I’ve always been against volunteers working in orphanages, but this is the first article that has come out stating that as well. Is the tide turning on orphanage projects? So often the feel good best seller of many volunteer companies? If you do offer orphanage projects how do you ensure it operates responsibly and doesn’t end up like the below?
In the Human Sciences Research Council report “Aids Orphan Tourism”, author Linda Richter criticises this kind of new tourism, saying it merely adds another level of abandonment for the children.
“Many of the children they [volunteers] leave behind experience another abandonment to the detriment of their short- and long-term emotional and social development,” Richter writes.
The tourism ministry did not want to comment on the story published on Page 6 of this newspaper, saying it was too new a trend.
But should we view voluntourism as a potential boon for our tourism industry?
The image of volunteer tourism – of well-heeled, well-bred First World folk descending on the suffering children of Africa – is an exceedingly uncomfortable one to summon.
Already there’s been the phenomenon of celebrities dropping in on developing countries to adopt a toddler or two.
Those who might support voluntourism would say that the orphans are at least getting some attention.
But orphans are not abandoned animals that can be cuddled and then dropped when the fun starts wearing thin. To ship in for a few weeks, only to ship out again holds the potential of emotional trauma for the children.
While our tourism industry – in a post-recession world – might need all the help it can get, there are some visitors who might be somewhat problematic and voluntourists fall into that category.
Our children – the many who have been abandoned and orphaned – need help, but it is highly debatable if they need this kind of help.