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Orphanage Tourism

I recently listened to a compelling radio interview with a spokesperson from Save the Children addressing the issue of longer term negative outcomes regarding (what has been termed) ‘orphanage tourism’ or ‘voluntourism’. The spokesperson had just addressed the Parliamentary Committee Inquiry into Establishing a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.

Many Christian schools are involved in assisting students to make humanitarian overseas trips, sometimes termed ‘mission trips’. My hope is: that schools involved in such causes have done a thorough job in developing their educational rationale; that partnerships are more than singular ‘drop ins’; and, that local research has been undertaken about the operation of the group being visited and engaged with. No doubt, schools involved in this work will have contacted Christian mission organisations about the advantages and pitfalls of short term mission work.

Recent media attention has highlighted many negatives. Education Minister Simon Birmingham weighed in on the issue (The Sydney Morning Herald Sept 2) saying he was “appalled that well-meaning students could be unwittingly caught up in child exploitation through orphanage tourism and shonky volunteer programs.”

“Advocacy agency ReThink Orphanages said a revolving door of volunteers was making abandonment and attachment issues even worse.” ABC News (Sept 12) ran a story on the world’s biggest school-based volunteer travel company World Challenge pulling out of offering trips to developing world orphanages after research showed the practice was harming vulnerable children.

Click here for The Sydney Morning Herald story.

Click here for the ABC story.

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