November 27, 2021

Take a stand against orphanage trafficking this summer

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By Miriam Karmali, From Freedom United

“He dressed us up looking poor so the visitors see us, they feel pity for us, and they donate more. But they don’t really know what was going on inside the orphanage.Sinet Chan, Cambodian Children’s Trust ambassador, describing her experience in an orphanage as a child.[1]

Did you know that people are profiting from the trafficking and abuse of children in orphanages across the world?

Traffickers and unscrupulous children’s homes are capitalizing on the ‘voluntourism’ trend of combining voluntary work with traveling. They encourage impoverished families into giving up or selling their children to orphanages, where they may be exploited, even abused, malnourished and forced to work. Sometimes, children are then re-trafficked to other orphanages and into other forms of exploitation to repeat the cycle and elicit further funding.

This summer, tell volunteer tour operators to take a stand against orphanage trafficking.

Attracted by the funding orphanages receive from donations and organizations offering ‘voluntourism’ placements, traffickers turn children into commodities and ensure a constant supply of children.
 
Sinet Chan in Cambodia was repeatedly beaten, raped, starved and forced to work on the orphanage director’s rice paddies and farms without pay.[2] Now, she is a strong ambassador for the Cambodian Children’s Trust, telling her story and raising awareness of the potentially terrible conditions children face in institutions.[3]

The government of Cambodia recognizes the risks facing children in orphanages and has set up a pilot program to reintegrate children into families. Last July, it finalized a decree that tasks officials with identifying vulnerable children and overseeing their reintegration into families.[5]

Volunteer tour operators: do your part to end trafficking into orphanages!

With an estimated 8 million children living in orphanages worldwide and 80% of them having at least one parent or family member who is able to look after them,[4] it is clear that something doesn’t add up.

In Haiti, some families had been paid 75 USD to give their children away to orphanages on false promises their children would receive an education and opportunities for the future, only for them to end up living in slave-like conditions there.[6] Vulnerable children being separated from their families and placed in orphanages to attract funding, volunteers and donations from well-meaning tourists is an occurrence replicated across Southeast Asia, and has also been reported on in Nepal and across Africa.[7][8]

This summer, join our call on popular global volunteer tour operators to take action. We are by no means suggesting that any of these organisations have placed, or promoted the placement of, volunteers in orphanages which exploit or traffick children,[9]indeed they have made valuable contributions to the communities they operate in. But now, their support is crucial in breaking the cycle of child trafficking and exploitation in orphanages.

END NOTE:Is somebody close to you planning to undertake a placement this summer? Share this campaign with them to raise awareness of the risks of trafficking and abuse facing children in orphanages

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[1] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/19/the-race-to-rescue-cambodian-children-from-orphanages-exploiting-them-for-profit
[2] https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/aug/19/the-race-to-rescue-cambodian-children-from-orphanages-exploiting-them-for-profit
[3] https://cambodianchildrenstrust.org/five-shining-stories-2017/
[4] https://www.wearelumos.org/news-and-media/2018/04/16/bogus-orphan-trade-fuelled-voluntourism/
[5] https://www.phnompenhpost.com/national-post-depth/after-number-cambodian-orphanages-skyrocketed-government-reforms-are-looking
[6] https://www.reuters.com/article/us-haiti-children-trafficking/haiti-orphanages-hotspot-of-child-trafficking-abuse-says-charity-idUSKBN19D2PO
[7] http://www.ecpat.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Voluntourism-and-child-trafficking-into-orphanages.pdf
[8] https://www.wearelumos.org/news-and-media/2018/04/16/bogus-orphan-trade-fuelled-voluntourism/
[9] For the avoidance of doubt, Freedom United is not alleging that the organizations we are targeting are knowingly exploiting or promoting the trafficking or abuse of children. Freedom United is calling upon them to use their important role in supporting communities around the world and help bring an end to this cycle of exploitation.
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