If you’re a regular reader of my blog you may have noticed that I took a little hiatus from writing about my trip next year. The reason for this is because the next country on my journey is Cambodia and it was a place where I planned to spend a month volunteering. Right now my thoughts are that I may not be participating in any volunteering at all.
Why the change of heart? Well, I did some research into voluntary organizations and the more I read, the more negative opinions I found.
This subject causes a fair bit of controversy and I’m not here to debate about it; I just want to do what is right and currently I’m finding that the implications of joining a volunteer placement is leaning towards being more harmful (at least in Cambodia) than good. One only has to go to the application page of a volunteering organization to see that there really isn’t anything stopping anyone from volunteering. Most of the time you don’t need any necessary skills and you’re not even asked for a background or police check meaning that absolutely anyone can apply to care for vulnerable children. It isn’t unusual to hear of cases about sex offenders disguised as well-meaning volunteers and taking children away.
If that isn’t enough, another reason for raising doubts is the fact that you have to pay ridiculous amounts of money to be placed in an orphanage, but where does the majority of the money go? To the big greedy NGO’s most of the time it seems. The company that I had found was actually the lowest and most reasonable for costs and in fact seems to be supported by the Aljazeera site (IVHQ) so I will be sending some questions to them before making any commitments and I’ll keep my blog updated with their reply!
I’m not saying by any means that all orphanages are bad…I’m just saying that it’s good to do your research before you decide. If you’re going to choose to go with an organization, choose one that requests a background check of its volunteers and can prove where their money is going.
Here are a few links that I found very insightful and will give you an idea of the questions to ask. The first is a short documentary which was very interesting to watch.
Children are not tourist attractions!
Watch this short video of a Cambodian girl who managed to leave an orphanage here.
Read these 7 tips to help you make an informed decision.
- How to Ethically Volunteer Anywhere in the World (nomadicmatt.com)
- Beware the voluntourists intent on doing good (guardian.co.uk)
- Thoughtful Thursday: Voluntourism (thepursuitofhappiness2.wordpress.com)
- Brangelinas need not apply: A Cambodian orphanage is leading the march against ‘voluntourism’ (independent.co.uk)