Intrepid Travel has taken the bold step to cease orphanage tourism on their trips, working with NGO’s who instead focus on keeping the children with their families.
Intrepid Travel used the release of film Lion to bring awareness to their position, with premier screenings for the industry in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.
“Visiting and volunteering at orphanages has become a really popular activity for travellers and while most come with the best of intentions, the reality is that many unskilled volunteers are given access to vulnerable children,” Intrepid Travel responsible business manager Liz Manning said.
“As we became more aware of the impact visits can have we made the decision to remove all visits from itineraries in May last year,” Manning said.
Intrepid Travel has partnered with Rethink Orphanages to move to better models of care.
There are eight million children living in institutions globally, which is thought to be a gross underestimate.
Anywhere from 70-90% of these kids have one living parent.
“Those parents, with support, would be able to take care of them in the home,” Rethink Orphanages co-founder Leigh Matthews said.
While there are many reasons why children are institutionalized, poverty is a majority factor.
In Cambodia there has been a 75% increase in orphanages over the past decade.
“This is despite the fact that there’s been a significant reduction in the amount of orphans in the same period,” Matthews said.
“The proliferation of orphanages, particularly in tourism hot-spots, can be directly linked to the demand for orphanage experiences from well-meaning tourists who want to give back,” she added.
“There is no such thing as a good orphanage. Growing up in an institution is harmful to all children, no matter how good the conditions or how good the intentions,” Matthews said.
“Children who grow up in orphanages suffer learning disabilities, developmental delays and have a high incidence of attachment disorders, primarily stemming from a lack of primary care-giver and a rotation of short term unskilled volunteers.”
Intrepid and Rethink Orphanages aim to reduce demand for orphanage trips.
“Operating responsibly is a core value for the business,” Manning said.
Intrepid Travel has pioneered sustainable tourism initiatives, from becoming carbon neutral in 2010 to discontinuing elephant rides in 2014.
“A difficult decision but one that now many travel companies have joined us in removing those experiences from trips out of concerns for animal welfare,” Manning said.
“As a socially conscious business we are putting increased focus on child protection in an effort to develop better ways for Intrepid and the industry to support children and their families,” Manning said.
Images: The Australian/Lion/kcet.org