Giving Compass' Take:

• This podcast explores how orphanage voluntourism can cause harm to communities when volunteers are not adequately equipped with the necessary skills needed to work in childcare. 

• How can voluntourism programs improve? What should they focus on when gathering volunteers for trips abroad, especially to developing countries?

• Read about the importance of sustainability in volunteer tourism. 

Each year, people from across the globe decide they want to do good in the world, so they grab their backpacks and head off to other parts of the world – often to much poorer places than where they come from – and volunteer their time to charitable causes. They’re called ‘voluntourists’ and they comprise a fast-growing part of the adventure travel market. But it turns out that many voluntourists are causing harm to those they are trying to help.

When Weh Yeoh set off from his home in Australia to travel in Vietnam, he soon found himself volunteering at an orphanage. “I really had no place being there,” Yeoh tells us. “I hadn’t had a child protection check, didn’t have a social work degree. I wasn’t introduced and vetted. And I was a mid-20’s male, left alone with vulnerable children all the time,” he recalls. “And what I realized was that as good as my intentions were, I wasn’t actually able to affect these people’s lives all that well.”

In this podcast we explore the reasons why the surge in orphanage volunteers may lead to child trafficking, and we ask who is benefitting from these experiences: vulnerable children or foreign volunteers? We also seek to discover better alternatives for those who want to do good in the world through short-term volunteer opportunities.

Despite their dubious skills and impact, voluntourists are actually causing harm by volunteering at orphanages. “It’s become an industry,” says Matthew Maury, CEO of the Christian international relief and development organization TEAR Australia. “The problem is the money.” Maury says there has been an increase in the demand among voluntourists for orphanage opportunities. “You’ve obviously got this demand that needs to be filled: we need more children,” he explains.

Read the full article about orphanage voluntourism by Amy Costello at Nonprofit Quarterly.