VOLUNTEER WITH OPERATION ETHIOPIA
Would you like to help us do our work in Ethiopia? We run two one-week trips with volunteer cohorts a year. Each cohort includes three ophthalmologists or optometrists, 2 EMTs, and up to 8 laypeople. It is a very hands-on experience and hard but fulfilling work.
There is an application process that includes a written application and interview.
***Please note that we receive a lot of applications and our our trips fill up EARLY.
IMPORTANT UPDATE OCTOBER 8 - DUE TO THE WAR IN ISRAEL OUR VOLUNTEER TRIPS ARE ON HOLD
If you are interested in joining a volunteer trip please fill out the
Volunteer Application form on the bottom of this page.
Past volunteers have found it to be a truly life-changing experience!
Watch a video about volunteering with Operation Ethiopia.
TRIP SCHEDULE FOR 2023 AND 2024:
We run four medical missions a year. Two bring volunteer cohorts and two are surgical missions for Eye Surgeons only.
2024 MEDICAL MISSION DATES:
**UPDATE OCTOBER 8 - DUE TO THE WAR IN ISRAEL, OUR TRIP DATES WILL LIKELY CHANGE / BE DELAYED
January 31 - February 6 VOLUNTEER TRIP (if you were not on the Sept. 20 Zoom information session, you can apply for our waiting list)
March 1 - 8 Eye Surgeons trip
June 26 - July 3 VOLUNTEER TRIP (dates are tentative, not final)
November - dates TBD. Eye Surgeons only
2023 MEDICAL MISSION DATES :
February 10-16 (trip completed!)
May 14 - May 19 (surgeons only - trip completed!)
July 13 - 20 (trip completed!)
November *17-23 (*eye surgeons only)
WHAT ARE WE LOOKING FOR IN VOLUNTEERS?
At least 18 years of age (no exceptions, for legal reasons)
Fluent in both Hebrew and English
Flexible even in uncertain conditions and situations, no problem with physically challenging accommodations and surroundings.
Highly motivated, takes initiative, pitches in
Leadership experience in youth groups, army, or other settings is preferred
Works well as part of a team
Can 100% COMMIT to the dates of the trip - our volunteer teams are small and carefully balanced among ages, skill set, and if people cancel after committing it causes problems for the mission. If you are interested in a trip that is close to a family event, personal event, army enlistment, if your workplace may not approve your leave, please do not apply.
Our work is done in Gondar in northern Ethiopia, and the surrounding villages and it is the third world in every sense. The conditions of the trip are challenging. There are no public bathrooms, accommodations are on the level of a very simple youth hostel, there are times when the electricity is off, where running water is not available, WIFI and connectivity in general is never guaranteed, and we work long days in the field. Things often change at the last minute and flexibility and resiliency are essential.
WHAT DO OPERATION ETHIOPIA VOLUNTEERS DO?
The main activity of our volunteer trips are running Mobile Eyecare clinics in rural villages (watch here for an example). Laypeople are trained to operate devices that screen for glaucoma, auto-refract for vision, and they check in patients, manage medication distribution, fit patients with reading glasses, and more. It is a very hands-on experience and we all work hard together.
EMTs, in addition to participating in our Mobile Eyecare Clinics teach first aid and CPR to medical staff in Gondar University hospital, out in the field, and also to laypeople in the Jewish community.
All volunteers are invited to help with the SSEJ feeding program for malnourished children during early mornings in the Jewish compound.
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO COME ON A VOLUNTEER TRIP?
Volunteers cover their expenses for the one-week trip to Gondar, Ethiopia. We DO have a limited number of scholarships for each mission, so if you need financial assistance let us know. The cost of the one-week volunteer trip is currently $1500 including flights to/from Israel (the biggest expense by far), food, and lodging. Additional expenses are getting an e-visa, getting to and from the Israeli airport, and vaccinations as needed.
WHAT ARE THE ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD IN GONDAR, ETHIOPIA?
LODGING: We stay at the Lammergeyer "hotel" in Gondar, which is across from the University of Gondar Hospital, and a 12 minute walk to the Jewish compound. The rooms are on the level of a very very basic youth hostel. They have different standards for cleanliness and comfort. You sleep under a mosquito net. There is often hot water available for showers but not always. Electricity and running water are not always available throughout the day.
FOOD: We eat all of our meals at the Lammergeyer hotel and the food is quite decent. The kitchen serves both Kosher and non-Kosher food and the Kosher certification is overseen by Rabbi Menachem Waldman of Haifa, Israel, who has been the religious leader of the community for decades.
Local fare includes injerra, fish, pasta, shakshuka, eggs, and pancakes.
We recommend bringing non-refrigerated foods and snacks as well, particularly for selective eaters.
Water can only be drank from sealed bottles that you can purchase daily at the hotel or locally.
We recommend not eating uncooked vegetables or fruits.
WHAT ELSE DO I NEED TO KNOW?
We spend a lot of time selecting volunteers, and we carefully balance each volunteer cohort for ages, skills, and so on. If you apply to volunteer, please be CERTAIN that you are available to join for the dates of the trip you are applying for.
Entering Ethiopia from Israel requires a Visa that needs to be applied for online and received before travel
All travelers need to check with their local doctor or travel clinic to find out what innoculations / immunizations you need to get. Some vaccinations need to be given well in advance.
It is recommended to take malaria pills but check with your own doctor.
You need to purchase travel insurance before your trip
Wifi service is very spotty there and you cannot be guaranteed connectivity. A local SIM card offers the best connectivity but even so the wifi can be cut off in the country at any point and different times.
We take photos throughout our trips and missions, and by coming with us you consent to us using photos of you on our website, social media, emails and more.
You would be directly helping and interacting with people who otherwise have no means or access to medical care, and it is an immensely rewarding and life-changing experience. Read testimonials of past volunteers below.
Read what past volunteers have said about their experience:
Holocaust Educator, Greenwich, CT
"Before I left, I had a certain image in my mind of Ethiopia, Africa or a Third World Country, based on what I have read, seen on TV or heard. I walked into this project with those images.
Being in Ethiopia and seeing the country and the people with my own eyes was a very different experience than looking at photos. Pictures and words cannot totally describe my trip. Things in my life that I have taken for granted - running water in my house, warm clothing, adequate medical care are sorely lacking in Ethiopia. As a mom I cannot imagine the anguish a mother feels knowing that their child needs adequate nutrition, basic clothing, medical intervention and so many other necessities and not being able to provide for them.
Despite all the pain and hardships people endure in Gondar they are hopeful. The members of the Jewish Community all hope to go to Jerusalem one day. The children are happy and very friendly to newcomers and very curious about the world beyond Gondar.
I feel privileged I had the ability to visit Ethiopia and witness the country and the people who live there. I am humbled by my limited ability to help those I met. Yet I remain hopeful. I was struck by all those who were willing to help - the doctors and nurses, the shlichim (Israeli volunteers), the people involved in the Jewish compound. All the patience and care these devoted professionals displayed was encouraging. I was especially inspired by all the volunteers on our mission.
Dr. Morris Hartstein set the tone of our mission. The care and warmth he displays to each one of his patients is unique. Dr. Hartstein would work tirelessly all day seeing as many patients as he could. Then after a long day of examining 200+ patients or performing complex surgeries, Dr. Hartstein would take the time to see a straggler who wandered into our hostel who had heard there was an eye doctor from Israel and needed to be seen (this occurred on more than one occasion). Dr. Hartstein’s passion for helping the people of Ethiopia is extraordinary. The volunteers on our mission all from different walks of life were united in their mission to help this cause as best they could. Watching these volunteers in action - their warmth, sensitivity, and compassion was remarkable.
The images I witnessed will stay with me and I hope to use these images to raise awareness, and hopefully raise funds for those faces."
Nursing student at NYU, and EMT in NYC.
"The trip was a life changing experience. We always hear and talk about helping out those in underserved communities, but rarely is there opportunity to do so. Operation Ethiopia goes directly to the source. They provide both basic medical care and a true gift that can never be repaid - the gift of eyesight!
Between working together with Gondar University Hospital, running cataract campaigns, distributing hundreds of pairs of eyeglasses to individuals in surrounding villages who can't access eyecare, bringing surgeons to instruct and consult on complex surgeries, post surgery eyecare education, CPR/ BLS training, and working with the local Jewish community to help properly nourish the young children that otherwise wouldn't get enough food, this trip completely exceeded all of my expectations.
I came in not knowing much or expecting anything. I figured I was flying halfway across the world to join a doctor and his family on a trip, and I'd be able to use my limited medical knowledge to help with running a CPR course. I assumed the course would have 10 or so people. Never did I imagine I'd be teaching CPR to majority of the hospital nursing staff, internal medicine residents and attendings as well. On top of that working together with Drs. Morris and Ran and having the opportunity to scrub in and observe the local surgeons operate was incredible. Both are extremely knowledgeable in their field and were able to patiently explain their complex procedures in a way that anyone could understand.
This trip also enabled me to challenge myself both physically and mentally, expand my medical knowledge and see how other medical systems operate.
Aside from the medical aspect, by working with the local Jewish community, being openly welcomed into people's homes to eat, drink coffee and seeing how committed this community is to their Judaism along with their constant hope and undying faith that they will make it to Israel, the trip left me with memories and friends that I'll never forget."
Ra'anana, Israel. Served for three years in the IDF as a combat medic instructor, and is a certified EMT.
"I would describe it as a uniquely special experience. A true opportunity to do good, and to learn with the exceptional group of people who make it possible."
"ה"הייתי מתאר את החוויה בעיקר כמיוחדת. הזדמנות אמיתית להטיב וללמוד עם קבוצה של אנשים מדהימים שמאפשרים ומעצימיל את החוויה
VOLUNTEER APPLICATION FORM
Thanks for your interest in joining us!
Before filling out this form, please read all of the information this page.
There will be two volunteer trips in 2024. The dates are not yet finalized but will most likely be end of January and late June. We will have an online information session September 20 for all potential volunteers for both trips. Please fill out the form if you are interested - we have limited spots and trips fill up early! Thank you so much for your interest!
VOLUNTEERS IN ACTION - PHOTOS
VOLUNTEERING IN ETHIOPIA - VIDEO
Watch to see what it's like to Volunteer with Operation Ethiopia