Rethinking Orphanage Voluntourism

Rethinking Orphanage Voluntourism

As the world continues to emerge from the pandemic, voluntourism opportunities are resurfacing, including orphanage volunteer opportunities. 

While many people grow up believing that supporting and visiting orphanages was necessary and constructive, we now understand that the needs of children are best met in safe and loving families. 

Orphanages are unnecessary.

In fact, 

  • 8 out of 10 children in orphanages have a living parent with whom they could be reunited, and even more have extended family they could live with. 
  • 80+ years of research have highlighted the lifelong harm that orphanages can cause. 
  • Supporting, visiting or volunteering in orphanages reinforces an outdated model of care.

Voluntourism is a largely unregulated sector that tends to serve the interests of the traveller rather than the well-being, safety, and needs of the people being visited. 

Wooden beds in an orphanage

In a recent article from The Conversation, Sharon McLennan, Senior Lecturer at Massey University, suggests that the post-pandemic world is a chance to improve voluntourism.

“COVID-19 has been something of a wake-up call that we need to move beyond voluntourism as a pseudo-development practice or as a commodified, profit-making experience. This is an opportunity for the industry to take on board the criticisms, examine past practice and reassess the role and impact of volunteering”.

Many organisations are working together to raise awareness about the negative impacts of voluntourism, especially in orphanages. If you are interested in learning more about voluntourism in orphanages and the alternatives, here are a few articles:


Why Good Intentions Are Not Enough to Get Children Out of Orphanages


Want to volunteer abroad? Here’s your Volunteering 10-point checklist

A twisted industry of altruism: why I will never volunteer at an orphanage again 

The Orphanage Problem

As well as:

The business of voluntourism: do western do-gooders actually do harm?

Think twice before becoming a ‘voluntourist’ at a foreign orphanage

Orphanage Trafficking and Orphanage Voluntourism 

Why There’s A Global Outcry Over Volunteering At Orphanages

There are many ways you can join us in making sure children grow up in homes and not institutions or orphanages.