At people and places we have been campaigning for years about the catastrophic effects that orphanages, and the support given to orphanage volunteering, has on children. We do not support orphanage volunteering and have been vocal about this for a long time. If you think about it, why would anyone let someone who is potentially unchecked, unqualified and with no expertise walk into an orphanage and think that they could work with children? An essential question that you have to ask yourself is: if I’m not allowed to do it at home, why should I be allowed to do it abroad? We would not walk into a nursery in the UK, cuddle a baby and post a selfie on social media. In fact, we wouldn’t even get through the door!
Being able to hold this stance at WTM London was extremely important for people and places. The issue of the exploitation of children in orphanages to create lucrative attractions for tourists was first raised at WTM London in 2011. For those of you who don’t know, WTM is the annual event that we all wait for in the travel and volunteering industry. It is one of the rare places where you can see people from, quite literally, all over the globe sharing about their countries and their cultures. While the people-watching is absolutely amazing, it has a serious undertone : WTM is a place where ideas, projects and campaigns are shared. After a day at WTM, your mind will be alive with all the interesting people you have met, the thought provoking talks you attended and the amazing sights you have seen – this was definitely true for me, a first time WTM speaker who is still in awe of everything I saw.
people and places were invited to speak at this year’s responsible tourism session on child protection: “Child Protection – What Is Better Than Orphanages?” hosted by established International Development and Child Protection Consultant Martin Punaks. We were also joined by fellow speakers Mehalah Beckett, Regional Manager for Sub Saharan Africa, Intrepid; and Damien Brosnan, The Code.
Badly handled volunteering and voluntourism have been widely recognised as harmful – the white saviour complex has been rightly called out – in which a privileged person “helps” a less privileged without taking into account their dignity, thus with a self-serving attitude. Recognition of this problem is not enough – we need positive solutions! One of the positive solutions is people and places’ latest campaign “Let’s Make The White Saviour Complex Yesterday’s News” – that we presented at WTM.
The social media based campaign has focused on the plethora of images shared on online platforms every day – and turned photos of real life volunteering situations into illustrations. Why? Firstly we realised that a lot of photos being shared on social media were not repeating privacy guidelines, not to mention people’s dignity. So with our illustrations we can show images of real volunteering situations, good or bad, whilst protecting vulnerable individual’s identities. Also we are not interested in naming and shaming volunteers or companies, but we are committed to getting the message across. Check out our campaign on Instagram https://www.instagram.com/peopleandplaces.volunteering/
There are better ways of volunteering. You can be a responsible and ethical volunteer. As part of our campaign we offer advice and guidelines about how volunteers and organisations can contribute positively. For example, support community based projects, support the families of the children who in the past might have ended up in orphanages to enable them to stay together.
For example, do not replace local labour, do work with local people. Support the future that they want, not that you think they should have.
We, the travel industry and the child protection specialists need to change people’s attitudes, and negative campaigning is not enough! We’re not just commenting, we want to improve things! We have a responsibility to provide sustainable programs and guide people towards responsible volunteering.
Will you join us?
For a detailed summary of the panel please click on this link https://rtnotesfromthefield.wordpress.com/2019/12/21/575/