Volunteering in orphanges or Orphanage tourism?

Published on : Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Children-Are-Not-For-SaleOne of the most popular forms of global volunteer tourism is orphanage tourism.


While orphans and child destitution are phenomena found not only in Cambodia, Nepal and Uganda, a different standard of dignity applies to the children in poorer lands who are considered deserving of unskilled care and a lower standard of privacy.


The global inequality is one of the primary reasons why the orphanage tourism industry essentially exists.


The uneven power dynamic between the untrained Western volunteers and the children in orphanages is adding fuel to the fire rather than eliminating it.

What is required for restoring the dignity of the children in those other places is a rational commitment to global equality.

Claiming to be so-called “orphanage tourism”, child protection and NGO workers of Cambodia are pleading to tourists and volunteers to stay away from orphanages in Cambodia which damages the children and enables exploitation.

As the number of orphanages in the country is rising by 75% in the five years to 2011, the number of Australians visiting Cambodia also increased.


What’s even more shocking according to the last reports is that about 77% of the children staying there are not actually orphans.

As the Cambodian government has introduced policies to impose minimum standards for child protection, it is quite simple in Cambodia for people, especially foreigners, to come in and set up an organization, set up an orphanage, and either have it registered or not.

The orphanage tourism is a problem for the beachside region.

The socio economic condition of the country is definitely the major reason for this.

People are coming to Sihanoukville in search of a better life however with the lack of experience they end up staying in slums and eventually sending their children to the streets.


These children often end up in the care of M’Lop Tapang or in one of the many orphanages. Tourism and volunteering in orphanages is fuelling the demand for “orphans”, and so driving the unnecessary separation of children from their families.


Although the number of orphan children decreased in terms of global ratio, the number of orphanages in many developing countries has risen in response to the demand from tourists and volunteers. With a “bucket-list” of volunteering opportunity, the orphanages have become a tourist attraction.

Needless to say that there are a huge percentage of well-meaning volunteers, but the vulnerability continues if there is no overall guide on the orphanages by the government or the registered bodies.

With inputs from various sources

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