Paradox of orphanage volunteering: Problems everywhere

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French Gap Year Student Enjoying Teaching in Orphanage

Background :

This last Dashain festival I was thinking to visit some beautiful place of Nepal, I could not celebrate Dashain festival due to some causes. I called one of my friend who is a manager of orphanage since its establishment in western corner of Kathmandu valley. I requested him to go visit somewhere but he denied going with me. He had a problem; his two orphans out of 15 were in the orphanage home.  13 orphans had their own home and parents so they went to celebrate the Dashain in their home. But two orphans did not have anyone to go to celebrate Dashain. So, his staffs also went to celebrate the Dashain. Now his duty was to taking care of two orphans in the home.  He was unable to travel with me during the Dashain vacation.

Conference on "Orphanage Volunteering" in Kathmandu, Nepal was held in December 11, 2014 by Next Generation Nepal (NGN) and UNICEF.  Two papers were presented regarding "orphanage". One is based in Nepal's practices and other is experienced in different other countries. The ultimate focus was problem facing in developing countries by different volunteers. The conference was raising many questions and tried to find their solution by discussion. Basically, commercialization of Orphanages Homes and its entire activities was the target of conference.  The conference was raised many good questions and closed it with the management and policy level recommendation.

Problem of the 'Orphanage Home':

Without hesitating we can say, many 'orphanage homes' are intentionally opened and operated for the good money and not for the good social service. The above example of the orphanage which is located in western parts of Kathmandu Valley only some distance of touristic place Thamel; the manager whom I talked has 15 children but most of them have parents and only two orphans does not anyone in this world except the orphanage manager and his cooking staff. Similarly, most of the orphanage homes do not meet the minimum requirement of government policy. The management of the orphanage homes does not open the children's profile. They have very poor management and the pathetic condition of the living situation, food standard, clothing for different season, space for living, education, loving environment, caring in the illness, and many more.

Importantly, the so called orphanages are from their nearest relatives and neighbors kids from remote village and are bringing in the orphanage home for better education and better future. The intention of the manager is not maintaining the quality education and health of the kids, but they are always looking for good sources of foreign aids and tiny donation in their fund.  The corruption intended manager are making children as a 'tourist attraction' which is harmful activities in the developing world. In the least developing countries 'manager' knows very well, the westerner loves children and they cannot see the miserable condition of them.

Normally, the travel related entrepreneur and their friends operates the orphanage homes or the orphanage manager makes the travel entrepreneur friend, because they can easily access the tourist's interest, they have the national and international network to commercialize the orphanage homes. They can brief the situation in different angle and convinced them for the donation. Therefore, most of the orphanage homes are opened in touristic area and nearest of it.

Tourists also Responsible :

The same above manager told me that many tourists request him for shelter in his child home, for short time of volunteering for living. Orphanage homes are cheaper than tourist hotel and youth hostel in the developing countries. It is almost similar cost living like in village area. The cheap tourist also the poisoning in the orphanage homes to be corrupted more.

Some tourist already visited to developing countries set up their mind to operate the orphanage homes in Nepal to show their so called social services intention in their mother countries. Whether they know the internal management of orphanage home or not, they collect the fund from friends and family or campaign of fund raising.

Eastern and western concept of orphanage :

Oxford Advanced Learner Dictionary 9th edition defines the 'Orphan' is a child whose parents are died. The dictionary meaning clears the child whose both parents are died and nobody is there left after the child for taking care. The conference 11 December 2014 by NGN and UNICEF also focused the same thing. The westerner's definition of the orphan is different than Nepalese definition.

As in the Nepalese and Indian culture and the belief, if any one of the parent is died is called orphan "Tuhuro" . Mostly, the orphanage homes are managed the child whose at least one parent is died. Due to the unseen profile of the children maintained by the orphanage home, the issue is rising where they are the orphan or not to be able to keep in the orphanage home.

The Solution:

The concept of 'orphanage home' is not sufficient to address the orphan's problem; it should be defined alternatively. The alternative care of children is the best policy. The single parent or both parents died orphan can be taking care and managed under their relative's control.

Transparency is the best policy to be clear the real orphanage. There are two type of orphanage, one parent died orphanage; both parents died orphanage. Both types of orphanage has equal condition in remote villages in Nepal. If the orphanage has sufficient property after their parents died, they can be kept by relatives otherwise, they will go in the street for foods and shelter, and this is the reality of the orphanage condition.

Immediately we should find out the root cause of the child trafficking. If it is found due to the poverty, it should be address by providing skilled training in local level to their parents which supports financially to take care of their kids. If other reasons are detected, that can be solved using social tools.

Every responsible tourist must ask the travel manager- Do you have orphanage homes or are you related in it? If they yes, boycott them and their offer.

-Manoj Kr. Giri

For direct feedback

Note : Title references "Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering" is taken from the NGN publication of the same name written by Punaks, M and Feit, K in 2014.


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