VOLUNTEER WITH OPERATION ETHIOPIA
Would you like to help us do our work in Ethiopia? We have a limited number of spots for volunteers to join us on each Medical Mission to Ethiopia. It is a very hands-on experience and hard but fulfilling work.
Please note that our trips fill up early!
If you are interested in volunteering with us, please carefully read the information below and if it sounds like something you want to do, fill out the
Volunteer Application form at the bottom of the page.
Past volunteers have found it to be a truly life-changing experience!
Click here to read what past volunteers have had to say.
Watch a video about volunteering with Operation Ethiopia.
TRIP SCHEDULE FOR 2023:
We have four Medical Missions to Ethiopia in 2023. Our trips are one week long, Thursday to Thursday.
Trip dates for 2023 are:
February 10-16 (trip completed!)
May 14 - May 19 (surgical trip only - completed!)
July 13 - 20 (full and no longer accepting applications)
November 10 - 16 (this trip is full but we have a wait list - you can still apply)
*Trip dates for 2024 will be published on this page in October, 2023.
WHAT DO OPERATION ETHIOPIA VOLUNTEERS DO?
Our volunteers range from Eye doctors and Eye surgeons, to EMTs, to laypeople.
EMTs are involved in teaching first aid and CPR to medical staff in Gondar University hospital, out in the field, and also to laypeople in the Jewish community. They also participate in our Mobile Eyecare clinics. Laypeople are given short training on location to work in our Mobile Eyecare clinics, and are instrumental in helping us check hundreds of patients at each clinic. They assist with or even independently check for far-sightedness and manage eyeglass distribution, medication distribution, keep records of patients seen, and keep things flowing smoothly during clinics, organize and inventory medications and supplies daily, and more. It is a very hands-on experience, we all work hard together.
All volunteers are invited to help with our feeding program for malnourished children during early mornings in the Jewish compound.
WHAT ARE REQUIREMENTS OF OUR VOLUNTEERS?
Our work is done in the village of Gondar, Ethiopia, and the surrounding villages and it is very much the third world in every sense. The conditions of the trip are challenging. Things often change at the last minute and flexibility and resiliency are necessities. There are no public bathrooms, the accommodations are on the level of a very simple youth hostel, we work long days in the field.
Specific requirements include:
At least 18 years of age (no exceptions, for legal reasons)
Fluent or highly proficient in both Hebrew and English
Leadership experience in youth groups, army, or other settings is preferred (ie, Bnai Akiva, Scouts, Camp counselor)
Medical experience is a plus even if not a doctor (ie, medical or nursing school student, EMT, Paramedic)
Ability to thrive in uncertain conditions and situations, in physically challenging accommodations and surroundings,
Desire to work hard and be part of a team
HOW MUCH DOES IT COST TO COME ON A VOLUNTEER TRIP?
Volunteers pay for all of their expenses for the six day trip to Gondar, Ethiopia. These costs include purchasing a round trip airplane ticket from their destination to Gondar, Ethiopia (transfer flights in Addis Ababa), a visa for entering Ethiopia arranged weeks ahead of travel, innoculations / vaccinations before travel, taxis to and from the airport of departure and return, and hotel and food for the week. Food and lodging in Ethiopia runs approximately $35 USD per day.
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.
FOOD: We eat all of our meals at the Lammergeyer hotel and the food is quite decent. It is where all the Israeli volunteers in the Ethiopian Jewish community have stayed for years, so they have a set of Kosher dishes that they prepare fully vegetarian (non-dairy) food on.
The Kosher certification for the Lammergeyer 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?
Entering Ethiopia from both the US and Israel requires a Visa that needs to be applied for 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. We do not dispense medical advice regarding immunizations, please follow your own doctor's guidance.
We recommend taking malaria medication which you begin one day before travel, 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 while there. Your best chance at connectivity is by purchasing a local SIM card in the Addis airport, but again cell service is never a certainty there.
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.
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! Please complete this form and we will be in touch.
VOLUNTEERS IN ACTION - PHOTOS
VOLUNTEERING IN ETHIOPIA - VIDEO
Watch to see what it's like to Volunteer with Operation Ethiopia