Fake orphanage biz boom in Nepal

  • Report: ‘Voluntourists’ major promoting factor
- Weena Pun, Kathmandu

Dec 11, 2014-

Foreigners volunteering at orphanages could be inadvertently facilitating the trafficking of children into institutional care, according to a new report published on Thursday.

Despite it being illegal, more than 30,000 foreigners volunteer at children homes in Nepal every year, according to Social Welfare Council (SWC). Most tourists pay for these services touched by the deprivation in which the children live. Many raise funds for the orphanage they briefly volunteer at, or open a parent charity organisation in their own country.

Although prompted by goodwill, the volunteers spin a cycle in which the managers of the orphanage depend on these donations to run the children shelters, and when money starts pouring in, they start recruiting “orphan looking” children into their shelter homes.

To keep the volunteers interested, the orphanage operators deliberately keep the children in unhealthy living conditions, says the report entitled “The Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering”. The study also found that in some cases traffickers recruit children with the promise of good education and better lives, even before they have identified potential donors or “voluntourists”.

It is a phenomenon illustrated by the fact that up to 82 percent of the registered orphanages and children homes, according to Central Child Welfare Board (CCWB), are in five popular tourist destinations: Kathmandu, Bhaktapur, Lalitpur, Chitwan and Kaski. And by the fact that around 80 percent of 8,442 children in 325 child homes currently in operation within the Valley have at least one of their parents alive.

Child Protection Officer at Children-Women in Social Service and Human Rights, Pradip Dangol says that the Welfare Board should draft a strong volunteer guidelines and implement them strictly to discourage orphanages from becoming dumping grounds for poor children.

“Volunteering should be encouraged but also monitored to make sure that children are benefiting from their services. What we see instead is children homes managed and run like zoos in order to attract foreigners and their money,” says Dangol.  

The study conducted by Next Generation Nepal, an organisation that works for the trafficked children, suggests that Nepal start by legalising volunteerism and encouraging ethical volunteerism, which does no harm to the community.

Among others, the government should introduce paid-volunteering schemes and give CCWB and District Child Welfare Boards the power to ban volunteers from children homes if necessary, says the report.

Namuna Bhusal, programme manager at CCWB, says that together with the SWC and Immigration Department, the Welfare Board is looking to revise the orphanage guidelines. “We encouraged tourists to visit the country but have failed to monitor what they do once they get here. The revised guidelines will talk in detail about international volunteers in the country,” says Bhusal.

Published: 12-12-2014 10:38

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