08 April 2011 ~ 8 Comments

Orphanages: We need to “Get Real”

Yes, somehow my blog has become an orphanage/orphanage tourism discussion platform for the time being…. so be it!

I recently met a video editor named Regina who had also been living in Siem Reap, Cambodia.  As she was starting a video education program for youth in the area, she became aware of the problems of profiteering orphanages in the area and she was inspired to make this PSA video:

I agree with the video, but I feel like I’m sure many of you do, that there needs to be a “Call to Action” at the end.  The good intentions people have who want to donate to orphanages can end up being harmful if the money and time these travelers give goes to the wrong places…. but what can they do instead? Clearly, they want to help – so what should this video tell them to do?

I know that many of the people who read this blog are working with children and have a variety of ideas on this topic. I have received emails from a range of people including people working in orphanages, people working in large INGOs and UN organizations, people who have donated to places they believe in, and people who have realized that they donated to places which were causing harm.  All of you have ideas for this, I’m sure – please share!

What should the call to action be?

In the comments on the video site, Regina links people to information about a recent UNICEF report about Cambodian orphanages. What other resources do you think should be shared?

Some ideas might be to encourage people to:

LEARN MORE: Please add comments to this blog with links to places where people can learn more about these issues (such as Friends International’s page “Myths and Realities about Orphanages in Cambodia” and Child Safe).  What other resources should people read up on?

GIVE BETTER: As Regina’s videos suggests, many agree that family care is a much better option as well as day care education and transitional support facilities which allow kids to return to a family home and avoid institutionalizing as many children.  Friends International has supported this type of work in Cambodia and there are programs like M’lop Tapang, but what other programs do you believe in? And why?

I look forward to hearing your thoughts and reading through your list of resources.

  • Ingvill Solbo

    Thanks for a good blog with may interesting views. nI would like to read the report from Unicef about Cambodian orphanages but cannot open the link?n

  • Saundra

    One really good resource I’ve been using a lot lately is Misguided Kindness by Save the Children. It does an excellent job of laying out the issues with orphanages http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/en/docs/Misguided_Kindness.pdfnI also often refer to the United Nation’s Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children http://www.iss-ssi.org/2009/index.php?id=25nThere's also the recent paper called Inside the Thriving Industry of AIDS Orphans Tourism http://www.hsrc.ac.za/HSRC_Review_Article-195.phtml

  • Anonymous

    I fixed the link now! It is not the report but an article about it.

  • Anonymous

    Thank you!

  • http://twitter.com/christian_bowe Christian Bowe

    Thank you for this post. I read that UNICEF said that 3/4 of the “orphans” in Cambodia aren’t really orphans. I’m not going to name names but I don’t understand why certain “Volunteer Placement Organizations” continue to send volunteers to corrupt/bad orphanages.. “Volunteers” need to be warned and told ahead of time about this issue because I have met a lot of them who have no clue until someone tells them about it. Since the volunteer may only be here for 2 or 3 weeks, they don’t have enough time to find that right orphanage for them. These organizations need to “get real” too because it’s not only a waste of time and money for the volunteer but it’s supporting the corruption in this industry it’s become and can be very hard on the kids to get attached to new people every 2 weeks. Also, these “organizations” need to be tougher on requirements to volunteer, they’re pretty guilty in all of this too if they continue to bring in tons of new volunteers to work & support these orphanages..

  • http://twitter.com/christian_bowe Christian Bowe

    Thank you for writing this. I think the organizations sending volunteers to these orphanages need to get real too. For a 2/3 week volunteer they don’t have time to waste when they get here figuring out which orphanage to work at so sometimes they will work at the corrupt/bad ones. I don’t understand why these organizations continue to support these orphanages and send volunteers.. These “placement organizations” need to be tougher on requirements for who should actually be working here. These volunteers don’t realize how attached these kids can become even if they’re only here for 2 weeks which leaves the “orphans” emotionally distraught. They’re pretty guilty too if they’re constantly sending in new, uninformed volunteers every week to these orphanages.

  • Nicole Biddison

    Some more resources in this field of responding to orphanage tourism include APLE (Action pour les Enfants).  They have a hotline where child sexual exploitation can be reported within Cambodia: 092-311-511 or by email: [email protected].

  • Meera

    More vidoe sites of this sort will definately spread awareness.