22 December 2009 ~ 37 Comments

More orphanage tourism (No!)

I recently tried to post a comment in response to this listing on Trip Advisor which encourages visits to orphanages while traveling in Siem Reap.

As my comment was not  a review of the area, it was not approved, so I am posting it here.

I am writing in response to a post stating that one way to give back to Siem Reap is by visiting orphanages.

I beg to strongly disagree.

Having lived in Cambodia for over four years, my opinion on visiting orphanages has gone from encouraging it to abhorring it.  Recent research has shown that the number of orphanages in Cambodia has tripled in recent years with the majority of those “serving” kids who are not orphans at all.  There are some groups standing up this movement to encourage support for whole families rather than removing children from their parents, but in many of the worst cases, the poor practices are not from lack of foresight but instead from fraudulent intentions to start.

Orphanages that keep kids in squalor and can attract tourists on a daily basis are able to bring in far more funding than they choose to use to support their “orphans”.  The practice of keeping kids looking needy to bring in more income is highly linked with donor visits to orphanages and with increasing travelers’ philanthropy in the area.  Sometimes “doing  good” can cause harm, and the practice of visiting orphanages which you have not properly vetted, and which have not properly vetted you, can be a harmful practice.

People have asked me “What is a good orphanage I can go visit today?”  And my answer is always: “Any orphanage where they will LET you visit today, un-planned, is likely NOT a good orphanage.”

Keep these things in mind when visiting Siem Reap, or any developing country.  There is so much to see and so many great projects to support which, can provide more direct benefit than funding the often corrupt orphanage network in Cambodia.  Overall, if you want to see temples, learn about history and culture, are looking for an adventure, and want to meet people who are working hard to improve the future for their next generation, Cambodia is the place to do it.  Just don’t trust all orphanages to be the best choice of your additional support.

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn't be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place.

    peace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn’t be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place. rnrnpeace

  • wax

    that is a really interesting blog, and it shows that even when people think that there actions are positive they can be drastically outweighed by the negative implications. I suppose (like you have suggested) people shouldn't be discouraged from going to orphanges completely because a lot of people do some really good work in them, however people need to be aware of the history etc of the place and also be aware of how children arrive at that particular orphanage- their processes should be completely transparent. An influctuation of orphanages is only justified if their is a simultaneous increase in further infrastructure, particularly education facilities- this is something I doubt has taken place.

    peace

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  • sarah

    Great Blog. I have a lot of experience in the volunteering sector. My most recent response to volunteer agencies that make money out of volunteers was to open a site that would assist volunteers in side stepping profit orientated agencies (www.volunteeringforfree.org). After reading this, and related articles, I am now going to link to this blog and others and suggest volunteers steer clear of orphanages altogether. I have seen similar things happen in Tanzania, though corruption in orphanages is not as ubiquitous as it seems to be in Cambodia. There are some great centres in tanz, and some corrupt, but either way, short term volunteers shouldnt be getting so close to young vulnerable children and then leaving a few weeks later. And this sort of corruption that exploits vulnerable children is sickening.
    Cheers for the info.

  • Anonymous

    I’m glad this was useful for you. I recently was part of a radio show which covered this issue. I’d love to hear your thoughts. http://lessonsilearned.org/2011/09/do-gap-year-volunteer-programs-do-more-harm-than-good/

  • http://twitter.com/ittay78 ittay flescher

    Thanks for sharing this information. Do you know much about the lighthouse orphanage. 
    http://lighthouseorphanage.com/

    Are the children there really orphans? Are they a charity worth supporting? Do they care for the children well?
    Thanks

  • Anonymous

    Hi Ittay –

    I have heard information about Lighthouse Orphanage before – but am certainly not an official evaluator in this area. I asked a friend who has worked with orphanages in Cambodia for many years and he sent me this link to pass on to you:

    http://www.aplecambodia.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1491:september-9-briton-jailed-for-12-years-for-child-sex-crime&catid=113:2011&Itemid=366

  • shiella

    http://www.rovolunteers.com/Volunteer-Cambodia-Scuba-Diving-and-Community-Immersion-Program.htm

    Does anyone know anything about this program?
    my daughter is excited about taking this trip.
    from what little ,I’ve been able to gather, these kids spend a lot of time picking up garbage on the beach.
    also anyone know a site where i can check out their financials?
    I’d like to find out if it is a “charity for profit”
    I’d appreciate any feedback
    soon
    the trip she wants to take is in Dec 2014

    i