The term orphanage tourism seems unbelievable when you first hear it. To benefit from the unfortunate is against most peoples human nature but when there is money to be made others are willing to prey on the unsuspecting. Some of us are more fortunate than others and like to give their time and sometimes money to help those who could benefit from it.
Orphanage tourism is becoming a large concern in less developed countries, especially in Cambodia. Due to the increase in tourism in the area the amount of orphanages has increased 75% in the last five years. It is believed that 77% of children aren’t even orphans. Parents will put their children into care with the hope they will receive a better education, some children are bought or even rented by the institution.
This is exceptionally bad for the children, the people offering to help have no background checks and make an attachment with the children before leaving. This can leave the children with life long attachment issues and affect their development. Children are kept in conditions worse than the minimum standards set by the government in order to receive larger donations from visitors. These donations often don’t see their way to the children.
Tour operators have even jumped on the band wagon and began operating tours that include volunteering in orphanages. Google will find over 500,000 sites for volunteering in orphanages and there are 30 tour operators sending volunteers to orphanages abroad in the UK alone. We have to realise as travellers that what we see isn’t always presented truthfully and giving money to those who look like they need it can sometimes do more harm than good.
Read more about the Darker Side of Tourism.