Better Volunteering, Better Care 2015

In this special edition of the newsletter, BCN highlights recent research, updates and resources related to the issue of volunteering in residential care centres, including the work of the

Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative.

"When I was 10 years old or so, me and my six friends were moved from an orphanage in Phnom Penh to the orphanage in Siem Reap. We all knew how to play traditional instruments and how to do traditional dance. In the new orphanage nobody knew how to do that so we were brought to live there so that we could perform for tourists."


- Care leaver, 18 years old

Collected Viewpoints on International Volunteering in Residential Care Centres, Country Focus: Cambodia. Better Volunteering, Better Care 2014 

In 2013, the Better Care Network and Save the Children UK began an inter-agency initiative - Better Volunteering, Better Care - to review and share existing knowledge on international volunteerism as related to the alternative care of children in developing countries. Steering Committee members of this initiative include Better Care Network, Save the Children UK, Better Care Network Netherlands, ECPAT, Faith to Action Initiative, Friends International, Hope and Homes for Children, SOS Children's Villages, and UNICEF. Throughout 2014, this initiative brought together key actors from across the child protection, education, corporate, faith-based and tourism sectors to share their respective experiences and identify global communication and engagement strategies to address the issue of international volunteering in residential care centres.

To learn more about the Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative:

Read the Executive Summary of the initiative's review process;

Explore the Overview of International Volunteering in Residential Care Centres - a collection of insights from over 120 individuals from around the world connected to this issue; 

Understand the situation in depth in the country-focus reviews of Cambodia, GhanaGuatemala, and Nepal

Learn more about the Current Initiatives underway to address this issue - whether through establishment of guidelines for volunteer companies, volunteer training, or campaigning and advocacy; and

Review the plans for positive next steps in the Better Volunteering, Better Care Global Engagement Strategy. If you are interested in being involved in any of the suggested interventions, please contact


WTM Responsible Tourism Debate - Panel on Child Protection. Bill Bell, Co-Chair of the Better Care Network and Head of Child Protection at Save the Children UK participated in a panel event on child protection at the World Travel Market.  


Community-Based and Policy Experts on Orphanage Tourism on This web initiative gathers open-access, peer-reviewed journal articles, practitioner tools, and challenging blog posts. Last year, the website featured video seminars, shared with student groups, focused on the issue of volunteering in residential care centres from both a policy and grassroots perspective. is also launching a Global Service & Ethical Photography Contest, urging contestants to consider the negative impacts of service across cultures, such as the trafficking of children to provide volunteer experiences through orphanage tourism. Follow on Facebook and Twitter.


Next Generational Nepal and UNICEF Nepal Launch Event. Better Volunteering, Better Care members attended the launch of NGN's new report The Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering (see more information in Papers and Articles) on 11th December 2014 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Better Volunteering, Better Care consultant Anna McKeon presented on the findings of the project (view the presentation, International Volunteering in Residential Care Centres: An Overview here) and joined NGO representatives in considering potential next steps for addressing the issue within Nepal.


Friends International recently published an article in the January issue of Adoption Today on "Understanding the Underlying Impacts of Orphan Tourism."

In October 2014, ECPAT/Defence for Children Netherlands and Better Care Network Netherlands organised a Conference on Voluntourism, focused on the question "Is volunteering with children abroad always in the best interest of the child?" 


Tourism Concern Volunteer Conference. Better Volunteering, Better Care steering committee member Hope and Homes for Children, and project team member Daniela Papi participated in a panel on volunteering with children at this event in the UK in October. 

Part of the goal of the Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative is to support information sharing and collaboration between actors working on the issue of orphanage voluntourism. This newsletter highlights several resources related to this topic.

The Paradox of Orphanage Volunteering, Next Generation Nepal. Launched on 11th December, this report from Next Generation Nepal is the result of a year's worth of work into researching and reviewing the situation of volunteering in residential care centres in Nepal. The Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative shared global findings on the topic at the launch event, which was supported by UNICEF and well attended by government representatives, and NGO and travel sector actors.

The Orphan and the Saviour - A Relationship of Love, Gratitude and Commodities: A Critical Discourse Analysis of the Construction of the Narrative About the Helper and the Orphanage ChildBritta Holmberg (2014). 

The Travel Book Gives this Orphanage Four Stars. Rafia Zakaria, Al Jazeera.
This opinion piece provides a review of a recent book release and an in-depth overview of the problems associated with setting up, and volunteering in, residential care centres.

Orphanage Tourism is Worse Than Many of Us Thought, Professor Harold Goodwin. The man behind Responsible Tourism day at the World Travel Market and the International Centre for Responsible Tourism gives his thoughts after attending the Better Volunteering, Better Care workshop.

How the Christian Orphan Care Movement May Be Enabling Child Abandonment
In her personal blog, Kristen Howerton, an adoptive mother and member of the Christian faith community, writes about the dangers of the U.S. Christian community's involvement in establishing orphanages in developing countries instead of working to keep children with their parents.


Cambodia's Scam Orphanages, New York Times
This video from the New York Times portrays the situation of orphanages in Cambodia, highlighting the fact that less than a quarter of children in Cambodian orphanages are actual orphans.

Nepal's Orphanage Scam: Growing Trend for "Voluntourism" Linked to Child Exploitation
This video shines a light on the exploitation of children in orphanages in Nepal and how it can be perpetuated by well-meaning foreign visitors.

An African's Message for America
A new video feature on the New York Times website examines the issue of international volunteering from a broader perspective. The feature includes a short documentary following Kenyan activist Boniface Mwangi who challenges U.S. volunteers about their motivations for volunteering abroad.'s video series on responsible volunteering includes one video on the problems surrounding volunteering in and visiting orphanages.

What's Wrong with Volunteer Travel?
In this TED Talk, Daniela Papi - founder of PEPY, a Cambodian youth leadership organization, and PEPY Tours, a development education travel company - speaks of the ways that international volunteering can be harmful to children and communities and urges volunteers and organizations to rethink "voluntourism."

Especially useful for actors working with Christian faith groups, the Kinnected website is a great resource to help support responsible volunteering. Kinnected also offers resources for organisations seeking to take a proactive approach to scaling down the use of residential care and assisting children within the context of their families.

In 2014, Comhlámh launched #VolOps (volunteering options) as a mechanism for sharing information about responsible volunteering across social media. You can find out more information on Comhlámh's website, join the LinkedIn group, and also follow the hashtag on Twitter. collates information and resources on residential care centres, currently with a main focus on Cambodia., a travel company operating from the UK since 2001 has issued Guidelines for partner operators for volunteering directly with vulnerable children, including in the context of orphanage volunteering.

The Better Child Protection Facebook Page is a useful way to keep up to date with recent articles and news relating to child protection and travel and tourism. The page is regularly updated and a good place to connect with other responsible tourism advocates. 

Sharing4Good is a sharing platform focusing on social issues. The site has recently been featuring a range of articles on orphanage volunteering and volunteer service in general. It is also an interesting resource for general discourse on volunteerism and related social change initiatives. 

Friends International, with support from UNICEF, launched its "Think Before Visiting" campaign in 2011. The campaign has been hugely visible in Cambodia, targeted at raising awareness among visitors to end "orphanage tourism."
Next Steps

The Better Volunteering, Better Care initiative will be continuing its work into 2015. If you, or your organization, are interested in participating in the future activities of this initiative, please contact