The voluntourism dilemma

  • Does voluntourism have the positive effect on communities that we expect it to have?
  • What’s the role of money? And how is it helping (or not helping) economies abroad?
  • Why do we still feel compelled to volunteer abroad? When is it a good thing?

A three part article by Pippa Biddle, which appeared recently on the Go Overseas website, attempts an answer to these three tricky questions about the voluntourism. This is where you can find it: trend.www.gooverseas.com/industry-trends/voluntourist-dilemma

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Orphanage tourism

This is something I keep returning to. We don’t help orphanages in Nepal because it is so difficult to distinguish the genuine from the fake. Too often the children are dressed in rags and underfed to arouse the sympathies of well-meaning but naive tourists. Several years ago we did send a volunteer to one such orphanage, and he revealed to us what was happening behind the warm welcome we were given by the management: beatings, lack of care, and the selling of children to foreign adoption agencies.



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Voluntourism. How should HELP respond?

How should HELP respond to the growing numbers of organisations, both foreign and local, offering volunteer placements for tourists in the regions where we have been operating over the past twelve years?

Briefly, our aim is to place teachers on long assignments of at least a month in schools that not only welcome them, but can make good use of them. We regard the schools, not the volunteers, as our ‘clients’. We are not a ‘voluntourism’ business but a registered charity.…

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Struggle for children with disabilities in Nepal

Child with disabilities laughing as she uses her new walker, Nepal
International NGO, Plan, reports the following:

3 December 2014: Children with disabilities in Nepal face a series of barriers to getting an education and drop outs can suffer social exclusion and violence, reveals new research from Plan – launched on International Day of Persons with Disabilities, 3 December.

The  new study Include us in education!, produced in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, conducted in-depth interviews with 21 families in Nepal.

The research shows that when children with disabilities drop out of school it can have a negative impact on their psychosocial wellbeing, as many will have faced violence, bullying and discrimination, by peers and teachers, as well as in community and home life.



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10,000 children estimated to work in Nepal’s carpet industry

Oliver Balch in the Guardian, Thursday 20 November 2014 13.51 GMT

Aged 11, Sanju was sent by her parents in rural Nepal to work for a carpet factory in the capital Kathmandu. They were assured she would be paid and well looked after. That was the last they heard of her. Her new employer had her working from 4am until 8pm, seven days a week. She stitched knots until her fingers bled.
Aged 11, Sanju was sent by her parents in rural Nepal to work for a carpet factory in the capital Kathmandu.…

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Corruption: the canker that eats away at progress

On my visit to India, I was struck once more how much corruption dominates everyday life, from the very poor water supply in Kalimpong and Darjeeling, to the unsurfaced roads in Sikkim. In the 40 odd years I have been visiting the region, daily life gets no easier. The only improvement I can see is that middle class people now have access to mortgages so they can build themselves better houses, but they live in a society where everyone is working for themselves.…

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Nepal’s bogus orphan trade fuelled by rise in ‘voluntourism’

The following article by Pete Pattison appeared in the Guardian on 27th May 2014:

“Like an increasing number of tourists visiting Nepal‘s mountain peaks, colourful markets and lush national parks, Marina Argeisa wanted to experience the latest must-do activity on the tourist trail: a volunteering stint at an orphanage.

What the 26-year-old Spaniard did not know was that her good intentions were unwittingly feeding an industry that dupes poor parents into sending  their children to bogus orphanages in order to extract money from well-meaning foreigners.…

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Alleged abuses at the Denjong Pema Choling Academy

This is a news report about The Denjong Pema Choling Academy (DPCA). HELP used to send volunteers to this school in Pemayangse, West Sikkim, but withdrew after receiving reports from the volunteers , and others, about the abuse of children (and of money donated) in this school:-

“A Canadian woman volunteer working in a private school in Sikkim today lodged a complaint with police of Gangtok alleging that the institution’s director and a teacher often beat up the students.

Sara Antwis, 40, said she has recorded video clips of the teacher, Samir Tamang, chasing schoolchildren with a cane and of a student crying and showing his bruises.…

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The problem with orphanages in Nepal

Identifying well-run orphanages to assist in Nepal is very problematic. People with no experience or training can set orphanages up with little supervision from the authorities.

HELP was briefly involved with Mukti Nepal in 2006. It appeared to be a well run orphanage and the children seemed to be well cared for. As a result, we sent a volunteer and some money. However, we withdrew when we saw some negative press reports about the falsification of children’s names.

The situation has obviously deteriorated badly since then.…

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Why you should not adopt Nepalese children

Anyone thinking of adopting a Nepalese child should think twice. There are plenty of unscrupulous agents trafficking children for profit, and it is difficult to tell the crooks from the reputable operators. Have a look at this recent AFP report:

“The United States has warned its citizens against adopting children in Nepal, saying it has “grave concerns” about the reliability of that country’s adoption system.

The government urged prospective adoptive parents to choose another country, citing the case of a young Nepalese girl placed in the custody of an American couple without the consent of her biological mother and father.…

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I think it’s a great organization. I’m really impressed with how small and focused on each project HELP is.
Jill PeckVidya Sagar Gyanpeeth School