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Friends-International, with the backing of UNICEF, has launched this campaign to partner with tourists to end what is known as orphanage tourism in Cambodia.

What is orphanage tourism?
When traveling in Cambodia, it has become the norm for tourists to be approached by children, requesting that they make a visit to their orphanage before leaving town. Generally, a visit would include a short performance or dance routine by the children, accompanied with a request for a small donation to assist with orphanage running costs. An entire industry has grown out of thousands of tourist visits. It is known as orphanage tourism.

Why end orphanage tourism?
A recent report into Cambodian residential institutions (orphanages) has revealed that tourist visits, despite tourists' best intentions, cause more harm than good. The report shows that orphanage tourism, often conducted by unscrupulous business operators, does more to harm, rather than help child protection, rights and education standards. Further, it is shown that this industry contributes to the separation of Cambodian families.
We believe the best way for tourists and travelers to support vulnerable children and their families is to support vocational training and community based initiatives, rather than visiting an orphanage directly. At the heart of our belief is prioritizing the protection of children and keeping Cambodian families together. Have a think about the following:
  • A child's right to privacy
  • Under international law, children in orphanages have the same rights as children across the globe to have a safe and private home setting. Short-term orphanage visits from tourists and travelers lowers a child's privacy inside their own home. Additionally, reports show that short-term visits can cause harm to a child's development and emotional wellbeing. We think everyone agrees that children need safety, privacy and stability.

  • Child protection policies
  • There are many great organizations working with vulnerable children and their families. There are also many organizations operating without proper child protection policies in place, including some that fail to check the backgrounds of their short and long term visitors. This leaves children open to mistreatment and abuse, no matter how short their visit. Put simply, we wouldn't be allowed to visit orphanages in our own countries without proper procedures, so why in Cambodia?

  • Family based care is best for the child
  • We know it is not only in the best interests of the child to live with his or her family, it is also much cheaper. Family and community-based care programs promote the reintegration of children into family and community-based care and provide social services to vulnerable children and their families.

  • Spread the message
  • Send a link or email to all your friends and contacts about this important issue.
So, when visiting a country such as Cambodia what can you do to help protect children and support families to stay together?
  • Spread the message
  • Send a link or email to all your friends and contacts about this important issue.
    Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

  • Support Families, Youth and Organisations
  • You can give your support to organizations who work with marginalized young people and their families. These provide vocational training and community based initiatives such as income generating activities, where income goes to the family and to provision of social support.

Please find here links to some of these organizations currently working in Cambodia and elsewhere.

Many people come to Cambodia with the intention of donating their time to volunteering at an orphanage or other child-related organizations. Like orphanage tourism, this can develop into a lucrative business which can endanger the proper care of children rendering them more vulnerable to abuse and exploitation. Unregulated volunteering in all its aspects is harmful to children.

It is known as voluntourism.

Voluntourism can be a program that invites tourists (for a specific fee, or through an NGO directly recruiting), to volunteer at an organization. In most cases, these organizations do not require candidates to have relevant qualifications or previous work experience in social work or childcare. At worst, some organizations do not require or conduct proper background checks of volunteers before placing them in direct contact with children.

If you are still thinking of volunteering in an orphanage while in Cambodia please click here for further information.

At Friends-International, we believe the best and most sustainable way for tourists to support vulnerable children, is to contribute to keeping Cambodian families and communities together. Supporting community-based projects or initiatives can do this.
Starting in 2005, Friends-International created the ChildSafe Network, a proactive child/youth protection network program that involves key members within all tiers of society and the international community.

It is designed to protect children and youth from all forms of abuse and reduce child exploitation and trafficking opportunities.

The ChildSafe Network program aims at creating a protective environment for marginalized children and youth, especially those who live and work on the streets and children at risk of abuse. It develops social responsibility through defining policies, influencing attitudes and encouraging positive actions, all supported by an active social marketing strategy.

The Network consists of key people, government, businesses and organizations. Select individuals are trained and certified to recognize children who may be in dangerous situations and can take appropriate action to prevent it.

Click here to read the 7 ChildSafe Traveler Tips and what you can do to help protect children around the world.
If you'd like to learn more about the ChildSafe Network click here.


Featured Video:

  • Cambodia's Orphan Business: People & Power goes undercover to reveal how 'voluntourism' could be fuelling the exploitation of Cambodian children.
  • Leap's story Fourteen-year-old Leap's story reveals the dangers of some of Cambodia's failing orphanages.
  • Interview: Ith Sam Heng. Ith Sam Heng. Cambodia's Ministry of Social Affairs, Veterans and Youth Rehabilitation

Research Papers: