Africa’s oldest independent country – and second largest – has never been colonised. It acts as a symbol of African independence and is the base for many international organisations.
It has a unique cultural history. It’s home of the Ethiopian Orthodox Church – one of the oldest Christian churches in the world – and more than 80 different languages are spoken across the country.
Children in Ethiopia must learn both their tribal language and the country’s official language, Amharic. And by the time they start secondary school, all their lessons will be in English – so they’ll need a good grasp of that too.
VSO ICS volunteers in Ethiopia are working to improve education. With just one in two adults aged over 15 being able to read or write, there’s work to be done. We’re changing that.
Volunteers also fight to improve the situation for women and girls. You could be running sexual health workshops or helping to make the process of menstruation more understandable to small rural communities.
Get a good education
Learning English is hugely important for Ethiopian children. As a VSO ICS volunteer, you’ll be supporting this by establishing groups like reading clubs, girls clubs and spoken English clubs to improve their skills.
You’ll be working to enhance students’ writing skills and vocabulary to allow them to succeed in their future education.
Improving the situation for women and girls is also tied into this. 80% of the country live in rural areas, and despite women making up most of the agricultural workforce, there’s still work to be done on gender equality.
There’s a cultural taboo on the menstrual cycle, meaning girls often drop out of school. As a volunteer you might be running workshops for girls, boys and their parents to normalise menstruation in the community.
Helping people to support themselves and their families
One in four young people in Ethiopia are unemployed. With job prospects in rural areas being a huge challenge, we’re seeing a migration of young people towards the urban parts of the country in hope of a better future.
VSO ICS volunteers in Ethiopia help to increase employability skills for young people in these rural communities. You could run sessions on CV writing or lead workshops on accessing the job market.
Maybe you’ll be working in schools and youth centres to deliver training on employment, entrepreneurship and career opportunities, or start peer-to-peer programmes to help youth support each other.
Living in Ethiopia
There are three project locations in Ethiopia: Hawassa, Asssoa and Mekelle. All placements in Ethiopia see volunteers living with host families, usually with one other volunteer.
As with other placements, volunteers living with host families will be expected to eat like a local. Ethiopian dishes are characteristically very spicy meat of vegetable dishes, often in the form of a stew, served on top of injera, a large sourdough flatbread made out of fermented flour.
And it’s not just what happens on placement that counts. Building on Ethiopia’s proud African heritage, VSO ICS volunteers run a pan-Africanism club to help students learn more about their mother continent and country and engage local young people in regional and international issues.