Sharing some fun and a laugh with the local kids is often one of the highlights of local grassroots travel. But sadly, as we’ve become all too aware these days, the children who are out and about meeting foreign visitors may be at risk of abuse or harm – whether by those with ill-intent, or by those with good intentions but unaware of potentially bad consequences. Sometimes it’s hard to know what is the ‘right thing to do’!
At Intrepid Travel, we’re proud to have terrific relationships with really effective organisations, that can help travellers navigate the child protection minefield. One of these, the ChildSafe network, provide some of the following information and excellent practical advice on what you can do to protect children wherever you travel:
Avoid buying from or giving to children.
You might encounter children begging for food and money, or selling goods on the streets or in popular tourist areas. By buying from these children or giving them money, you help maintain this unsafe daily working life, preventing them from attending school or training, trapping them in a cycle of poverty. You can effectively help by supporting organisations that work directly with these children and that also support their family members to find employment.
Schools and orphanages are not tourist attractions.
When you travel, you might be offered to visit children centres or orphanages, schools or places where children live and work – such as slums or dumpsites. By participating in such visits you may be putting children at more risk: supporting systems that separate children from families, institutions could force children to perform to solicit money, you may create dependency on your hand-outs and disrupt education. During travels with Intrepid, we won’t support ‘random’ visits to children’s institutions. We do have a limited number of carefully managed educational visits to selected organisations where we can be certain that the children are not exploited.
Don’t take a child back to your hotel room for any reason.
During travels you might encounter children who you want to help directly. Taking a child to your hotel room for food, to bathe themselves, to rest, to shelter from bad weather or any reason, is dangerous for you and the child. It puts you at risk of being accused of abusing a child and getting in serious trouble with the law. Also, the child may then feel it is okay to go into rooms with adults, and could be at risk of being abused or raped the next time.
Protect children from exploitive labour.
While you are travelling you might witness children who are forced to work – which may prevent them from attending school and is damaging to their development. Think what you would find acceptable for your own children. Helping in the parents café for a couple of hours after school may be fine. But any employment that prevents a child from attending school is not okay. In some parts of the Middle East and Asia, children may be working in industries such as carpet making. Your Intrepid group leader can guide you to the more ethical child labour-free enterprises.
If you see children at risk, don’t turn a blind eye.
If you witness situations where children are facing violence, being forced to work, or a situation where a child is at risk of sexual exploitation – avoid getting involved but do report it. Contact local authorities, call local hotlines, or you can make a report to the International Police via interpol.org.
What else can you do to help children when you travel?
- Use services and buy products from training social businesses or enterprises that allow parents to earn an income to provide better care for their children.
- In SE Asia, look out for the ChildSafe logo on various businesses and give them your support. Their staff are trained to protect children from abusive situations.
- Support organisations that provide education and training to reduce poverty and keep families together. The Intrepid Foundation offers a range of worthy organisations around the globe! All donations via The Intrepid Foundation will be matched by Intrepid Travel dollar for dollar, up to AU$5,000 per donor and a total of AU$300,000 for all donors in each financial year.
For more information, see the document Protecting children during your travels.
Intrepid has been proactive on child protection issues for more than 20 years and is proud to be Highly Commended for Child Protection at the prestigious World Responsible Tourism Awards 2013.
Photo: Jane Crouch