Many years back, I have always wanted to volunteer in an orphanage, to teach English to kids abroad and to give them the care and concern that they never had. While doing my research, I found out something interesting that you should know before deciding to volunteer in Cambodia.
Are you looking to volunteer in Cambodia? Cambodia has been badly hit by the Khmer Rouge while they rule Cambodia from 1975 to 1978.
Every year thousands of foreigners head to Cambodia to volunteer in the various orphanage, leading to Orphanage Tourism or VolunTourism. Where foreigners would spend a few days touring the country and spent a few days volunteering in the orphanage.
Do you know that your good intention has an adverse effect on the ‘orphans‘?
1. Orphans Or ‘Orphans’?
If you realised the word ‘orphans‘ has an apostrophe, as many are not real orphans, they are ‘purchased’ from fully functional families to set up and to be placed in orphanages.
It is mentioned by UNICEF that most children (at least 75% or more) in Cambodian orphanages are not strictly orphans, they may have one or both parent – but these families are simply unable to provide the food and care that the children need. Without any government safety net, the community itself has to come up with its own solutions to assist these children.
2. 75% Increase In Residential Care Facilities
In 2005, Cambodia has 154 residential care facilities housing 6,254 children. By 2010, the number has increased to 269 residential care facilities and housed 11,945 children.
Children should be kept in their family homes if possible, but it’s a struggle to enforce this message to a poor single mother living in a village trying to support eight children. This is how these facilities exploit victims of poverty in this country – convincing parents to hand over their children, with the promise of an education and a better life. During the recruitment process families will often get paid a fee for their child, and in the worst cases, children are trafficked into the facilities. Many orphanages here are set up to run like a business, a business which uses children as the product – even sending them to dance for donations in popular tourist areas.
3. Short-Term Volunteer
As volunteers provide love, care, concern and building strong emotional bonds with the children. But, as the volunteers leave, their bonds are broken and the children are once again left alone. This vicious cycle has shown to have negatively impacted the children in care, who would need to repeatedly try to form emotional connections with different adults.
Short-Term Volunteer who have not undergone background checks are frequently given access to children, which poses a child protection risk.
There are many reports that children were abused by ‘NGO’ Volunteers (Click here for Cambodia’s Orphanage Scandal)
4. No, or Little Education / Poor Living Conditions
Many of the parents were promised that their children would be provided with proper education, and would be properly taken care off. Education is an important key to the children’s development and future.
Teaching in an orphanage for a short-period does not help in the education for the children, and most of us are not trained to be teachers to educate children and to impart knowledge. Without proper structure teaching or education, the standard of education provided by the volunteers is substandard.
Orphanage tends to have super poor living conditions to manipulate on the sympathy of the foreign volunteers.
Watch the impact of Cambodia’s Orphan Business and the discovery when they are undercover wearing hidden cameras volunteering at an orphanage by Al Jazeera English
What should I do instead?