visa and have a desire to help, be able to work in teams and be open to living in a new country.

With some organisations you will need to pay a joining fee which can vary depending on the organisation, project and also duration you join for. You can also extend your duration once in Ethiopia. You might also want to view all of our volunteering programs in Africa.


Free Volunteer Opportunities in Ethiopia

Are you wondering how do I volunteer for free in Ethiopia? There are various free and low cost programs available to join through local NGO's or international charities, you probably will be expected to pay towards your accommodation and food though. These two organisations are recommended:

  • English Alive Academy - a non profit school seeking international teachers to help educate children in Nazareth. You can stay for a few weeks up to 2 months but you will need some experience to join. There is no join fee but you will need to make your own way to the school, accommodation is included and you might need to make a nominal donation towards food.
  • Strawberry Fields Eco-Lodge - this is your chance to help cultural programs with the Konso community where you will help education, create workshops and help with local activities at a restraurant, eco-lodge and training centre.



Accommodation is usually provided in the form of shared housing with other participants. On some projects you can choose to live with a host family which can be exciting and a great way to integrate into the culture and learn more about the people.

Food & Shopping
The cuisine is excellent in Ethiopia and very cheap. You can enjoy local traditional food or to visit the countless high quality western and eastern restaurants in the larger towns and cities. You can also find numerous shopping areas and you find high quality clothing, leather, spices etc. Shopping is very affordable in th capital.

Useful Words and Phrases
To make the experience of visiting Ethiopia more enjoyable and easier we recommend learning some basic local words and phrases, here are some to get you started.

  • Hello - Sälam
  • How are you - I'ndemin alleh?
  • What is your name - Simih man new?
  • Please - I'bakih
  • Sorry - Aznallehu
  • Thanks - Ameseginalehugn
  • Goodnight - Mälkam adar
  • Bye - Chaw