"None of them were aware of the negative impacts of the orphanage industry": Raina’s Story
The children I saw in India inspired my work today as a sixth-form student campaigning against orphanage tourism and child exploitation.
Don't think you are helping—know you are. There are some places you should never be a tourist. Orphanages are one of them.
Wanting to make a difference to the world is amazing. But orphanage tourism and volunteering is not helping. In fact, it is a $2 billion industry that fuels a system where children are used as tourist attractions and, in some cases, trafficked and exploited.
Our campaign #HelpingNotHelping launched by J.K. Rowling aims to stop orphanage tourism by encouraging people to take action.
Speaking at One Young World, the global forum for young leaders, J.K. Rowling, as Founder and President of Lumos said:
“Despite the best of intentions, the sad truth is that visiting and volunteering in orphanages drives an industry that separates children from their families and puts them at risk of neglect and abuse. Do not volunteer in orphanages. Instead, look at what drives children into institutions and dedicate your time to projects that tackle poverty or support communities with vital services.”
1. Are the needs of the local community prioritised?
Good projects put the needs of the local community before the volunteer. Think about what you’re good at and find a project that matches your skills and experience. For example, if you’re skilled in accounting, you might volunteer with a project that helps small businesses.
2. What happens when I leave?
How will the work you do help create real, sustainable change? If there is no long-term plan, communities can become dependent on international volunteers.
3. What is the ultimate goal of the organisation?
Look for organisations that can help to keep children out of orphanages, or ones that work to reunite children with their families. There are also groups to help people who grew up in orphanages get back on their feet and live better lives.
4. Volunteer with communities, not orphanages
Consider the bigger picture. If you can help strengthen a family or a community it will make it easier for children to live at home and therefore prevent family separation.
5. What do I want to get out of it?
Understanding what you want to get from an experience will help you to work out the type of volunteering you should do, or if volunteering is the right thing for you. You can still make a difference or gain work experience without working directly with children, visiting or volunteering in an orphanage.