As COVID-19 has spread throughout the world, Nepal has not been spared by this pandemic. Though, there are only two confirmed cases as of today, there are almost certainly many more. Considering this fact, Nepal has been completely locked down as of March 24, 2020. NGN’s teams are working from home, and we are ensuring remotely that all the children we are monitoring are safe with their families. Having received two rescues in the month of February, we are currently in the process of reconnecting the children with their families. Despite the fear of COVID-19, we have seen families brave this new unknown and come to Kathmandu to see their children and take them home where hopefully they will be safe.
Since the Syrian migrant crisis made national headlines in 2015, volunteers have continued to flow into Greece. This uptick falls in line with the increasingly popular trend of voluntourism, a form of tourism in which travelers participate in volunteer work abroad.
Back to university today? Beware the flashy voluntourism brochures promising a chance to save the world, writes AUT lecturer Daniel Crouch.
It was my first day as a lecturer, February 2018, and I was feeling pretty nervous as students filed in. Just before the nine o’clock start, a young woman approached me at the front of the room and greeted me with a handshake and a “Daniel, right?” She asked if she could make a quick announcement about volunteering opportunities for my students. I welcomed the students in, and handed the floor to her. Then I stood by, dumbfounded, as she offered the students the chance to work in an orphanage and go white-water rafting in Cambodia, or build a well and paraglide over the Amazon rainforest in Brazil. She wasn’t a colleague – she was there to pitch voluntourism packages for a private company, and she was doing it from the front of the lecture hall.
Conor and Samjyor attending the premier of HBO's "Finding the Way Home".
NGN was one of just a few INGO's picked to participate in this documentary. Focusing on the stories of eight children who have been reunited with family members or placed in loving foster homes after experiencing the trauma of institutionalization, Finding the Way Home highlights the painful realities of the eight million children living in orphanages and other institutions around the world.
Rising awareness of orphanage voluntourism
A decade ago very few people had heard of the term ‘orphanage voluntourism’, but now barely a week goes past without the media covering it. For anyone who is unaware of what orphanage voluntourism is, it involves well-intentioned volunteers who give their time and money to orphanages in the belief they are helping vulnerable children
What springs to mind when you hear ‘volunteering abroad’? For many, it is Western teenagers taking selfies with smiling children in ‘Africa’, enjoying the fact that they’re having an ‘authentic’ cultural experience and improving the lives of the less fortunate.
My first experience of this was in Ecuador. I was sixteen, and had signed up to a month-long World Challenge expedition, which mixed tourism with volunteering in a local community. I’d had to fundraise to pay the (significant) costs involved – two years’ worth of bake sales, tea and coffee events, and any odd jobs I could get my hands on.
If you were on campus over the past few months, you might have seen lime-green flyers for Growth International Volunteer Excursions (GIVE) — an international volunteer organization with programs in multiple countries — in bathrooms, classrooms and academic buildings.
UNC has 400 study abroad programs across 70 different countries, but that number doesn’t include the countless non-University affiliated programs advertised across campus.
Some people enjoy touring other countries in order to participate in volunteer work — this trend has become known as “voluntourism.”
Although voluntourism seems helpful on the surface, it can actually be very harmful in the long run because of the unintended consequences it can inflict on international communities.
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.