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Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Problem with Orphanages in Cambodia

Media Release

Inline images 1
Children studying at an orphanage near Siem Reap,
 Photo: Rachael Bowes / Alamy

A new website has been launched to educate people about what orphanage tourism is and the devastating affect it is having on the children of Cambodia, many of whom are not even orphans.

Humanitarian Group Launches New Website To Spread Awareness of Dangers of Orphanage Tourism

A group of humanitarians who live and work in Cambodia has banded together to raise awareness about the negative impact of orphanage tourism and launched a new website dedicated to the cause, Orphanages: Not the Solution -

The purpose of the website is to educate people about what orphanage tourism is and the devastating affect is having on the children of Cambodia, many of whom are not even orphans. Most governments and child care professionals regard the institutionalization of children in orphanages as the very last resort. Unfortunately, in Cambodia it is increasingly becoming the first, mainly due to the increased demand from travelers and donors for more and more orphanages. Others are nothing more than money-making scams that are specifically targeting unsuspecting tourists.

"The fact is, most travelers, donors, and volunteers are completely unaware that they are fueling this problem or that they may be doing more harm than good," comments the group spokesperson. Media Note: Because many of the most profiteering Cambodian orphanages have close ties with the government (some of those who have spoken out about this in the past have been threatened) the group prefers to remain anonymous for now.

The group's spokesperson goes on to say, "Few of these people that are trying to help are actually qualified to work with traumatized or vulnerable children, so what we end up with is an even more dire situation than we started with. What we want to do through is to help channel the good intentions of travelers and donors towards initiatives that provide more positive support for children, and support family based care, reducing the separation of children and their communities."

In addition to educational materials, the website also contains a number of helpful resources for tourists, visitors and those interested in participating in volunteer work in Cambodia. The goal is to provide enough information that these individuals and groups are better able to make informed and responsible decisions about whether to support orphanages, and to understand the consequences of their decisions.

"We really want to get the word out about this important cause, and let well-intentioned people know that there are better alternatives and avenues through which they can help," the group explains. "We encourage visitors to become educated about orphanage tourism, and to help us continue to raise awareness by sharing the information they learn here with others. The goal is to stop fueling the orphanage industry and find ways to support vulnerable children and their families, not split them up. The children of Cambodia, and around the world, deserve better."

To learn more about this group, the important cause it represents, and how you can contribute please visit or email

The following was sourced by independently from The Telegraph UK


With an estimated one-third of Cambodian children living below the poverty line, there is no doubt that help is needed. Before you visit or volunteer at an orphanage, consider the following:

DO: your research. Ask local educators and NGOS about reputable organisations that are helping orphaned Cambodian children. Look for one that is legally registered and employs an active family reunification programme.

DON’T: go to any orphanage that actively solicits tourists.

DON’T: work with the children directly. Instead, assist the permanent staff; this keeps the locals in charge and minimises attachment issues.

DO: sign on for a long-term project. Choose a placement where you aresupervised and working within a long-term curriculum.

DO: bring special skills. Medical specialists, teachers and human rights educators are often needed.

DON’T: volunteer at any organisation that doesn’t ask for a CV, references and police reports in advance. The more that is demanded, the greater chance that the children are being protected.

DO: ask to speak to a volunteer who came before you.

DON’T: post photos of children online. The orphanage is the children’s home, and their privacy should be respected.

DON’T: hand over large volunteer placement fees (which can top US$1,000) without ensuring that a portion is passed directly to the organisation.

DO: donate goods in kind. Ask the organisation, rather than a tuk tuk or taxi driver, about their needs. A common scam involves exorbitant charges for rice on the advice of a profiteering driver.

DO: consider helping community-based programmes, which support families and enable the children to live at home.

For more information, visit:

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