The dark side of voluntourism…

Declan pic

Posted on: 6th May, 2014

Category: Health & Lifestyle

Contributor: West Cork People

By Declan Murphy Above: Further details of this thought-provoking campaign developed by a Cambodian organisation can be found online at www.thinkchildsafe.org/thinkbeforevisiting/

I realise this is a topic I’ve dealt with previously, but I’m convinced too that it contains an incredibly valuable message that desperately needs to become much more widely known and discussed than it is at present, so that the damage it often causes can, perhaps, be limited. With understandably popular foreign volunteering opportunities having long since developed into what is now a billion dollar industry, it’s not at all surprising that the most prevalent message one is likely to see regarding ever-popular orphanage volunteer placements is that they’re truly altruistic undertakings that are most certainly worth whatever fees may be involved. What you’re much less likely to read about though, is the fact that many of the ‘orphanages’ and children’s homes that facilitate such placements across the world, are little more than cleverly disguised businesses that exist almost solely to make money from well-intentioned western travellers looking to be more than mere tourists.

I’d like to think that the vast majority of those who choose to engage in such volunteer placements, wouldn’t dream of doing so if they only realised that many of the children in these institutions are actually victims of human trafficking, who’ve been taken from their families and are being cruelly exploited simply to supply the increasing demand for what’s being so wrongly sold as a meaningful travel experience that benefits all involved. Yes, it can be incredibly meaningful for the volunteer, and most probably profitable too for those facilitating the experience, but not a whole lot of benefit for the countless innocent children required for the scam.

Thankfully, the truth is slowly starting to filter through and more and more people are becoming aware of the insidious nature of this particular type of volunteer placement. Here in Nepal, in the last couple of months alone, there have been three high-profile raids on children’s homes popular amongst volunteers and children who’d been virtually imprisoned and denied access to their families for years were finally rescued and happily reunited with their parents. Sadly, many of those involved have the type of high-powered political connections that allow them to avoid any real threat of prosecution.

In the face of such corruption, the best solution by far comes in lessening the demand for these hugely exploitative placements which on the surface can so often appear both worthwhile and commendable. Whether it’s worried parents who want their intrepid offspring to have a more structured and supervised first solo foreign adventure, or the travelling individual themselves, opting to do more than ‘simply go on holiday’ while perhaps creating an attention-grabbing bullet-point for their CV, there needs to be an open and honest evaluation of the core motivations for wanting to engage in these type of volunteer placements, as well as a realisation of the truly horrific reality that’s actually behind many of them.

Aside from the fact that many volunteers (be they past, present or future) will often insist “that ‘their orphanage’ is different and, in fact, totally legitimate…”, I think it’s important that we look beyond the actual legitimacy of individual institutions and consider the fact that what has become such a popular pursuit for westerners visiting poor countries like Nepal, is actually something child-protection laws in our own developed countries certainly wouldn’t condone happening closer to home. I can’t imagine there are many organisations working with vulnerable children in Ireland who would happily accept the offer of voluntary help (be it well-intentioned or otherwise, and for a couple of days, weeks or months) from visiting foreigners. Why is it then that the exact same scenario in a poor country like Nepal is instead regarded as a worthy and commendable pursuit?

While there may be some truth in the argument that many organisations depend on the funding that volunteers often provide and without it the children wouldn’t receive proper care, it also shouldn’t be overlooked that if there weren’t volunteers in need of cute ‘orphans’ to volunteer with, many of these organisations wouldn’t have so many children to look after and therefore wouldn’t need so much funding in the first place. In a report published in 2008, UNICEF estimated that 85 per cent of the children in Nepali orphanages actually had at least one living parent, and expressed the view that for the psychological wellbeing of the children involved, even a bad family was, though far from ideal, better than no family at all.

An equally shocking statistic was shared by Nepal’s Central Child Welfare Board in 2012 when they publicised that almost 90 per cent of the 657 registered children’s homes in Nepal were, in fact, located in the country’s five main tourist districts. A bizarre coincidence? Or a clear indication that Nepal’s orphanage phenomenon has some clear and strong links with foreign tourists? I’ll leave you draw your own conclusions… I’d like to ask too, in finishing, that if you or someone you know may have been considering volunteering at an exotically-located orphanage this summer that you perhaps give it a second thought and carefully consider the potential consequences involved. I can only speak of my experience in Nepal, but I’ve little reason to suspect that the situation in other poor countries in hugely different. Some careful research and reading prior to making any firm plans will help ensure you find a placement that doesn’t jeopardise the safety and well-being of innocent children.

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Visiting restrictions in place at Bantry General Hospital due to Flu Presentations

Strict visitor restrictions have been put in place with immediate effect at Bantry General Hospital due to the number of patients who have presented with flu like symptoms.

In the interest of patient care and in order to restrict the spread of the flu virus within the hospital, it is necessary with immediate effect to ban all visitors to Bantry General Hospital, with the exception of following: critically ill patients are restricted to one visitor per critically ill patient and confined to visiting times only, and attendance at the Medical Assessment Unit (MAU) and Local Injury Unit (LIU) should only take place if absolutely necessary, only one relative per patient attending these areas.

The elderly, children, pregnant women or young adults, those with chronic illnesses or vulnerable others are advised not to visit. Outpatient, Day care services and routine hospital admissions are not affected.

All infection control measures are in place and every effort is being made to manage and contain the spread of the flu virus.

People with flu like symptoms are advised to contact their GP by phone in the first instance and avoid presenting at the Emergency Department at Bantry General Hospital.

Bantry hospital staff are asking people to think about all their care and treatment options and keep ED services for the patients who need them most. Others with a less serious illness can be treated by their GP or out of hours GP service where their GP can refer them to an Assessment Unit the following day if required.
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8th January, 2018  ·  

West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork shared Cope Foundation's Happy Christmas from Cope Foundation. ... See MoreSee Less

What makes Christmas special? Children and adults we support, our incredible staff, families and supporters - these are the people who make our organisation so special every single day, but especially at Christmas! Meet some of them here... Thank you to the wonderful team at AV3 Media who kindly produced this video for us as a Christmas gift! To make a Christmas donation today, go to www.cope-foundation.ie/donate. We believe that together we can do great things and with your support we can do so much more! Please SHARE our video so that more people can learn about the amazing things that happen at Cope Foundation! Evening Echo; Irish Examiner; The Southern Star; The Avondhu; Cork Independent; West Cork Times; West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork; Bandon Opinion/The Opinion; Vale Star; East Cork Journal; Cork Chamber - Faces of Cork Business; Cork City FC; Cork Institute of Technology - CIT; University College Cork; Corks RedFM 104-106; The KC Show Corks 96 FM; Cork's 96FM; Cork's Best; C103 Cork; Cork Airport; Cork Opera House: The Everyman; Cork County Council; County Cork; Cork City Council; CorkLike; CCCahoots; Cork On Ice; Glow Cork; CIT Cork School of Music; RTÉ Today; Ciaran Bermingham - Actor; Rob & Marian Heffernan; John Spillane; Ger Wolfe; Eimear O'Brien PR; Jack O Rourke; Theo Dorgan; Mahon Point Shopping Centre; Blackpool Shopping Centre & Retail Park

18th December, 2017  ·  

This is the real spirit of Christmas at Caseys of Clonakilty. ... See MoreSee Less

Are you alone or do you know someone who will be alone this Christmas? If so, then we here at Casey’s would like to make your day that little bit easier. We are offering a full Christmas dinner on us! Christmas dinners can be collected Christmas Eve from 12:30pm - 8:30pm. Wishing everyone a very happy Christmas from everyone at Casey’s

15th December, 2017  ·  

RTÉ Raidió na Gaeltachta’s has just announced its Christmas schedule and it features several programmes of interest to listeners in West Cork.

On New Year’s Day at 12.08 pm we’ll hear highlights from the Éigse Dhiarmuidín Festival that took place in West Cork in early December, remembering musician and broadcaster Diarmuid Ó Súilleabháin. An Nollaig ar Oileán Chléire is an archive show presented by Mícheál Ó Sé on Wednesday 27 December at 5.30 pm about Christmas on Cape Clear and on Friday 29 December and 5 January at 7 pm, Peadar Ó Riada will bring us very special editions of his Cuireadh chun Ceoil programme from Múscraí. Keep an ear out!
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15th December, 2017  ·  

West Cork People - The Best Free Read in West Cork shared Garda Síochána - Cork, Kerry & Limerick - Southern Region's photo. ... See MoreSee Less

REMINDER: An Garda Siochana are hosting a Retail Crime Prevention Meeting, to be held at 7pm on Wednesday 29th November 2017. This meeting will be held in the Munster Arms Hotel in Bandon. This meeting is one of a series being held across the West Cork Garda Division, in association with Operation Thor, the Garda National Anti-Crime Strategy. The purpose of the meeting is to increase the cooperation between Gardai and the retail sector, ensuring that the current low levels of crime in the locality extends past the busy approaching Christmas season. The meeting will be addressed by the local Crime Prevention Officer, Sergeant Ian O’ Callaghan, who will discuss burglary prevention, shoplifting, fraud, and cybercrime. There will be a particular focus on cash handling and cash exposure of businesses in the run up to the Christmas shopping period. All aspects of commercial crime will be discussed, and we would strongly urge all businesses to make a special effort to attend on the evening.

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