orphanage tourism and thusanani

forbidden city beijing chinaIn the last decade, orphanage tourism has become a growing phenomenon, where well-meaning travellers arrange to go and see orphanages and other children’s institutions in foreign countries – for a brief visit or to volunteer for a short time. This has perhaps been partly fuelled by the media and celebrities visiting developing countries to ‘rescue’ children from their impoverished situation.

We are now hearing many research and anecdotal reports about the problems and many scams that await. Naive travellers are in many cases unknowingly doing more harm than good and their donations may be lining the pockets of corrupt and exploitive people, rather than helping the neediest children. We are receiving this news from across the world – from Central America, Bali, Cambodia, India, Eastern and Southern Africa. Sadly wherever there’s poverty and vulnerable children, coupled with low level government regulation of institutions, there will be people exploiting kids.

For these reasons Intrepid has adopted a policy of not randomly visiting children’s institutions and only arranging for our groups to visit some selected very well run places in well managed visits. We are partnering with and adopting principles from ChildSafe to help protect children.

Very sadly, there are many children in Southern Africa who have been orphaned or abandoned because of the HIV/AIDs epidemic. You don’t need to visit an orphanage to help these needy kids. Intrepid travellers can bring positive assistance through support for the Thusanani Children’s Foundation based out of Johannesburg. You won’t get to visit any institution on our trips to the region, but your group leader can enthusiastically tell you all about how you can help needy local kids through support for Thusanani’s great work.

The ideal is to integrate orphaned children into the community through foster homes or adoption, but this is not always possible due to the large numbers. As a result, many of these kids grow up in institutions where they do not receive individual love and attention, contributing to developmental delay and a potential risk of future disabilities and difficulties with attachment and bonding. Thusanani aims to prevent this progression through providing free hands-on occupational therapy to kids in the 0-6 age range, promoting normal development, so they will then better cope with school and go on to becoming contributing members of society.

“Thusanani” is an African word that means “Helping Each Other”. As a result of their work, many of the children often have had toys to play with for the first time in their lives, receive appropriate stimulation and reach developmental milestones sooner – often leading to their deinstitutionalisation through adoption into loving homes.

The Intrepid Foundation – travellers making a difference
Help support Thusanani and South African kids, along with many other great organisations and grassroots projects via the Intrepid Foundation. Plus find out how your donation could be matched* by Intrepid Travel!

To learn more about how you can protect children during your travels please download:
ChildSafe Traveller Tips

To read more on orphanage tourism issues and fraudulent schemes please see:
Bali’s Orphanage Scam
Inside The Thriving Industry of Aids Orphan Tourism

* Donations will be matched by Intrepid Travel up to AU$5000 (or equivalent) per donor and a total of AU$400,000 each financial year.

About the author

Sue Elliot - Like many of us, Sue contracted a serious travel bug at an early age. She's visited over 90 countries in search of a cure, but her wanderlust just seems to get worse. Thankfully at Intrepid Travel she's amongst people who understand the affliction and since 1998 Sue has enjoyed being our blog and newsletter editor. Here you'll find helpful travel advice and inspiring tales from Sue and other Intrepid travellers.

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