Two words – Orphanage Tourism – that should NEVER be linked together but sadly are.
I had no idea that this was a thing or problem. Lumos, a children’s charity founded by Harry Potter author, J K Rowling, is shining a light on a practice that is seen as contributing good but is actually causing the problem of family separation and child trafficking.
“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,” Rowling said.
“Institutionalism is one of the worst things you can do to children in the world. It has huge effects on their normal development, it renders children vulnerable to abuse and trafficking, and it massively impacts their life chances. And these dire statistics apply even to what we would see as well-run orphanages … The effect on children is universally poor.”
Huge numbers of volunteers, tourists and backpackers visit residential children’s institutions every year, creating a multimillion-dollar tourism industry that leaves children at risk for many forms of abuse, according to Lumos.
Children in institutions are 500 times more likely to take their own lives, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution.
Most people are unaware that 80% of the 8 million children currently living in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent. The children are placed due to reasons of poverty, disability, or to receive an education, and many have a family who could care for them, given the right support. Parents are told that their child will be fed and educated, yet schooling is rare and the children often go hungry – even as thousands of tourists visited the orphanage each year.
These children are not tourist attractions. They are not zoo animals to be viewed on an outing. They have lives and destinies. Children worldwide are increasingly being trafficked into institutions to attract donations and volunteers. Families, and their children, are being targeted by ‘child-finders’ who are sometimes paying them or otherwise encouraging them to give their child up to the orphanage for a ‘better life’, with education being one of the main reasons, usually because of poverty.