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.
This year, nearly 20 million people will pack their bags to volunteer overseas—yet far too many are failing to make an impact, and some are even doing more harm than good. So how can we change the way we make positive change in the world?
We hope that our infographic will make it easier to understand how child trafficking happens, not only in Nepal, but worldwide. You can help us raise awareness for this problem by sharing this graphic with your friends, family, and with anyone you know who may be considering volunteering in an orphanage.
Gap year students who volunteer at orphanages overseas are propping up a system that “irreparably harms children”, JK Rowling has said.
The author, who founded children’s welfare charity Lumos, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that while students may have the “best of intentions”, they could be funding orphanages that abuse vulnerable children and sell them into sex work.