264 - The Fake Orphanages‎ of Nepal: Voluntourism on the rise
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The Fake Orphanages‎ of Nepal: Voluntourism on the rise

Taking volunteer trips to help the less fortunate, at the same time having a vacation far from home seems like a perfect combination. However good the intentions of volunteers who are in countries like Nepal, often they are unwittingly feeding an industry that dupes poor parents into sending their children to fake orphanages.

Voluntourism is a fast growing industry in Nepal

Volunteering, or ‘voluntourism’ as it’s popularly known, is a rapidly growing industry in Nepal. The chance to volunteer there is especially popular amongst American teenagers taking a gap year before heading off to college. There are dozens of agencies providing the opportunity to spend weeks or months, working at some of the country’s 800 orphanages: an industry that dupes poor parents into sending their children to bogus orphanages in order to extract money from well-meaning foreigners. Unicef found that more than 85% of children in the orphanages they visited had at least one living parent.

It is a business model designed to not only deceit poor families in rural Nepal, but also manipulate wealthy foreigners. In the worst cases, tourists could be complicit in child trafficking without knowing it. The trade in children begins in Nepal’s remote and impoverished countryside. Child traffickers trick parents into sending their children to orphanages, often lured by the promise of good education.

While there are legitimate orphanages in Nepal, experts there warn that too often voluntourism fees and donor dollars end up going into the orphanage owner’s pockets. The money doesn't end up being used for the children. Almost always the kids aren't actually orphans at all but are being trafficked. An estimated 90 percent of orphanages in Nepal are located in the main tourist hubs, like the ancient Kathmandu Valley or Pokhara. American NGO Next Generation Nepal works alongside the Nepali government to rescue children from abusive orphanages and bring them to a transit home. The transit homes provide shelter, protection, health care and education until the team at Next Generation Nepal can find the child's parents and reunite them with their family.

Raptim Humanitarian Travel is a not-for-the-profit travel agency with offices around the world. Our people are available at all times, willing to listen and understand the changing needs of humanitarian, faith-based and volunteer organizations. Contact one of our offices should you require more information about humanitarian travel!