Volunteer tourism, or Voluntourism, is an emerging travel trend where individuals ‘do good’ while traveling to new places. Voluntourism is considered the fastest growing trend in travel — worth an estimated $2.6 billion per year. BLOOM Charity is a nonprofit focused on the mental health and early childhood development of institutionalized orphans in Morocco. BLOOM is currently developing playgrounds and healing gardens in orphanages all over Morocco. Many well-intentioned people have reached out to us in hopes of engaging a Voluntourism project. Our organization is firmly rooted in the ethics of community empowerment and preventing the exploitation of vulnerable children. For this reason, we do NOT support or endorse Voluntourism in the orphanages we serve. Rather, BLOOM focuses its efforts on educating and empowering the caregivers and local community that support the orphans.
Our initiatives provide orphanage caregivers with the training and tools they need to help children thrive. We support the orphanages by developing accessible green play spaces, rich with resources and opportunity for learning and development. We also promote a culture in the institutions that prioritizes mental health and play based learning. BLOOM’s efforts are focused on developing green infrastructure, educating the caregivers, and changing cultural norms in the orphanages. In this way, our work is methodically designed to have a long-term sustainable impact on the host community.
There is an increasing trend for people to seek Voluntourism opportunities in orphanages, and there are many reasons why this is unethical and dangerous. Here are a few key reasons:
1. Inadequate Background Checks
Voluntourism in orphanages leaves children vulnerable to abuse where volunteer background checks are inadequate and child protection regulations may not be enforced.
2. Attachment Problems for Orphans
Voluntourism can create attachment problems in children who become close to short-term visitors.
3. Perpetuates Myths about Adoption
Voluntourism perpetuates the myth that the children in institutions are all orphans in need of adoption.
4. Orphans are not a Tourist Attraction
There is a negative impact on children because of the cyclical, short-term nature of the visits and the experience of being treated as a tourist attraction.
5. Dangers of Exploitation for Fundraising
The need to attract tourists to visit orphanages can even entail children being purposefully kept in poor conditions, denied food and clothing and other essentials in order to attract more money from visitors.
In this light, orphanage Voluntourism can be seen as a form of child exploitation.
If you are interested in international volunteering, and want to make sure your time is spent helping not hurting your host community, check out this link from ReThink Orphanages and make sure your volunteer work meets the criteria:
If you are interested in supporting BLOOM Charity, we currently need: fundraising hosts, day-of-event volunteers, graphics designers, IT support, grant writers, blog writers passionate about children’s rights, mental health professionals, video editors, corporate sponsors, and more! If you are passionate about BLOOM and have a talent/skill you want to share with us please contact firstname.lastname@example.org