If you bring up volunteering abroad in a conversation more often than not you’ll get a response like, “Volunteering is great! I’ve always wanted to work in an orphanage.” While traveling in developing countries it’s hard to ignore the countless signs held by impoverished-looking children begging you to visit or donate to their orphanage. Do a quick search for international volunteer placements and half of them will offer opportunities to “play with children”.
Orphanage tourism is a growing travel trend but gradually the truth is coming out: volunteering, visiting, and even donating to orphanages can actually cause more harm than good.
Continue reading on Tourism Concern!
February 9, 2014
by Eleanor Paton
Overseas volunteering has had its fair share of bad press. Tales of orphanage tourism in particular make for depressing reading. Report after report touches on similar practices; children kept in poverty so that volunteers continue to donate, orphanages that ignore volunteers’ concerns about the children’s wellbeing and an unhealthy process of attachment between the volunteers and children. *
Even where orphanages aren’t involved there is many a pitfall for the well -meaning volunteer. Yes, of course, helping to build a hospital or school in a developing country seems like a nice idea. But in practice there is little logic to shipping in unskilled Westerners to do local jobs, probably poorly.
So what then, if you are thinking of volunteering, if you do want to ‘do good’? Google it, and wonder at the plethora of ways you may accidentally join a process of exploitation. Or, indeed, find your own intentions and finances exploited. Whilst these cautions are both worthy and necessary, we also have to find ways of encouraging people to help out. For as many warnings as we provide, the development community must also show prospective volunteers how they can genuinely contribute.
Continue reading on the Volunteer in Cambodia blog!
Video 4 – Orphanage Tourism
Orphanages are increasingly becoming tourist destinations as more and more people choose to visit or volunteer in children’s homes during their travels abroad. This video – the fourth in our series – offers some ‘must know’ facts about orphanage tourism, and encourages you to think twice before contributing to this growing trend.