Who wouldn’t want to help an orphaned child? Unfortunately, our desire to help can sometimes cause more harm than good as, in some countries, orphanages have become tourist attractions that need ‘orphans’ – and donations from well-meaning travellers – to stay in business.
There are currently 16,886 children living in orphanages across Nepal, yet 80% have at least one parent who could care for them. That’s over 13,000 kids. Many are trafficked from their homes in rural areas with the promise of a better life, only to be mistreated and abused.
Eighteen months ago, we completely removed orphanage visits from all of our trips (we began phasing them out years before that), and now we want to spread the word about better ways of helping. We’re not just talking to you guys about the issue; we’ve also been representing the tourism industry in an advocacy group that’s calling on the government for the introduction of a Modern Slavery Act in Australia.
This week we’re stepping up the fight to keep families together by making a $90,000 donation to child protection charity Forget Me Not, through our not-for-profit The Intrepid Foundation. The Forget Me Not team educate rural communities and parents about the dangers of child trafficking, and carry out life-changing rescue, recovery and reintegration work in Nepal, India and Uganda.
After the rescues, the team are faced with a new set of challenges; tracing where the children actually come from, and reuniting them with their families. Following intensive support and counselling from trained healthcare and wellbeing professionals at safe houses, the family tracing process begins. It’s often long and arduous; after all, how can a five year old child explain what their date of birth is, where their parents live, or what their parent’s names are? Most kids that age only know their parents as Mum and Dad.
The Forget Me Not team piece together information through carefully structured interviews with the children, countless conversations with local villagers and community members, and with some pretty clever detective work. To date, Forget Me Not has assisted the Nepali government in reuniting 80 children with their families, after rescues from abusive orphanages.
The Intrepid Foundation’s $90,000 donation comes from the commitment we made to Nepal following the devastating 2015 earthquake. Our Namaste Nepal appeal raised over $750,000 in total, and is already helping to rebuild a school, provide skills training for women, support a health post near Everest Basecamp and rebuild the heavily damaged Langtang Trekking route in Nepal.
Our contribution means Forget Me Not will be able to assist with the rescue, rehabilitation and family reunions of displaced children who have been trafficked into orphanages for the purpose of profit. We’ve also committed to doubling traveller donations, which means if you donate to Forget Me Not through The Intrepid Foundation, we’ll match it, dollar for dollar.
“Together we made it our collective fight to free children and to get them where they belong – back with families, in their villages and in their mountains,” said Anju Pun, Forget Me Not’s Country Director in Nepal.
Feature image C/O Ben McNamara.