Children living or studying in schools, orphanages or slums shouldn’t be exposed to tourist visits.
When traveling in certain countries, it has become the norm for tourists to be approached by children, requesting that they make a visit to their orphanage before leaving town. Generally, a visit 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. An entire industry has grown out of thousands of tourist visits. It is known as orphanage tourism.
WHY END ORPHANAGE TOURISM?
A recent report into Cambodian residential institutions (orphanages) has revealed that tourist visits, despite tourists’ best intentions, cause more harm than good. The report shows that orphanage tourism, often conducted by unscrupulous business operators, does more to harm, rather than help child protection, rights and education standards. Further, it is shown that this industry contributes to the separation of families.
of 8 million children living in institutions across the world are not orphans
We believe the best way for tourists and travelers to support vulnerable children and their families is to support vocational training and community based initiatives, rather than visiting an orphanage directly. At the heart of our belief is prioritizing the protection of children and keeping families together. Have a think about the following:
A child’s right to privacy
Under international law, children in orphanages have the same rights as children across the globe to have a safe and private home setting. Short-term orphanage visits from tourists and travelers lowers a child’s privacy inside their own home. Additionally, reports show that short-term visits can cause harm to a child’s development and emotional well being. We think everyone agrees that children need safety, privacy and stability.
Child protection policies
There are many great organizations working with vulnerable children and their families. There are also many organizations operating without proper child protection policies in place, including some that fail to check the backgrounds of their short and long term visitors. This leaves children open to mistreatment and abuse, no matter how short their visit. Put simply, we wouldn’t be allowed to visit orphanages in our own countries without proper procedures, so why in other countries?
Family is best for the child
We know it is not only in the best interests of the child to live with his or her family, it is also much cheaper. Family and community-based care programs promote the reintegration of children into family and community-based care and provide social services to vulnerable children and their families.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
So, when visiting a country such as Cambodia what can you do to help protect children and support families to stay together?
Spread the message about the orphanage issue
Send a link or email to all your friends and contacts about this important issue. This is one of the best ways to help.
Give your support
You can give your support to organizations who work with marginalized young people and their families. These provide vocational training and community based initiatives such as income generating activities, where income goes to the family and to provision of social support.