Taking action. It’s an important phrase that stirs the blood, and motivates the soul. When you first volunteer you probably do it for the same reasons that many choose to head abroad; to make a difference, to get outside the comfort zone, and to learn something new.
It can’t be stressed enough the importance of working at a local community level enough. Every country, community and culture is different and it’s only by working at this level that you can truly see how volunteering makes an important and lasting contribution. This is true for every type of volunteering project, regardless of whether you’re working with a school, with an NGO, with wildlife, or with an orphanage.
One of the recurring critiques of the international volunteering movement is that volunteering with children, especially those in residential care, can be harmful. There is no shortage of people who are quick to offer damning advice to anyone considering a volunteer project working with children. These critics make sweeping generalizations of poor practice across all volunteer travel providers based on the unethical behavior of a small few, or by making assumptions on the needs of a community based on their own western culture or beliefs.
As a home for children who depend on volunteers to offer much needed help, support, and light labor around the grounds, we are happy to discuss the benefits of volunteers and the positive impact it has on our home.
Anyone who asks, gets an insight into how we work, and how the children’s’ home receives much needed support from our volunteers.
We recognize the issues that have arisen as orphanage volunteering has grown, however applying the blanket logic of “never volunteer in an orphanage” to a sector and an issue that requires a far more nuanced narrative is narrow in its discussion. In most cases, volunteers in orphanages provide a vital source of hands-on support, energy and skill that makes a huge difference to the lives of children, and has a positive flow-on effect in the wider community.
The role of a well-run orphanage is to provide an important social service that is otherwise not being provided by other parts of society. Many say that children should always be placed with family members and never in a residential care facility, and where this is appropriate, we completely agree. In a perfect world, children would grow up with their parents in a loving family home. In many cases this simply isn’t possible and residential care centers fill a gap as best they can. The demand on these centers is often greater than the resources they have access to, and international volunteers therefore provide an important source of additional support. At the very least, volunteers pick up some basic workload that frees up other staff to focus more important educational and developmental outcomes for the children, and in many cases the contribution of time made by volunteers helps to ensure a greater number of children in need can have better access to this education and care.
We’ve heard first-hand from adults who have benefitted from growing up in residential care centers and they openly praise the role of international volunteers. We’re proud of the impact we’ve made and it’s clear that volunteers offer much needed assistance.
It’s time for recognition that different communities have different challenges and needs, that every orphanage and every community is different and unfortunately family-care is not always a viable option for every child in the world.
We believe in doing what is right, and we strongly believe that volunteer travel done right, can change the world.
At the end of the day, local communities come first - we’re passionate about making a difference and we strive for continuous improvement in everything we do. When it comes to volunteering with children, their rights, needs and wellbeing come first. We look forward to establishing your connection and time with Children of The Universe.