Orphanage volunteering is generally viewed as a positive contribution to developing nations. However, child protection advocates have long reported the harm it causes children; including how demand for orphanage volunteering leads to children being trafficked into orphanages for profit.
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World’s Challenge’s announcement that they would be withdrawing from orphanage voluntourism received a great deal of media attention and interest from the child protection and tourism sectors, and students, schools and parents. World Challenge had a long history of placing teams in orphanages, under the misguided impression that residential care was an acceptable model of care for vulnerable children, and that these type of volunteer projects were an appropriate way for student teams to engage with local communities and provide ‘service learning’ experience. With an increasing awareness and evidence of the harms of orphanage voluntourism, World Challenge had internally identified a need to move away from these placements.
As the co-founder and founding coordinator of the ReThink Orphanages Network, I’ve spent years researching, lobbying and advocating against orphanage tourism, Through my work I feel like I’ve seen it all, including the explosion in demand for ‘orphan experiences’ through school and university exchanges, mission trips, gap year programs, and fundraising events – all in the name of helping the poor children. But today, while doing an image search for another project, I came across something new and equally disturbing: the phenomenon of military personnel visiting orphanages as part of their 'community relations' activities.
Ayana Journeys is an educational travel company based in Cambodia, that is fuelled by a mission to contribute to a more peaceful world. We do this by carefully crafting exceptional travel experiences that prioritise new insights through experiential learning; fostering a deeper sense of empathy; widening understanding of global issues; and reflecting on our potential as members of an international community.