Better Care Better Volunteering Network, Interview with Anna McKeon ( Part II)

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Part II

(Part I was published on 27th of March at

About Anna

Anna McKeon is representing the Better Care Network and the Better Volunteering, Better Care Initiative. Better Volunteering, Better Care is a joint program with Save the Children UK, also involving Better Care Network Netherlands, ECPAT, Faith to Action Initiative, Friends International, Hope and Homes for Children, SOS Children’s Villages, and UNICEF. Better Volunteering, Better Care aims to discourage international volunteering in residential care centres, and promote ethical volunteering alternatives. Anna has been based in Cambodia for the past 3 1/2 years and is a communications and social change strategist specialising in initiatives focusing on young people and education.



1. What is the Better Volunteering, Better Care Initiative? When did it start? What are the objectives?


In 2013 The Better Care Network and Save the Children UK began an inter-agency initiative to review and share existing knowledge on international volunteerism as related to the alternative care of children in developing countries. This initiative brought together key actors from across the child protection, education, corporate, faith-based and tourism sectors to share their respective experiences. In addition, these actors were encouraged to identify potential global communication and engagement strategies to discourage international volunteering in residential care centres and promote ethical alternatives.


Following a very positive response from a large number of actors involved in advocating on this issue, 2015 sees the initiative move into its second phase. This year, Better Volunteering, Better Care will support an international working group of individuals and organisations who are committed to work collaboratively to raise awareness of the harm caused by international volunteering in residential care centres, and also to maintain a narrative about identifying and supporting ethical alternatives. 


2. Who is involved in the Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative?

The initiative steering committee is led by the Better Care Network and Save the Children UK and also includes the Better Care Network Netherlands, ECPAT, Faith to Action Initiative, Friends International, Hope and Homes for Children, SOS Children’s Villages, and UNICEF. In addition, the Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative was delighted to welcome the following individuals and organisations to a workshop in 2014 and continues to collaborate with many of those listed:

Bep Van Sloten           

Independent Alternative Care Consultant and Trainer

Member of the working group on Quality of Care from the Better Care Network Netherlands


Britta Holmber

World Childhood Foundation


Chloé Sanguinetti

Independent filmmaker


Christine North           

Ohio Northern University


Daniela Papi   

Learning Service and PEPY Tours


Elizabeth Wiebe          

Christian Alliance for Orphans


Emmanuelle Werner Gillioz

Friends International


Eric Hartman  

Kansas State University School of Leadership Studies,, Amizade Global Service-Learning  


Gill Sewell      

World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts


Harold Goodwin         

Centre for Responsible Tourism at Manchester Metropolitan University  and people and places


Iain Disley      

VSO/International Citizen Service


Karen Spencer

Whole Child International

Lynlee Tanner Stapleton

U.S. Agency for International Development, Global Development Lab


Mara Tissera   

Latin American Network for the Right to Live in a Family and a Community (RELAF)


Mark Watson  

Tourism Concern


Mark Weber    

PovertyCure and


Martin Punaks 

Next Generation Nepal


Monica Lindvall         

Save the Children Sweden


Pauline Hyde  

Lumos Foundation


Rafia Zakaria  

Journalist with various organizations, DAWN (Karachi, Pakistan) and Al Jazeera America (New York, USA)


Rebecca Nhep

ACC International Relief


Richard Welford

CSR Asia


Ruth Taylor    

Student Hubs




Sarah Vandenberg

Frayed Passport


Shannette Budhai        

Comhlámh www.Comhlá


Stephen Ucembe

Kenya Society of Care Leavers


Tessa Boudrie 

Boudrie Advisory


3. What were the outcomes of the project in 2014?

The initiative produced a range of documents relating to international volunteering in residential care centres including:

  1. Collected Viewpoints on International Volunteering in Residential Care Centres: An overview
  2. Collected viewpoints on international volunteering in residential care centres 


  1. Better Volunteering, Better Care Current activity and initiatives


A global engagement strategy was also drafted, to guide potential future activities on this issue.


In addition, there were a range of other unplanned outcomes, which arose organically from connecting individuals and organisations. These included:


a. WTM Responsible Tourism Debate - Panel on Child Protection. Bill Bell, Co-Chair of the Better Care Network and Head of Child Protection at Save the Children UK participated in a panel event on child protection at the World Travel Market.  


b. Community-Based and Policy Experts on Orphanage Tourism on This web initiative gathers open-access, peer-reviewed journal articles, practitioner tools, and challenging blog posts. Last year, the website featured video seminars, shared with student groups, focused on the issue of volunteering in residential care centres from both a policy and grassroots perspective. is also launching a Global Service & Ethical Photography Contest, urging contestants to consider the negative impacts of service across cultures, such as the trafficking of children to provide volunteer experiences through orphanage tourism. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.


c. Next Generational Nepal and UNICEF Nepal Launch Event. Better Volunteering, Better Care members attended the launch of NGN's new report The Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering on 11th December 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Better Volunteering, Better Care consultant Anna McKeon presented on the findings of the project (view the presentation, International Volunteering in Residential Care Centres: An Overview here) and joined NGO representatives in considering potential next steps for addressing the issue within Nepal.


d. Friends International recently published an article in the January issue of Adoption Today on "Understanding the Underlying Impacts of Orphan Tourism."


e. In October 2014, ECPAT/Defence for Children Netherlands and Better Care Network Netherlands organised a Conference on Voluntourism, focused on the question "Is volunteering with children abroad always in the best interest of the child?" 


f. Tourism Concern Volunteer Conference. Better Volunteering, Better Care steering committee member Hope and Homes for Children, and project team member Daniela Papi participated in a panel on volunteering with children at this event in the UK in October. 


4. What does the Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative hope to achieve in 2015?

In 2015, the Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative hopes to formalise a working group of international advocates on this issue, and continue to build connections and support advocacy to raise awareness of the risk of harm to vulnerable children caused by international volunteering in residential care centres.

5. Which are the latest trends in international volunteerism?

From those we spoke to during the Better Volunteering, Better Care project, many thought that international volunteering – as a “travel product” was actually in decline. This was due to the rise in alternative travel and adventure travel, where package tours, or individual unplanned adventures, would include volunteering for a few days as part of the trips. As such, volunteering placements are being advertised as heavily as perhaps 2-3 years ago, but rather they are being subsumed into other types of travel experience.


People often seek connections when they travel – and some sort of structure – which is why volunteering is so popular. It is unlikely to die away quickly, but more likely to become further unregulated as individuals and organisations are more able through digital media to directly connect with volunteers (rather than going through organisations). This makes mitigating risk – to both parties – even more difficult and raises fresh challenges from a child protection perspective.

6. Last but not the least what advice would you give a potential orphanage volunteer?

Go to the country you’re interested and enjoy it. Buy local products, meet local people, explore your surroundings. Do not volunteer at an orphanage. If you are interested in supporting vulnerable children in that region, contact some NGOs working in the area and ask about the best way of supporting them. Maybe you can drop off a donation while you are there and learn about their work and the children they are trying to help. You can also, separate to your travels, learn more about residential care. Seek to understand why this type of care should be the last resort for any child, and why volunteers shouldn’t be allowed within these settings. Then, tell you friends, your family, your work, your church, your sports team. Children are voiceless within these settings and need advocates. Encourage people to help vulnerable children in their own communities as well as elsewhere through well-thought-through donations, skilled volunteer work at home or overseas in appropriate administrative settings, and also through learning more about what keeps families in poverty – and how as global citizens we can fight for greater justice and equality in the world.



Position: Co -Founder of ENGAGE,a new social venture for the promotion of volunteerism and service and Ideator of Sharing4Good

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