orphanages-why are we asking you to rethink volunteering or donating?

By Sallie Grayson. Filed in good and bad practice, project background, responsible giving, volunteers' fundraising  |  
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We want to start this post by saying very clearly that we know that some of you support orphanages – and we are not, for a moment, suggesting that you should immediately stop supporting those orphanages. We want to encourage people to look at alternatives and encourage the organisations they support to seek alternatives.We want to encourage people who are thinking about supporting an orphanage for the first time to consider the alternatives – we want to warn people that many orphanages – not all- are commercial enterprises where children are trafficked.

We are asking everyone to rethink the way we support children in poverty – children who are very often separated from their families because of poverty.

We at people and places made the decision nearly 10 years ago to work with programmes that work to keep children in their families not in orphanages – why?

The more funding that goes toward residential care centres, the more appealing they become for struggling families, who become convinced their child will have a better future in the centre than at home.

Trafficking fuelled by misplaced good intentions

Volunteering in orphanages has become a hugely popular way to “give back” when travelling abroad. Placements can be organised in many ways – including through travel agencies, NGOs, churches and missions groups, schools and universities, as well as directly with orphanages themselves. Many children’s organisations are campaigning against this practice. 

Nobody doubts the good intention of the donors, travellers, and volunteers who give time or money to orphanages. It is natural and right to care about poor and vulnerable children, wherever they are in the world. But is this support part of the problem rather the solution?  Child protection practitioners believe orphanage tourism, volunteering, voluntourism and donations instead of being part of the solution, are in fact part of the problem. How? By both creating and fuelling the demand for “orphans” which in turn drives the unnecessary separation of children from their families as well as making them vulnerable to potential abuse and even trafficking and slavery.

What are the alternatives?

To help children, support their families and communities.

Our aim is to harness the generosity of well-intentioned donors and volunteers, and to redirect support away from Residential Care Institutions – Orphanages, towards organisations who are working to keep children in families. By doing this, we can ensure that vulnerable children have what all children need and deserve – a family.  

Halting the exploitation of children, donors and volunteers requires collaboration and cooperation between national governments, the tourism industry, charities, faith organisations and other non-government organisations as well as travellers and volunteers themselves. Cross-border cooperation and a commitment from both the supply and demand sides are vital.

We all bear responsibility. While there remains a demand for orphanage visits and philanthropy in developing countries and little is done to stop it, new, unscrupulous suppliers will continue to emerge.

For information about volunteer projects that seek to keep children in families please email kate@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk

If you are interested in a free presentation to a school or organisation you work with about the dangers of and alternatives to supporting orphanages please email dianne@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk

If you would like to learn more about organisations working to keep children in families -that need your financial support – please email sallie@travel-peopleandplaces.co.uk

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