GUIDELINES FOR VOLUNTEERS
Interested in volunteering overseas with a child focused organization, children’s home, or orphanage?
Not all volunteer opportunities are created equal, many volunteer opportunities have been created with your experience in mind, not the best needs of the child.
THE NEEDS HAVE BEEN SET OUT BY THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
Find out why the project has been set up and volunteers are needed. It should be directed and run by local people
THERE’S NO LOCAL ALTERNATIVE
Look for projects where volunteers are brought in to enhance local capacity, e.g. to provide training or meet a short-term skills gap working with local people.
IT DOESN’T INVOLVE ‘ORPHANS’ OR VULNERABLE CHILDREN
Choose a company that has never, or has ceased running, orphanage volunteering programs.
THERE’S A SKILLS MATCH
IT ADDS VALUE
Vetting Organizations or Volunteer Recruiters
THERE’S EVIDENCE OF IMPACT
YOU’LL BE SAFE
Some companies simply recruit volunteers for third parties, whereas others recruit volunteers for their own projects. Find out who will be responsible for your safety and is the point of contact for you and your family should anything go wrong.
YOU’RE NOT BEING ‘SOLD TO’
YOU MUST APPLY TO VOLUNTEER
MISSIONS FOR ORPHANS
Many traveling to visit or volunteer in children’s residential care centers, often referred to as orphanages and children’s homes, are motivated by a desire to care for orphaned children.
Whilst good intentions underlie the increasing trend of short-term mission trips to residential care centers, there are significant concerns about the effect this has on vulnerable children and how it contributes to sustaining the residential model of care over family care.
Imagine, as a young child, having an endless stream of strangers, volunteers, passing through your life.
Each week brings new faces, who want to sing the same songs, and play the same games, yet very few of them can even speak your language.
Most children in orphanages experience a deep sense of abandonment and most do not have a long-term care giver. When a caring volunteer comes in to look after them showing them affection, this plants seeds of hope, that they will be loved and cared for, possibly even adopted. When the volunteer leaves, the child feels the pain of abandonment all over again. Over time, many children learn to protect themselves from further pain and become unwilling and unable to form attachments with other people.
Today, there are millions of children living in orphanages worldwide, many of them with living parents. In the best cases, the children receive a roof over their heads, plenty of food and an education. However, in the worst cases they are isolated, starved and abused.
Tourists who travel to countries such as Thailand are often approached by children who ask them to visit their orphanage before they leave. A visit might include a short dance performance by the children, with a request for a small donation to assist with the costs of running the orphanage. Well-meaning tourists are unfortunately creating demand for these orphanages and this exchange has resulted in an entire industry, known as orphanage tourism.
Despite volunteers’ best intentions, their visits do more to harm a child than to help them. Especially in terms of their mental health, and ability to form healthy relationships.
Negative impacts include:
- Unnecessary separation of children from their families
- Vulnerability to abuse
- Normalising the access of strangers to vulnerable children
- Disrupted attachment
According to Tara Winkler of the Cambodian Children’s Trust, children raised in orphanages are:
- 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution
- 40 times more likely to have a criminal record
- 500 times more likely to commit suicide
Choosing NOT to volunteer at orphanages and children’s homes helps:
END THE USE OF RESIDENTIAL CARE INSTITUTIONS
Up to 8 million children around the world are living in residential care centers. A large proportion of these children have at least one living parent who, with some support, could care for them.
Children are living in residential care centers for many reasons.
Research shows that poverty, not lack of caregivers, is a primary cause for placing children in residential care centers. Parents and other caregivers struggling to provide for their children may feel compelled to use a residential care center to meet their children’s basic needs. Other causes include abuse and neglect, disability (either children or parents), natural disaster, or conflict.
END UNNECESSARY FAMILY SEPARATION
Scripture, social science, and international guidance all agree the best environment in which to raise a child is a healthy, loving family. A family provides the love, nurture, stability, protection, and care that are integral to the healthy development of a child.
There is a growing movement among international and national policymakers, missions agencies, and nongovernmental organizations to shift away from overreliance on residential care centers and move toward increasing the capacity of family-based models of care.
BEFORE VOLUNTEERING – RETHINKINGORPHANAGES.ORG
7 TIPS FOR TRAVELERS – CHILD SAFE MOVEMENT
WHY TO SAY NO – RETHINKORPHANAGES.ORG
Here’s what to look for to make sure your time overseas is genuinely spent making a difference:
If you see or hear about a child in danger please contact:
Thai Government Child Protection hotline