We offer several different programs for undergraduate students, graduate students, medical students, educators, professionals, and tourists interested in in volunteering.

  • College Students, Graduate Students, Medical Students: Programs for January Term, Winter Break Spring Break, or Summer are available.
  • High School Students: Summer opportunities to volunteer at our SUMMER CAMP for Ethiopian students!
  • Educators, Professionals, Tourists: Short term and long term programs can be arranged.
  • Families with adopted children from Sidama:  Cultural immersion camps

Program options:

  1. Internships & Student Volunteering
  2. International Service
  3. Faculty-led program
  4. Volun-touring
  5. Sidama Cultural Camps

Please contact us for more information about visiting and volunteering with us.

1.       Internships & Student Volunteering

Our Internship program offers placements with our community. You will engage in an immersive program designed to provide you with valuable professional experience for career exploration and development.  We work with you to develop a project plan that matches your time schedule and the breadth of experience you wish to attain.  While we do not require a specific major or area of interest, we look for skills, abilities, and goals that would be beneficial for a given project.

Common River’s on the ground staff will be available to support you and ensure that your time abroad is well spent.

 Program at a Glance:

  • 8-52 week
  • 40 hour/week
  • Individual placements
  • Development of custom work plans based on community needs
  • Year-round start dates
  • Onsite orientation

Individual Students conducted research from:

University of San Francisco, Berkeley, Loma Linda University, New York University, Dartmouth University, Antioch University, University of Connecticut, Lund University (Sweden)

Please contact us for more information about visiting and volunteering with us.

2.       International Service Programs

International Service Programs allow students to collaborate with our community to contribute to long-term, comprehensive grassroots development projects. Our program model combines a short-term service project along with supplementary workshops, site visits, and cultural activities geared to provide students with a strong understanding of international community development at the grassroots level and an enhanced global perspective. In each of our programs we engage in the practice of reflection, allowing students to critically analyze their experience and better understand how they can apply their learning’s to their personal and professional lives.

Program at a Glance:

• 1-5 weeks
• 8-18 students per group
• Program dates often coincide with winter, spring, and summer breaks
• Experienced student leader and/or university representative serves as group leader
• Daily staff support and contact
• Weekend trips to cultural sites and adventure locations
• Extensive safety & liability coverage
• Customized pricing based on number of students, location, length, and program structure

Project Options:

Common River matches the skills and interests of each group with a community-driven project. Current projects include:

• Sustainable Agriculture and Nutrition
• Environmental Restoration
• Education
• Sustainable Community Development
• International Development

Please contact us for more information about visiting and volunteering with us.

3.       Faculty-led Field Programs

Faculty-led Field Programs engage groups in customized community-driven service projects in our partner communities in Ecuador and Nicaragua.  We tailor each program to meet your personal, departmental, and institutional needs as you decide the length, time of year, and course of study.  We work with you to develop and manage a creative and productive program full of cultural, recreational, and educational activities.

Program at a Glance:

  • Groups of 8-20
  • Includes food, lodging, and transportation
  • Customized programming based on course content, program objectives and goals, and required number of class hours
  • Support from in-country site director
  • We can arrange for guest lectures, classroom space, and classes at local universities/language schools alongside the community-driven service project component of the program

Current University Groups Include:

  • University of Texas San Antonio Medical School
  • University of Wisconsin
  • Colgate University

Please contact us for more information about visiting and volunteering with us.

4.       Volun-touring

We cater t the unique traveler offering an eco-friendly authentic village life experience. Discover the Sidama people and the natural beauty of the Region, visiting the attractions….bamboo plantations, coffee plantations, waterfalls, mountain treks, etc.

  • Stay in Sidama bamboo woven huts
  • Eat traditional Sidama cuisine made with organic vegetables from our garden and fresh milk from our cows
  • Assist with our development program activities: Elementary school, sports, female literacy, health education, microenterprise, sustainable gardening, nutrition, Senior Council
  • Enjoy our local community and culture while contributing your time, skills and energy to developing its future.

Click here for community service ideas:  things to do

Please contact us for more information about visiting and volunteering with us.

5.       Sidama Cultural Camps

Families (including children) participate in a 7-10 day culture camp. Program will include sessions on the Sidama language, Sidama food/cooking, traditional arts and dance, visits to the local community, conversations with community members on Sidama life and hiking trips to local attractions.  Child participants are invited to attend classes at the Common River School and interact with the local students.  Each family will have a highly immersive and authentic experience by staying on-site at Common River.  In order to ensure that the culture camp is beneficial to the community, part of the program will include previously established volunteer projects based on the skill sets of the participants.

  • Growing up in Sidama
  • Sidama traditions
  • Exploring Sidama
  • Sidama livelihoods
  • Service project

“ We cannot thank you enough for allowing us to visit for the day and the experience is one we will never forget.  I actually blogged about it and wanted to share it with you as I took so many photos of the children that you might want to have.  They all left quite an impact on each of us, as did the both of you.  We will continue to advocate for Common River and we still are planning to make a donation to the children’s lunch program.” 

From the blog of Nancy, Larry, Aidan, and Paige East  (Adoptive Family visit)

Please contact us for more information about visiting and volunteering with us.

Click here to download the Common River, Aleta Wondo Volunteer Brochure.

Click here to download Travel Orientation Packet.

Click here to download the volunteer form and application.

Read TESTIMONIALS from volunteers and visitors!

Please contact us for more information about visiting and volunteering with us or email Donna Sillan ( .

Find out how your visit, medical volunteering, international internship, student volunteering, volunteer teaching and / or donations can help us reach our goal of sustainable development in Aleta Wondo, Ethiopia. For more information about Common River and how you can help, contact us today.