According to Save the Children Australia, popular voluntourism destinations for Australians such as Bali, Thailand and Cambodia have seen the number of orphanages increase by up to 500 per cent since the trend began.
In middle school, I remember hearing about the local church visiting a rural town in Mexico with a group of volunteers for a week to build houses. At the time, I was impressed. Not only did I not know how to find these sort of opportunities on my own, but I remember thinking how noble it was to put yourself outside your comfort zone in such a productive way.
Despite powerful evidence of the negative impact of orphanage care, private donors continue to provide large amounts of funding to orphanages through donations, volunteer tourism, mission trips and other forms of fundraising – adding to the pull factors drawing more vulnerable children into institutional care and away from family or community care.
Do you have money and think you can change the world with it? Do you have low self-esteem, or simply crave instant gratification on social media? Or maybe you just want to increase your chance to on Tinder by embodying a third-world savior persona? Well, I’ve got an easy answer to check all your theoretical boxes: voluntourism.
Institution-based sexual exploitation, including within orphanages, is on the rise in South- East Asia. While the drivers of this increase are complex, the growth in volunteer and orphanage tourism creates opportunities for child sexual exploitation by allowing contact between vulnerable children and child sex offenders, stimulating demand for orphanages and orphaned children through child trafficking and paper orphaning, and providing the necessary conditions for orphanage scams.
It was 2010, I was just finishing my A levels and had two months before starting university. I knew I wanted to go away and do something different. I was interested in development work and as an eager and naïve 17-year-old, volunteering abroad in an orphanage seemed like a rewarding, helpful and ethical thing to do.
As someone from Nigeria, I usually have mixed feelings when my friends announce they are planning to go volunteer in a country with a high poverty rate.
The whole process is a little, well, uncomfortable. I am from Nigeria, and I have family that live there. To me, the idea of someone flying to some African country and offering them help is truly bizarre — probably as strange as it would be for an American to see someone from Nigeria travel here for two weeks to do the same. It also seems more than a little unproductive. I have never understood brief one-time volunteer trips. If you care about a community of people, shouldn’t helping them be a lifelong goal, and not a glorified vacation?
I was born in a village in far west Nepal – a remote area near a jungle. There was just my mum, my dad and me when I was born, I had had two siblings but they had died in infancy. My family wasn’t bad to me – although of course we had some problems. My father was alcoholic, and behaved irresponsibly towards the family. He never harmed me or my mum, but he was harming himself. I ended up spending most of my early childhood with my mum.
A historic modern slavery bill in Australia is being praised as the country takes the lead in ending the practice.
Australia has become the first country in the world to recognise the popular tourism practice of visiting overseas orphanages is forcing young children into slavery in many cases.