04 February 2020

Thinking of visiting an orphanage on holiday? A new book asks readers to think again

Tourists who visit orphanages risk fuelling a form of modern slavery where children are taken from their families and exploited for profit, a new book launched today confirms.

Cover and spine of Modern Slavery and Orphanage Tourism book

 
Modern Slavery and Orphanage Tourism highlights research that shows how children from poor communities are trafficked into orphanages to attract funding from foreign donors, visitors and volunteers.

Contributors comprise academics and other experts in children’s rights and protection, including Stephen Ucembe, Hope and Homes for Children’s Regional Advocacy Manager for South and East Africa.

Stephen spent most of his childhood in an orphanage in Kenya. In an afterword for the new book, Stephen remembers how tourists and volunteers flocked to visit the institution and the impact this made on him as a child: “I liked the fact that volunteers came and brought candies and toys… But I never liked the constant thought and feeling of being reduced to an animal caged in a zoo. This was a constant reality for almost 14 years of my childhood.”

 

“Contributors include academics and other experts, including [Hope and Homes for Children’s] Stephen Ucembe: ‘I liked the fact that volunteers came and brought candies and toys… But I never liked the constant thought and feeling of being reduced to an animal caged in a zoo.’”

 

Stephen goes on to explain how, far from helping children, orphanage visitors and volunteers put already vulnerable children at even greater risk of abuse and exploitation. “So long as volunteers are funding or bringing donations, doors are always wide open in institutions, and there are few adequate child protection measures and systems in place… Young people who have left institutional care have highlighted the occurrence of sexual violence by volunteers.”

Despite decades of research to show that orphanages have a serious and lifelong impact on children’s physical and psychological development, the number of orphanages across the developing world has grown dramatically in recent years. It’s estimated that 80 per cent of the children who live in orphanages today have at least one living parent but poverty, disability and other pressures force families to relinquish their children to these harmful institutions.

Supporting families, not orphanages, is the best way to make sure children grow-up where they belong, with people who love them. See how Hope and Homes for Children is working with leaders in the travel industry to combat orphanage tourism, and discover how we are making family the solution to orphanages.

Modern Day Slavery and Orphanage Tourism (edited by Joseph M Cheer, Wakayama University, Japan; Leigh Mathews, ALTO Consulting, Australia; Kathryn E. van Doore, Griffith University, Australia; and Karen Flanagan, Save the Children, Australia) is published by CABI and available to buy in hardback.