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.

 

Verifying Opportunities

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

IT'S SUSTAINABLE

Projects shouldn’t create a dependency on volunteers. Ask what happens to the project when volunteers return home.

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.

Qualifying You

THERE’S A SKILLS MATCH

Think about the skills you to offer. Those in demand include digital, monitoring and evaluation skills, photography, fundraising, language and computer skills. Don’t be tempted by placements for which you are not skilled or qualified – e.g. teaching or caring for children or providing medical care.

IT ADDS VALUE

Seek opportunities where you can apply your learnings back home. Employers will be interested in evidence of impact, not just the fact that you have volunteered overseas.

  

 

 

 

Vetting Organizations or Volunteer Recruiters

 

THERE’S EVIDENCE OF IMPACT

Check that the organization you will be volunteering with has a proven track record. Find out about their achievements and how projects are monitored and evaluated.

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’

Be wise to emotive language sometimes used to recruit volunteers. Avoid companies that talk of volunteers ‘saving the world’, ‘giving children the love they need’ or focus heavily on the tourism part of the trip.

YOU MUST APPLY TO VOLUNTEER

Be prepared to apply for a post and be vetted, as if you were applying for a job or university. You should also receive pre-departure support and maybe training before you travel.

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.

    Content on this page courtesy of ReThinkORPHANAGES.org

    Special thanks to Rethinkorphanages.org for the use of the graphics above

    Volunteer Resources

    BEFORE VOLUNTEERING – RETHINKINGORPHANAGES.ORG

    Guide to help a prospective volunteer evaluate the opportunity and how to determine the need for their services and possible effectiveness.

    7 TIPS FOR TRAVELERS – CHILD SAFE MOVEMENT

    7 ways to protect children during your travels.

    WHY TO SAY NO – RETHINKORPHANAGES.ORG

    People generally volunteer overseas to contribute something meaningful and experience a new culture. However, some volunteer-sending companies may be more concerned with creating a ‘life-changing’ experience for the volunteer, with less focus on the purpose and the needs of local communities.

    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:

    1300

    Thai Government Child Protection hotline

    1387

    Childline Thailand hotline

    Do you know of an unregistered childrens home?

    Learn more about Alternative Care in Thailand

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