Weeshuistoerisme in Cambodia: well intended, but with disastrous consequences

Tourists think a good deed through an orphanage in Cambodia to visit and gifts and donations to bring. But nothing is less true: rogue orphanages to try the sympathy of tourists to generate with poor and malnourished children to as much as possible, cash and gifts to collect.

© Reuters

Cambodian children merchandise become, orphanages outside of them in appalling conditions. Despite good intentions to sponsor western tourists and volunteers the abuse. “It is time for the criminal orphanages to close, and the good to provide better support,” says Tony Geeraerts, Flemish weeshuisdirecteur in Cambodia.

It happens daily in Cambodia. Satisfied tourists will return to their comfortable hotel room with a camera full of beautiful images of singing and dancing orphans. They have extended posed with children that wide smile of gratitude for the generous donations and gifts. In the wretched orphanage that these privileged westerners visited, they have the world has improved a little. And everyone on Facebook must know.

But they know little about the reality that they have just been funded. In different orphanages, children deliberately broken clothes attracted to them more piteous. That delivers additional gifts. The costumes and the toys that the children get, to be sold on the market.

The business model of rogue orphanages is simple: sympathy generation with impoverished and malnourished children to as much as possible, cash and gifts to collect. In Cambodian orphanages are thousands of children abused and exploited.

Less orphans, more orphanages

According to a recent study by the government, there are 16.579 children in 406 orphanages. In 2015, the government but 254 orphanages. That are surprising figures. Because according to a report of Unicef the number of orphans between 0 and 14 years has decreased. Meanwhile, an increasing number of orphanages: with 60 percent in 10 years.

According to Friends International, a growing tourism in Cambodia in that same ten years, coincidentally, to the same extent as the number of orphanages. The organization calculated that 80 percent of the ‘creature’ at least one parent. Unscrupulous orphanages mislead poor people with the promise of free health care and education (a major cost for families).

So children end up in fraudulent companies, where they only serve to make the purses of the naive foreigners lighter. The increasing tourism has to the use of these fraudulent orphanages more cost-effective. It encourages parents to allow their child to it when the burden has become.

“In Cambodia throw some people their children just in the trash. That is the hard reality,” says Tony Geeraerts. He is the manager of Little Hearts, an orphanage not far from the capital city of Phnom Penh. “We check every child that here is brought. That is a process that is in three months. We talk with the children, with the authorities, the family and the community. I have with pain in the heart for two children is denied. Which were dumped after a divorce.”

A warm nest

The Flemish charity Little Hearts on the countryside, a modern orphanage was built. Here are not hungry or dirty being to find. The patch of grass, and the buildings are spotlessly clean. The children are happy and spontaneous. It is cozy and quiet. There are now 36 being. Another hundred children from the area receive free English lessons.

“We give our children more than just a safe and warm nest,” explains Geeraerts. “Here, they get structure in their lives. In a turn, they should help to keep the building clean. We teach them how tasks are to accomplish. That is important for their later life. Therefore, we follow them as they leave the orphanage at age. We won’t let you fall.”

That framework is important for the development of children. Researchers say that children who weeshuistoerisme be subjected to irreparable social, physical, intellectual, and emotional damage. Therefore, Unicef tourists to stay away from orphanages.

“I get two or three times a month phone call from a hotel”, sigh Geeraerts indignant. “The hotel says that they have a few tourists have that the orphanage would like to visit. ‘At two o’clock in the afternoon, okay? They have sweets.” I tell people that I never call. Here that is not a zoo.”

Therefore, the port of Little Hearts always tightly closed. Coco, the dog of the orphanage, is trained on the buitenblaffen of uninvited guests. “There is no one here that I know. Even if I just in Belgium am, I know exactly who and what comes here.”

Well intended, but bad consequences

There is a whole industry created around vulnerable children. That is supported by tourism trips, naive volunteering and uninformed donations, organized by travel agencies, churches, charities, schools and universities.

“That is well meant, but this are more children from their families taken away. And it works exploitation in the hand”, says Unicef in its report on Cambodia.

Little Hearts regularly receives visits from the ministry of Social Affairs for an audit. But the government admits that 38 percent of the orphanages was never checked. 12 percent is not registered. “With this research we want to the orphanages and the issues”, says minister of Social Affairs Vong Sauth. “It is time that the corrupt orphanages to close. Just closing,” Geeraerts. “But they also need to have well functioning orphanages better support. That doesn’t happen enough.”

The government has started a schoonmaakcampagne, tentatively in five provinces. Some orphanages are already closed. The goal is to next year 30 percent of the ‘orphans’ back home to bring, or in any other form of care.

But that is not realistic, think Geeraerts. “You can be that children not under coercion back home send. You often clashes on the sheer unwillingness of poverty-stricken parents. An orphan is a child for whom no one cares. To me, they are all welcome.”

But therefore, also the poverty be fought. The government needs to poor families help children to stay at home. That is still the best solution. To the extent that will be safe and reliable orphanages will continue to be needed.

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