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volunteering abroad, voluntourism

Child Safe Tourism

Do your research before visiting or volunteering with vulnerable children abroad

Why is it important?

Good intentions are not enough. Sometimes without realising it, we do things that inadvertently put children at risk of harm.

UNICEF estimates that approximately 80% of children living in residential care are not infact orphans. Supporting these institutions can encourage the separation of children from their families. Research has also found that short-term orphanage visits and volunteering can cause damage to children’s development and emotional well-being.

Where adequate background and reference checks are not placed on adults interacting with children in orphanages or communities, children are at risk of abuse.

Learn more about the risks of ‘orphanage tourism’ to children here.

So what can I do instead?

Voluntourism should have a positive impact on communities, not put the children at further risk of harm. So do your research before visiting or volunteering with communities abroad and ask yourself whether you have the experience and qualifications to work with vulnerable children.

Look for initiatives that enable children to be cared for within a family, rather than an institution. Organisations should have strict standards and procedures for child protection and volunteers should be working to build the capacity of local staff, rather than working directly with children.

It is poverty, not lack of a loving family, that drives many children into residential care. So donating to organisations that provide impoverished children with food, healthcare and an education will enable children to remain with their families – where they belong.

For more information

  1. 1

    Voluntourism Guidelines

    These guidelines profile good practice in child protection in the voluntourism industry. Choose organisations that uphold these standards.

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  2. 2

    Orphanage Tourism

    Read more about the risks to children through orphanage tourism from Friends International ‘Children are not tourism attractions’ campaign.

    Visit site
  3. 3

    United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children

    This UN General Assembly endorsed document highlights why institutional care is not ideal for most children. Learn more about the international standards that should apply to alternative care.

    Visit site