Volunteer Travel and Child Protection – Let’s demand that we do better

Volunteer Travel and Child Protection – Let’s demand that we do better

Heres a blog post that I have just written for the WTM Responsible Tourism Day blog – what do you think?


Two of the key responsible tourism debates for WTM2012 are to be on ‘Tourism and Child Protection’ and ‘Responsible Volunteering’.
They could not be more timely.
A recent documentary by Al Jazeera – Cambodia’s Orphan Business and the follow up discussion programme –When volunteering becomes big business raise some very serious questions about the ethics of volunteer programmes in orphanages and some of the practices of one of the industry’s largest sending organisations.
Nowhere is responsible travel more important than in the area of child protection and the prevention of abuse. The abuse by paedophiles is an obvious danger to address – but what about other dangers: the removal of children from their communities to spurious orphanages; the use of children to beg from and sell to tourists; and particularly pertinent to volunteering, the deep psychological damage that can result when vulnerable children become attached to individuals in a stream of ever changing short term volunteers.
Child protection is not just about paedophilia
Michael Horton of ConCERT Cambodia, a key player in the development of child protection in Cambodia,( and our local partner)spoke eloquently about this at last year’s WTMWRTD – A Little Responsible Tourism is a Dangerous Thing… and this year he chairs the panel.
We at people and places hope that we are at a tipping point – that more communities and volunteers will speak out about bad practice – this is what will force change.
There are examples of good practice in this field – due diligence, transparency and well matched and prepared volunteers and communities feature in all of those examples – but there are still far too many mistakes.
So I am looking forward to meeting and talking with industry peers to see how we can achieve more examples of good practice – we have a responsibility to hold the mirror up to ourselves and demand that we do better.
Follow the twitter hashtag #voluntourism to keep up with the debate or even better post your ideas here!

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