End orphanage tourism

By | Category: Travel rumblings

avoiding the beach and visiting orphanages?

“It is literally placing children as a tourist attraction, a commodity that is viewed and enjoyed like a temple, market, or zoo animal.”

This is the comment from Luke Gracie at Friends International in Cambodia. He is talking about tourists and volunteers visiting orphanages around the world almost as if they were a tourist attraction.

Tourism Concern has raised its concern about the fact that, although the number of orphans is dropping worldwide, the number of orpahanages is growing. They suggest this growth is fuelled by the number of volunteers who go to work at orphanages and well-meaning tourists visiting them. It says, “Children are being separated from their families and forced to live in squalid institutions that masquerade as orphanages while well-meaning but misguided tourists are then invited to volunteer as “carers” as part of a holiday experience.”

In the UK there are at least 30 tour operators sending volunteers to orphanages and Tourism Concern has written to them all urgently demanding that they stop sending tourists and unqualified volunteers to orphanages. “We are calling on tour operators to end the scourge of ‘orphanage tourism’ and urging tourists not to visit orphanages, but to seek out alternative ways that they can benefit local people Further, we do not believe that at orphanages should be marketed by tour operators and consider that in most cases volunteering overseas with vulnerable children is inappropriate. ”

Frankly, I didn’t realise that there was a tourism interest in visiting orphanages other than maybe to see about adoption. That people would visit them to stare seems odd and a little difficult to believe. That the demand for volunteer tourism has led to over thirty tour operators providing opportunities for volunteers seems high. And are children really being forced into orphanages just to provide an outlet for volunteers and tourists?

It seems very disturbing whichever way you view this story.

Image © Dan Sperrin

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