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Michael Aquino

In Cambodia, Many Kids in "Orphanages" Aren't Even Orphans.

By November 18, 2012

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A few months back, I mentioned the helpful feedback of "Antoine" (real name is hidden upon his request), a development professional working in Cambodia. Antoine helpfully laid out the facts about voluntourism in Cambodian "orphanages", which is actually not as helpful as it looks.

For starters, many kids in Cambodian orphanages are not real orphans, but kids placed in institutional care by their own parents. And the good-intentioned work and money put in by short-term volunteers from abroad often go to less-than-savory ends. To put it simply, volunteering in Cambodia should not be undertaken without putting serious thought in the matter.

Antoine just contacted me again to help with the "serious thought" part: he and his friends have been working on a site about Cambodian orphanages, which just went live recently. Orphanages: Not the Solution (orphanages.no) helps tourists and would-be volunteers in Cambodia to make an informed choice on their volunteer plans - "whether to support orphanages, and to understand the consequences of their decisions," the site states.

orphanages.no was set up by development professionals based in Cambodia, who've seen how the tourist-fueled boom in Cambodian "orphanages" have actually harmed the kids placed in their institutional care. In time, the folks behind the site hope that more accurate info on Cambodian orphanages filters out to all tourists planning to visit Cambodia, so their good intentions provide positive outcomes for Cambodian children.

If you're planning to visit Cambodia yourself, check out our run-down of Cambodia Travel Requirements before you go.

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