Volunteering in Ethiopia: Support Local Communities

volunteer ethiopia

A large number of tourists visit Africa to volunteer abroad and Ethiopia especially offers many wonderful opportunities to offer support to local communities and learn more about the national culture. For those eager to try volunteering in Ethiopia there are a few matters to take into consideration before traveling.

From Ethiopian visas to vaccinations and the many volunteering opportunities found in East Africa, there are a lot of details would-be volunteers need to plan before they arrive in Ethiopia. To make the organization a little easier this article will answer the following questions about a potential volunteer trip to Ethiopia:

  • What kind of volunteer placements are available in Ethiopia?
  • Where do most volunteers go in Ethiopia?
  • Do travelers need a tourist visa or a specialized Ethiopian visa to volunteer?

Volunteering Opportunities in Ethiopia

In most cases, it’s best to have a volunteering placement arranged before embarking on a journey to Ethiopia. There are some opportunities available once in the country although it’s still better to have target organizations in mind before traveling. Some of the most popular and reputable volunteering organizations in Ethiopia include:

  • Peace Corps
  • Earthwatch
  • Worldwide Experience
  • Idealist
  • Iko Poran
  • Step Together Volunteering

The country offers many different types of placement where eager volunteers can provide support to the local community. Depending on the skills of the tourist, this can include the following:


Ethiopia has a very young population with 50% of the people being under 20. At present only approximately 4 percent of Ethiopia’s national budget is dedicated to education, therefore this is an area where volunteers can make a big difference. Teachers are needed year-round to teach literacy, English and computer skills to the nation’s youth and to older members of the community.


Ethiopia has a long history of Olympic success in endurance running and other endurance sports, although there is less effort dedicated to other popular national sports. For this reason, volunteers from overseas are often sought to teach and train other well-liked sports like rugby and football.


Sadly due to the AIDS epidemic and the recent border war with Eritrea, there are many orphaned children living in Ethiopia today as well as 26 refugee camps based in the country. Both of these centers often have a need for international volunteers to assist with the care of the children living there.

Sustainability and Preservation

Ecotourism is becoming increasingly more popular in Ethiopia and volunteering to protect the country’s natural wildlife and ecosystem is quite rightfully an appealing option for many tourists. Wildlife sanctuaries and habitat protection programs across the country often seek research and veterinary volunteers in order to care for and protect the country’s animal population.


HIV and AIDS are unfortunately still an issue in Ethiopia and the nation’s national healthcare system sometimes lacks the manpower and facilities to adequately treat some of these and other conditions. Medically trained volunteers are in demand nationwide to assist with nursing, midwifery, dentistry and to serve in local hospitals.

Popular Ethiopian Volunteering Destinations

One of the most popular places to work in the Ethiopian volunteer is the nation’s capital Addis Ababa. This is where most volunteer positions are found in the country and where many tourists will find themselves placed. In addition to the country’s biggest city, there are also numerous volunteer programs found in Hossana and Gondar.

What Kind of Visa is Needed to Volunteer in Ethiopia

In a lot of cases, tourists will be able to do short-term volunteering and immersion programs with an Ethiopian eVisa. An Ethiopian eVisa online application just takes a few minutes to complete and if the eVisa requirements are met the visa is valid for up to 90 days from the day of arrival.

However, some volunteer positions are deemed as work by the Ethiopian government and require a business visa. Furthermore, tourists already in Ethiopia and traveling with an eVisa will unfortunately not be able to apply for a business visa in the country as it needs to be authorized prior to travel.

If you’re unsure whether you should acquire an eVisa or business visa, visitors should contact their volunteer program organizer and they will be able to provide the correct information on the visa required for their individual program. Many organizers will also specify the visa requirements necessary to take on the position in their brochure or on their website.

Volunteering in Ethiopia is a fantastic way to build a permanent and lasting connection with this amazing country. However, like anything, with proper planning and research, the experience will be memorable for all the right reasons.