Last week was the International Volunteer Day which takes place every year on December 5th.
The growing popularity of international volunteering has led to the trend of orphanage tourism: people take time to volunteer at or visit an orphanage while visiting a foreign country. In Cambodia, a visit to an orphanage would include a short performance or dance routine by the children, accompanied with a request for a small donation to assist with orphanage running costs. Another version is for a tourist to volunteer for a few days at the orphanage. An entire industry has grown out of thousands of tourist visits.
A recent report into Cambodian orphanages has revealed that tourist visits, despite tourists’ best intentions, cause more harm than good. Orphanage tourism, often conducted by shady business operators, does more to harm, rather than help child protection, rights and education standards. In Cambodia, as in much of the developing world, orphanages opened for tourists are a problem, not a solution.
What can you do about it?
- Follow 10 tips from a “voluntourism master”
- Read how to turn the idealistic into the ideal in volunteering in other countries
- Promote volunteering in a win-win situation to support Families, Youth and Organisations who work with marginalized young people and their families
- Learn from PATA Conversations: Ending Orphanage Tourism for Good with James Sutherland, International Communications Coordinator at Friends-International in Phnom Penh