I’ve written about orphanage voluntourism before – in my post Orphanage voluntourism holidays. As an adoptive mother, I’m passionate about this subject, as anyone who’s ever talked to me about volunteering abroad will know. I’m writing about it again, because The Better Volunteering Better Care Network have asked me to support their #StopOrphanTrips campaign to raise awareness of the great harm which is caused by volunteers visiting orphanages.
So, here goes.
Here are ten big reasons why you, your children, your friends, relations and anyone else that you know should never, ever visit an orphanage as a volunteer.*
- Most ‘orphans’ living in orphanages worldwide aren’t orphans.
- Volunteering in such settings encourages the separation of children from their families.
- International volunteering in residential care centres is creating a demand for ‘orphanages’ and ‘orphans’: kids are becoming a commodity.
- If children can’t live with their parents, experts agree that the best place for them is with another family, rather than in residential care. That’s why most kids who can’t live with their birth families in the UK are fostered or adopted.
- Some residential care centres are being run as businesses, generating money from volunteers, resulting in a demand for ‘orphans’.
- There’s evidence that some residential care centres are linked to child trafficking.
- Even though you may have good intentions towards children, not everyone is as well-intentioned as you. Your visit normalises access to children by unqualified staff.*
- Being exposed to an ever-changing parade of visiting foreign adults has a negative effect on children. For example, kids may form attachments to volunteers, and then feel abandoned. Or they may lose the ability to form healthy attachments. Or they may become confused about their culture and identity. And so on.
- If you want to volunteer to help children, there are plenty of groups in your own country who would welcome your support, such as schools, sports clubs and youth groups. You’ll have to undergo child protection checks first though. Which is as it should be.
- Would you be happy for your child to be away from you and in close contact with random, unqualified foreign strangers who’ve been through no checks? Nor would I.
*unless you’re a qualified, fully-vetted doctor, nurse, teacher, psychotherapist or other professional who can actually help children. In which case, I’m sure that you know far more about it than I do, and well done you for using your skills and expertise to help these kids.
If everyone who reads this can share at least one blog post in the month — if not more — there’s a chance to make a tremendous impact. If something shocks you, if you learn something, if something’s interesting or appalling, share it to your networks and raise awareness across global sectors and bring about the change required to #StopOrphanTrips. Don’t forget to include the hashtag!
Share this article on its original site and use the hashtag #StopOrphanTrips.
Sign the Avaaz petition calling for travel operators to remove orphanage volunteering placements from their websites by the next Responsible Tourism day at the World Travel Market in London in November 2016. Don’t forget to share it and include the hashtag #StopOrphanTrips, too!
If you’re a volunteer tourism operator who is happy to #StopOrphanTrips, then please let us get in touch – we’d love to highlight your support of the campaign. For more information, visit www.bettervolunteeringbettercare.org, and if you want to learn more or get involved, email [email protected].