Anti-Voluntourism in #Cambodia: Your Good Deed is Hurting the Kids
I am a supporter of responsible tourism and very aware of the detrimental effects of tourism and volunteerism coming together to form a dangerous industry. I was surprised intially at Cambodia’s new campaign for anti-voluntourism but it’s definitely something that has been an issue in Cambodia for a while – and therefore, not much of a shocker.
This campaign is run by Friends International and is supported by UNICEF Cambodia. It is an issue that has come up several times in my previous posts. According to the article by Phnom Penh Post, “There has been a 65 percent increase in orphanages in Cambodia since 1995,” said Friends International communications director James Sutherland.
It has become that voluntourism only focuses on the experiences that the tourists get and does not think about the effects it has on the orphanages and the children. I am very opposed to visitors ‘touring’ orphanages and its facilities as a way to ‘broaden their experiences’ and make themselves feel good. “Orphanages are not zoos, and tourists should not be allowed to move through their home” the Friends International promotional material states.
There are other ways to help and volunteer and it does not need to involve children. Children are fragile human beings and a simple event could really affect them for life – especially if they are orphans. Teaching abroad may seem like a good thing but think about the after-effects it has on the children when their so-called ‘teachers’ who they depend on leave every couple of months. Students, then have to deal with new people and the cycle goes on.
In addition, a developing nation sees an opportunity in this ‘industry’ and we have invited a chance for them to exploit an idea. Surprisingly, about 97 percent of children in orphanages in Cambodia are not orphans, according to Friends, which said it was eight times more expensive to house a child in an orphanage than it is to house them with their families at home.
Seeing an opportunity, “Orphanages fundraise by offering tours to foreigners, in which children are required to perform dancing to solicit donations. There is no legal requirement for orphanages to account for funds raised in this way.”
I am not saying that people should stop volunteering overseas. I’m simply saying, think it through before you do and evaluate who your ‘good deeds’ are for and what the possible consequences may be. I know that working with children is fun and very fulfilling but if you really want to help others, it is not about you. It is NOT about you.
Read the full story by Phnom Penh Post here: http://www.phnompenhpost.com/index.php/2011102152278/National-news/taking-aim-at-voluntourism.html
This post was also posted on my other blog, For the Better, which focuses on nonprofits, corporate social responsibility, social enterprises, and positive change.