Friday, 2 August 2013

Children & Wellbeing: The Complex Poli-tricks of Orphanages …….finally coming to light

A recent report revealed that over 90 per cent of children in orphanages in Ghana are not actually orphans

Title: Orphanage volunteering 'part of the problem'

A company that specialises in responsible tourism has said it will no longer offer orphanage volunteering trips., an umbrella group for ethically minded tour operators and hoteliers, dropped 10 itineraries from its books due to ethical reasons.

Its move comes ahead of A-Level results day (September 15), when many school leavers begin planning their gap year. The firm said it would work with industry leaders to establish a set of "best practice guidelines" for the sector before considering reinstating the trips.

Sarah Bareham, the firm's marketing assistant, explains:

"We are concerned that orphanage volunteers, despite their best intentions, are part of the problem rather than the solution for children living in poverty throughout the world," she said.

"Instead of family-based support, orphanage care too often becomes the first solution for volunteers and NGOs unaware of other alternatives.

There is overwhelming evidence from UNICEF documenting the detrimental effect orphanages have on children’s physical and emotional wellbeing.

Alongside a boom in tourism, the number of orphanages in Bali has doubled in the last 20 years, suggesting well-meaning volunteers are actually fuelling the demand. Siem Reap, Cambodia, gateway to Angkor Wat and a town with a population of only 100,000, now has 35 orphanages.

Particularly shocking are reports that one parades its children through the town at night, with placards saying 'help our orphans' as visitors drink and dine.

"Although many orphanages are genuine places of care, others have less humanitarian motives at heart.

A UN report from West Africa identifies the need to protect children from “Orphan Dealers”, highlighting that over 90 per cent of children in orphanages in Ghana are not actually orphans and 140 of 148 orphanages in the country operate without license.

In Cambodia almost all orphanages are funded by overseas donors. Many turn to volunteer tourism for income and train their children to perform and attract donors. Disturbingly, three-quarters of children in these institutions are not orphans. In Bali a BBC report uncovered that “tourists’ donations keep the orphanages going – but some are effectively rackets, exploiting children and holidaymakers alike”.

"For children in even the most legitimate institutions, interaction with a revolving door of short-term volunteers can be psychologically very damaging.

Volunteers are largely untrained, do not possess the complex skills necessary to work with traumatised children and would not be allowed to do so in the UK. Most volunteers also seek to form an emotional attachment to the children in their care, to feel they have made a difference through their work. Instead they are often simply reinforcing a never-ending cycle of abandonment.

"Consequently, has taken the step to remove orphanage volunteering trips from our site while we work with industry leaders and experts to put together criteria to ensure best practice in child-focused voluntourism."


Paulina says: I truly don’t know where to start…… but I’m thankful that the complex poli-tricking of orphanages are slowly but surely coming to light.

That 90% of children in orphanages in Ghana aren’t orphans isn’t shocking but sad and complicated!!! Thus, I want organisations, the ones who send voluntaries to Ghana and beyond to try and still work with these sooo called orphanages as ultimately the children will be the ones to suffer.

For many of Ghana’s poor –orphanages are the only way to feed their children  -and for some of the children involved, it’s the only place where they get real attention, affection and some education –so I urge the likes of ‘Responsible Travel ( not to pull out of Ghana completely, but to please work with these sooo called orphanages –so that the children involved still get the care and attention these sooo called orphanages afford them.

I don’t know if some NGO’s in Ghana are confusing feeding/day-care centres with orphanages or in their errrmmmm pursuit to garner maximum amount of impact and money –they are willing to play the orphan card and use poor children for their gains –whatever it is, the most vulnerable, the poor and their children will be the ones being exploited and hurt.

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