Ethiopia: The journey to self-reliance through online jobs
25 April 2019

Inside the JRS Refugee Community Center (RCC) online learning lab in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia (JRS)

Addis Ababa, 25 April 2019 - The Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) education program has been providing an online education service for urban refugees in Addis Ababa at its Refugee Community Center since 2009. The program has recently become successful at creating online work opportunities for the participating refugees.

Diana, a refugee from Eritrea, is one of the program participants currently taking online classes and earning income from online work at the JRS Refugee Community Center cyber café.

She said, “I have benefited a lot from this program by developing my business and accounting skills. What makes the JRS cyber café so beneficial is that the Internet connection is high speed and it has all the necessary accessories. We don’t pay a penny for these services, and without JRS it would have cost us a lot otherwise.”

Workaround is a platform that Diana uses for her online job search.  In working with this platform, she has secured significant income and become more self-reliant. Initially she had to transfer her earnings to an electronic account that her relative has in Canada. But now, she has managed to directly deposit to her own bank account in Ethiopia.

How does the program work?

This program was initiated in cooperation with Camara Educational Foundation by making an exclusive agreement with the Coursera online education provider in order to help refugees earn professional certificates free of charge. JRS-Ethiopia supports learners by providing high-speed broadband Internet, an orientation course as well as technical support for easy administration of the courses.

Some of the students are able to get online jobs. Online work platforms are a great source of freelance jobs in video production, web designing, writing, editing, blogging, publishing, programming, software development and design, translation, interpretation, and micro-work such as data entry and tagging.

Online working platforms, such as 90 Seconds, Amazon Mechanical Turk,, GetACoder, Project4hire, Upwork and Workaround give refugees an opportunity to earn income virtually. This enables them to overcome the limitations of engaging in Ethiopia’s formal work sector. Since the marketplace is global, the refugees at JRS are competing with highly skilled professionals from the Philippines, India and Eastern Europe. But if they remain committed and build their careers, it is well worth it.

How does JRS Staff support the program participants?

JRS staff mentors learners in individual and group mentoring programs in order to catalyze group formation, sharing of knowledge, experience and lessons. Mentoring sessions are regular and continuous until they master the trends of online learning and works. Mentoring involves the following elements:

  • Selecting the right freelancing platform(s)

  • Developing a professional profile

  • Developing a portfolio

  • Passing tests and contests

  • Writing cover letters/proposals

  • Bidding on projects and getting online job

  • Use of support tools

  • Networking and branding

  • Improving technical skills

  • Select best payment options

  • Time zoning

  • Getting feedback & ratings

  • Tracking time, clients, and email messages

  • Review progress on current job(s)

  • Marketing strategies

  • Communicating properly with clients

  • Taking online courses

What is the impact?

The online training program has so far benefited over 120 students in a wide range of disciplines. Currently, over 12 students are generating income. They are building up their experience and reputation by engaging in micro work that pays a few pennies for each task. Once they get USD70 or more they will get paid directly to their local bank accounts. Since they are working 3 hours per week due to limitation of workspace and working hours, only one student has earned more than USD100 in a week’s time. Others have earned and accumulated an average of USD10 in their platforms in the same period.

Press Contact Information
Endashaw Debrework SJ
+254 20 3874152