The report, “The Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering: Combating Child Trafficking through Ethical Voluntourism,” shows that orphanages in Nepal contain over 15,000 children, yet at least two out of three of these children are not orphans. NGN claims that many of these children are being kept in “orphanages” because they are being used as poverty commodities to raise money from well-intentioned but naïve fee-paying foreign volunteers and donors. Indeed, almost 90 percent of “orphanages” in Nepal are located in the top five tourist districts for this reason.
The report reviews the history of orphanage trafficking which stems back to the Karnali region during the civil war when parents looked to traffickers to help their children escape forced conscription into the Maoist rebel army. It argues that the ban by Western nations on inter-country adoptions in 2010 shifted the focus by criminal groups away from “selling” children for adoption toward “selling” opportunities to volunteers and donors to support orphanages. The report also shows how most orphanages in Nepal do not meet the Government’s legal standards, and that abuse and exploitation children in such places are commonplace.
The report analyzes the growing global phenomenon of voluntourism and argues that it is driven by a range of altruistic and self-interest-based motives, and that it has the potential to bring benefits to communities as well as cause considerable harm. It reviews examples of ethical volunteering in Nepal and internationally which others can learn from. NGN advises against orphanage volunteering but makes a number of recommendations to the tourism industry, Government of Nepal, civil society, media and academia and the diplomatic community on how to address orphanage trafficking and improve ethical voluntourism opportunities.
The report was published with support from Forget Me Not, ADRA Nepal and other donors. The report was launched in collaboration with UNICEF Nepal.
The report can be downloaded here: Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering