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Community, World Trends

WorkingAbroad joins the ReThink Orphanages Network

May 20th 2019

The Orphanage Volunteer Trade

Intentional abuse, neglect, malnourishment and deceit; orphanage volunteering is not the fulfilling work that you might expect. Every year, volunteers travel overseas with the intention of providing support to ‘unwanted’ children living in institutionalised care around the world. With enticing advertising such as ‘…give a child a brighter future’, ‘…no experience required’, it seems like the perfect opportunity to make a difference.

But it comes with a cost.

Unfortunately, many of these orphanages are separating children from their families. They often use ‘child finders’ or ‘baby finders’ to prey on poverty-stricken homes, and place them in tourist hot-spots where volunteers get the chance to bond and play with the children. No matter the volunteer’s honest intention; the absence of a consistent and caring figure in a child’s life means they are unable to properly develop healthy social, emotional and physical skills. Furthermore, volunteers are often not DBS checked or have the skills needed to care for young children – something almost unheard of in western countries.

Orphanages themselves have perhaps not had the best history and reputation. There have been reports in the last few years of some institutions that intentionally neglect their children in order to profit. A case study taken from the report Orphanage Entrepreneurs: The Trafficking of Haiti’s Invisible Children – written by the Lumos Foundation confirms this:

“They (the children) were intentionally malnourished to increase the severity of the situation, in order to motivate visiting volunteers to donate more, or adoptive parents to increase their ‘childcare donation’ while waiting for their adoption to be finalised.”

The income from donations, donors and the volunteer trade, just contribute to the rise in orphanages, thus leaving more and more children detached from their own communities and left in these vulnerable situations.

Communities where many of these children have living relatives.

WorkingAbroad’s Involvement

In a pledge to end this, WorkingAbroad is delighted to announce that it has been accepted as ReThink Orphanages partners on The Love You Give campaign, part of the Better Care Network. This campaign aims to raise awareness of the damage, and harmful business model that surrounds orphanage tourism. This eye-opening film interviews victims of the trade as well as the people trying to end institutionalised care and shows how volunteers can work to support the families instead.

There has been a global effort worldwide to end institutionalised care. More and more countries are beginning to recognise that in order to fight this problem, there needs to be an early intervention programme in place. One that provides support and teaches skills to the families who feel they are unable to care for their own children. This is what volunteers should be putting their efforts into; working with families to prevent separation and secure better futures.

To read a press release about WorkingAbroad’s involvement in the Rethink Orphanages campaign, please click here.

For information on the campaign, please follow these links:




To read the full account and report from the Lumos Foundation please follow this link: https://www.wearelumos.org/stories/2017/05/01/Abuse-neglect-deceit/

More sources:


Article by WorkingAbroad Media Intern Amy Burchill (contact@workingabroad.com)

About the Author

WorkingAbroad Projects

Blog articles about our volunteer projects, the wider world and from volunteers in the field are shared here for everyone to get inspired and learn more about wildlife conservation topics, volunteering abroad and much more.