Foreign arrivals in Cambodia have increased by 250% since 2005. In the same time, the number of orphanages have increased by 75%. To put this in perspective, the number of orphanages jumped from 153 to 269, with only 21 of those orphanages run by the state; the rest owned privately. The strangest thing about all these stats is that only 28% of the orphans living in these orphanages have lost both parents, the rest have at least one living parent.
So then what, if not the lack of parents, is causing an increase in these orphanages? It is the promise of a better future. This promise however, is often falsified.
It is not only important, but better for children to remain in family settings. It has also been shown that it is cheaper for children to live in a family setting rather than in an orphanage. A dollar given to the family rather than an orphanage helps out an entire community as it puts money into the community as a whole, through that family, rather than an institution. Children that live in orphanages and then leave them as young adults often face exploitation, homelessness, lost family connections and drug abuse.
With all these problems surfacing, one has to wonder why "orphanage tourism" is on a rise? The feeling of bringing change into another's life is a genuine intention of those who want to improve the lives of others. That's why tourist who want to give back while on their vacation feel as if donating their time and money to an orphanage is the best way to achieve that goal. The relationships they build with the kids and the money they invest into the orphanage is seen as giving back. But again, it is doing more damage than good. Constant severing and rebuilding of short-term relationships between these volunteers and children can be a cause of emotional loss within orphans.
So what can be done to avoid becoming part of orphanage tourism and actually help make a difference in the lives of these impoverished youth? "Good Intentions are not enough" is a blog and consultation service for those trying to provide impactful aid. For those who want more independence on their quest to bring change should do more research on where they decide to spend their time and money trying to help their children. Avoiding orphanages that openly solicit tourists to come in, working with orphanage staff instead of the children and avoiding volunteer organizations that don't ask for a resume are some of the many ways to ensure that your actions are producing the intended outcome.
It is easy to become prey to those who marginalize the poor for their own gains. Along with having a good intention, keeping a clear and informed head can help bring the change that is most necessary in these type of situations, potentially eradicating the system created by those out there for their selfish gains.