How We Can End Orphanage Volunteering: #StopOrphanTrips
This is a follow up piece that I wrote on Runaway Juno Most Children in Orphanages aren’t Orphans: Let’s #StopOrphanTrips. I wrote a post reporting that most children in orphanages are not really orphans. The donation money coming into orphanages isn’t helping children, volunteering at these orphanages isn’t ethical; it is enabling a broken institution and form of care. It’s a heartbreaking and tragic reality. Read more about it at #StopOrphanTrips posts of blogging blitz by BVBC.
How can we end orphanage volunteering? What should we do?
Support the programs which help families stay together and promote family based care.
It’s poverty that pushes most children into orphanages, and sometimes a lack of access to education in rural areas. These families send their kids to an institution because they think it will provide better opportunities for them. We certainly won’t solve this problem over night, but there are things we can do. Strengthening families should be the first and foremost priority. It would be better to grow up in the care of a poor but loving family than in a childrens’ home. Wherever possible, all efforts should be made to keep children with their families. Support their economic activities, providing cash transfers, or linking families to emotional, spiritual or social work support would be a great starting point.
Support organizations who work to stop trafficking and wrongful volunteer programs.
A lot of organizations around the globe are realizing this problem and working hard to make a better future for these children. In 2013, The Better Care Network and Save the Children UK began a global interagency initiative to review and share existing knowledge on volunteerism as related to the alternative care of children in developing countries. ACC International launched a program called Kinnected, to transform communities and nations, one life at a time, by developing holistic sustainable solutions to combat injustice, poverty and reinstate the value of life. In some countries like Cambodia, campaigns are already well established through initiatives such as Childsafe.
Spread awareness to your network about the real dangers of orphanages voluntourism.
The “Stop Orphanage Volunteering” blogging blitz initiated by BVBC is a good place to start. This is a month long blogging campaign raising awareness of the harm caused by volunteering and visiting orphanages. Simply, there needs to be increased awareness about the problems associated with orphanage voluntourism. This can be done through greater awareness raising by governments, embassies, aid agencies, NGOs, the travel industry and the media. Share #StopOrphanTrips tweets and posts, and tell your friends about the harmful results of orphanage volunteering.
Support organizations that reconnect and reunify trafficked children with their families.
To meet the requirements of well-intended orphanage volunteers and wealthy donors, orphanage directors often displace children from their families, usually in rural areas. In these circumstances, reintegrating a child back into their own family could be dangerous if a parent had trafficked the child in the first place. Children who have been victimized by their families may need additional counselling and support.
Contribute to local economies by investing in local businesses and development initiatives as you travel.
Rather than spending money on international businesses, contribute to the local economy by using local products. Staying at independent guesthouses rather than international resorts, eating at a local restaurant or food stalls than fast-food restaurants, buying sustainable souvenirs, taking public transport rather than tour buses, and so on; there are a lot of ways to contribute. Going back to the first point, this will help families to gain more economic activities so they can provide a better childcare at home.
#Sign the Avaaz petition: calling for travel operators to remove orphanage volunteering placements from their websites by the next Responsible Tourism day at WTM in London in November 2016.