Volunteers travel abroad every year to work in orphanages around the world. This is always done with the best intentions. Their goal is to support the local community, improve the children's situation and increase their future opportunities.
There's a lot of controversy, however, around orphanages nowadays. This stems from a high number of organizations with less than honorable intentions. These organizations exploit the local community by separating children from their families and keeping them in orphanages where they can generate profits from western volunteers.
This is why we want to build awareness around orphanages and inform interested volunteers about the potential harm these organizations may cause.
The Dark Side of Orphanage Volunteering
Most children in orphanages around the world aren't orphans in the strict sense of the word. The majority has at least 1 living parent. Some orphanage projects separate children from their parents is a variety of ways. By volunteering in orphanages, volunteers may be feeding this disastrous trend. This article from Unicef will shed more light on this controversial topic.
Research has shown that it is always better for children to be raised by family. Nothing beats a nurturing family environment in the development of a child. Institutionalized care like orphanages has its place but should be a last resort because it has been shown to cause delayed development within children. Both physically and mentally. This extensive paper published by the National Institute of Health will provide an extensive list of the effects of institutionalized childcare.
Other Volunteers Opportunities with Children
As a mediator, Volunteer World strives to assure that each volunteer program on our platform has a positive impact on all parties involved. We don't support institutionalized child care and are doing what we can to inform volunteers, who are interested in working in orphanages, about the potential harm. There are plenty of other volunteer opportunities with children in child daycare or educational projects that we fully support and don't involve any separation from a family environment.
Here is a list of more appropriate volunteer opportunities with children that don't have the harmful effects of institutionalized childcare.
Childcare and daycare volunteer opportunities: https://www.volunteerworld.com/en/volunteer-abroad/childcare
Educational volunteer opportunities:
Volunteer World has carefully selected a few orphanage projects that we believe support the best interest of the children involved. We never advertise them, however, and always take the time to inform volunteers about the potential downsides of orphanages. We do this on our landing page and through our helpdesk. We always try to redirect volunteers toward other volunteer opportunities with children.
For volunteers who want to volunteer in an orphanage abroad, we have strict requirements and suggestions:
Minimum Stay of 4 Weeks
To comply with our ethical standards and give the children a stable environment, we only accept applications for a minimum of 4 weeks. For orphanages, we strongly recommend a minimum stay of 3 months. If you cannot commit for this time period, we suggest you look into volunteer opportunities in:
Childcare and daycare:
Children in orphanages already deal with attachment issues. Having volunteers come and go frequently will only aggravate this.
Only Qualified Professionals
For orphanages, we only accept candidates with the necessary qualifications and professional experience. The specific educational and professional requirements are specified on the program page
These requirements are not negotiable. It's in the best interest of the children and the volunteers that volunteers are qualified to support the children's needs. There have been many volunteers that have experienced a very difficult time abroad due to their lack of experience.
Minimum Age Requirement
All programs that involve working with children have a minimum age requirement of 18.
A criminal background check is required for all candidates working with children.
For more information about voluntary work in humanitarian programs, take a look at the policy paper of „Bread for the World“ and „TourismWatch“.
The Global Travel Academy courses will prepare you for responsible volunteering and will let you dedicate your time to the child’s cause.
If you have any further questions, don't hesitate to contact us via email or live chat! We are happy to further inform you about volunteering abroad with children and help find the most appropriate volunteer program for you.