If you are all about giving back to the community, by spending the better part of your free time with the less fortunate in children’s homes and orphanages, you might want to rethink it all out. Renown author, JK Rowling has discouraged students from volunteering at orphanages.
While speaking at the global forum for young leaders, dubbed the One Young World summit in London, the Harry Potter author and founder and president of children’s charity Lumos, said orphanages do irreparable harm and perpetuate the abuse of children and communities.
“Despite the best of intentions, the sad truth is that visiting and volunteering in orphanages drives an industry that separates children from their families and puts them at risk of neglect and abuse. Institutionalism is one of the worst things you can do to children in the world. It has huge effects on their normal development, it renders children vulnerable to abuse and trafficking, and it massively impacts their life chances. And these dire statistics apply even to what we would see as well-run orphanages. The effect on children is universally poor,” she said.
Emerging evidence reveals that orphanage tourism drives family separation and child trafficking. Huge numbers of volunteers, tourists, and backpackers visit residential children’s institutions every year, creating a multimillion-dollar tourism industry that leaves children at risk of all forms of abuse, according to Lumos. Children in institutions are 500 times more likely to take their own lives, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution, the charity claims.
Lumos also revealed that 80% of the 8 million children currently living in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent. One Young World Ambassador from Kenya was placed in a Nairobi orphanage with her three siblings while she was a young child, despite having two living parents. Her parents were told that she would be fed and educated, yet schooling was rare and she said she often went hungry even as thousands of tourists visited the orphanage each year.
Rowling said students hoping to travel overseas or to volunteer abroad, should investigate the institutions with which they were hoping to work. She advised volunteers to instead look at what drives children into institutions and dedicate your time to projects that tackle poverty or support communities with vital services.