At the Adventure Travel World Summit last week I met Andy Woods-Ballard from GVI and he believes GVI has developed a sustainable model through which it sends volunteers to orphanages without any harmful effects felt by the community. I welcome this kind of post as I think its something we can all learn from and hopefully take to heart and incorporate into our daily activities.
They also have fabulous examples of video from the host communities – I’ve been calling for this type of media, if you don’t have any you really need some now to prove to your future customers how effective your in country work is.
So where is your video? And what do you think of the guidelines for orphanage work below?
Much of running a successful programme is experience in the particular areas you are working in. If you and the partners are working with the goal of helping the children rather than making money it would quickly become apparent if the situation were being abused. Importantly I think its worth recognising that sometimes the term is used in a slightly different way in that there will be children who have one or two parents alive attending orphanages/schools/drop in centres and the definition is not as cut and dried as it is in the UK.
There is a huge list of things that can be done to ensure this type of program is not exploitative or exploited a few comments from our team in Cape Town on what they have felt most important. They work in an orphanage that has taken in children from around the township who are in need. Some are disabled and outcast from their families, others may be orphans or neglected.
1. Ideally you should try and ensure that any orphanage where you send volunteers is linked to a social worker and that all children that are placed their have come via the correct system and that the establishment is regularly monitored and checked by social services.
2. If you are running safe houses or education programs for street children it is very important to have a strong link and regular input from a respected community leader who understands the inner workings and dynamics of the community.
3. It is very important to have longer term staff to act as mediators between the community and volunteers and to provide continuity and consistency.
4. It is extremely important for children to only be allowed to eat on the premises and not be allowed to take any food away with them. In addition it is very very important that volunteers do not hand out any gifts or money directly to children at any time and any resources which are provided need to remain on the premises. For this reason it is imperative that volunteers are supervised and managed as they would more often than not make these common mistakes meaning well with out realising the consequences.
5. We have also looked into ways of encouraging support to parents and other adult members of the community by getting them involved at the centre’s in exchange for food, never money as more often than not this would go to drugs or alcohol. So for example if they came and worked in the vegetable garden for a day they would get a box of groceries which would last a family for a week. Thereby offering them the opportunity to get food for themselves without exploiting children in anyway. However this does need to be very carefully monitored by a strong community leader as you have got to be very careful from a security point of view who you allow onto the premises and how things are managed.
6. It is also imperative that all volunteers are background checked, e.g. our volunteers obtain a CRB check (Criminal Record’s Bureau) in the UK or national equivalents if from outside the UK.
7. For programmes with the older children, education forms a vital part of the work we do.