Voluntourism at its worst. Very little of the money paid is invested into the projects, as volunteers we had to buy our own supplies for the children and none of the volunteer work at the orphanage is sustainable long term.
I volunteered in the government orphanage, conditions were dire and I witnessed serious abuse towards the children which was very distressing. There is no emotional support to prepare you for this. It’s not an appropriate environment for short-term volunteers and there is no opportunity to make any sustainable positive change. I would argue having volunteers go in, build attachments and then leave after a few weeks or months is causing more long term emotional damage to the already vulnerable children than good. There were also no background checks for volunteers, many had no experience with children let alone vulnerable, traumatised and disabled children and no police checks are carried out to ensure volunteers are fit to work with children. There was no safeguarding in place for the children, no training for volunteers or understanding of issues such as attachment disorders which can arise from having a constant stream of volunteers come in, build bonds and then leave.
Meanwhile, the project leaders were driving around in a Mercedes, regularly taking overseas holidays and obviously making money from volunteers whilst investing little to none of this money into long term change within this project. Even years later I feel incredible guilt that I was a part of this project and for the effects having a western person come in, build bonds and then disappear may have had on those children attachment, anger that almost none of the money was invested into the project as well as suffering long term psychological effects from the abuse and horror that I witnessed inflicted on children at the orphanage. This included canes routinely being used on 18-month old toddlers, disabled children being severely mishandled (Eg: picked up hanging by a single limb, dropped on hard floors, having food and drink poured down their throats as they coughed and spluttered choking), disabled children with severe pressure sores from being neglected/ never having their position changed, children being hosed down in freezing cold water, the children all locked in bedrooms overnight, children being encouraged to bully each other by the staff and countless other abusive scenarios. Any items we brought in for the children (Eg: toys, clothes) were either taken home by the orphanage staff or locked away where the children couldn’t access them. It was genuinely awful to witness and still haunts me. When these abuses were raised with the project leaders they simply shrugged and said it was a government orphanage and out of their control; why are they continuing to partner with a place which is abusive to children? Obviously because it brings in money from volunteers! But why is none of the money being paid by volunteers being invested into campaigning for long term change for these forgotten children and instead being used to find cars and holidays for the owners?
This is not a charity, it is a business which makes the project leaders money whilst allowing western volunteers to feel good about themselves for doing good, however it offer no long term or positive difference to the lives of the vulnerable children who are being exploited without any understanding of attachment disorders, trauma responses in children or the risk of abuse from sending in unvetted volunteers. Projects like this which do not have a long term positive impact and serve solely to benefit the western volunteers whilst putting children at risk should be shut down