Volunteering and orphanages in Nepal, the dark side

Written by on June 4, 2014 in Blog with 0 Comments
YouTube Preview Image

Going to visit a beautiful country? Want to make it better by visiting an orphanage? Think twice. Volunteering can have negative consequences as shown in this excellent video (above) and article at The Guardian. Volunteers in Nepal are being used by unscrupulous orphanages and voluntourism companies to the detriment of Nepali children and families.

When Dorota Nvotova, a young Slovakian, began volunteering at Happy Home in 2008, she was so moved by the children’s plight that she found a sponsor for every one of them. She raised about €150,000 (£122,000) for the home, but it was only later that she discovered the real reason its owner was so eager to attract foreign volunteers.

Whoa! Good job, but…

“It’s definitely about him making money. For him, it’s a business,” she said. “Whenever volunteers came he always tried to impress them and then they started fundraising for him.”

Unfortunately, it’s not hard to lure children and volunteers into even bad orphanages with a veneer of educational programs and good salesmanship.

Philip Holmes, chief executive of Freedom Matters, the charity that instigated the inquiry into Happy Home, said that in the worst cases this practice constituted child trafficking.

“Once a child enters an orphanage, he or she seems to become the property of the orphanage owner … [In effect], they become prisoners of the orphanage,” he said. “[They] use the children as an income source, through the sponsorship of children who are presented as being orphans when they are not … and through the exploitation of overseas volunteers.”

The challenge for travelers is that it’s often very hard to tell the difference between a good orphanage and a bad one without spending significant time there. Plus, evidence shows that short visits to orphanages are really not good for the kids anyway. Think carefully. If you’ve got to go, consider what skills you can offer and whether you can go for at least two months or more.

And why not spend some time learning more here at UnitingforChildren.org?

Share

Tags: , ,

About the Author

About the Author: Andy Gray is the editor at Uniting for Children. He lives in Cambodia where he works with young adults transitioning from life in an orphanage to living independently. He filmed and produced the video “Why Not a Family?.
Top