Ever heard of orphanage tourism?
Orphanage tourism is a worrying phenomenon that is growing in many Asian and African countries. Tourists coming to these countries wanting to help children, but they often end up actually putting them in harm’s way.
There is a high demand of tourists wanting to volunteer during their holidays. Sadly, fake orphanages are popping up to exploit these opportunities. According to a UNICEF study, only 28% of the children in these, so-called “orphanages”, are actually orphans. Often children are taken away from their families or paid to be put in these centres, where tourists will come to “help” them.
This is highly dangerous for the children because these tourists are here for a short period of time. The children being so young find themselves forming attachments and then being abandoned every time a “volunteer” leaves. This has horrendous consequences on their emotional balance and mental health.
Are we running orphanages?
Children of the Mekong has been running child sponsorship programmes for several decades. The majority of the sponsored children live with their families, as we believe that it is the best place for them to be raised.
However, when the child grows and reaches the secondary school level, it is often necessary to welcome them in boarding houses near the school, as there is no secondary school in their village. Every half-term and holidays, children are returning to their home to maintain a strong bond with their families.
Travel to Southeast Asia and visit your sponsored child
Hundreds of sponsors went to visit their sponsored child in Southeast Asia. They always describe this experience as the highlight of their trip. What makes this experience unforgettable is:
- Travelling to the place where the child lives allow them to get off the tourist trails.
- Meeting the local programme manager and our overseas volunteers help them to really understand the local situation in which their sponsored child lives.
- The encounter with their sponsored child and their family is always a very emotional moment for everyone. The parents are surprised to see that someone from the other side of the world care for their child’s education. The child is often shy and amazed to meet their sponsor.
What are the steps to sponsor a child and visit them in their country?
Sponsor a child in one of our six countries of operations. Thanks to your sponsorship, your sponsored child can go to school and pay for all the school-related costs.
Just tell us when you are planning on travelling and we will organize your meeting with your sponsored child. You take care of organising for the rest of your trip.
During your trip, you will have the opportunity to meet your sponsored child, always accompanied by our local programme manager and/or overseas volunteer.
Keep in touch with your sponsored child through an exchange of letters, and receive latest news of the programme from Children of the Mekong.
How you are helping
Sponsoring a child is vital on many different levels. First of all, by sponsoring a child, you are funding their education and any other costs that are necessary for them to study. This includes transportation costs, supplies, but also the counterpart for the fact that the child children have stopped working to go to school. You are helping them in the long term as their education will help them obtain the career that they want. Your sponsorship will help to lift themselves and their families out of poverty.
Visit your sponsored child
When you visit your sponsored child during your trip, you will not be a complete stranger as they know who you are throughout the letters you have been sending. It is also very supportive if you continue sending letters upon your return. Even if the visit can sometimes be short we are sure it will be the highlight of your trip.
Sponsorship is a good way to actively help a country you love. You are also benefiting from the opportunity to experience a different kind of travelling and meet the people responsible for its development. You will always be accompanied by our dedicated overseas volunteers and passionate local managers.
Before leaving for Myanmar, I decided to sponsor a little girl who was ten at the time: Ma Seng Nu Aung.
I went to see her in the state of Kachin up north, off the beaten tracks. These were the most magical days of my two-month trip. It was wonderful meeting her and getting to know her. In her last letter, she told me she wanted to become a doctor!
Since then I’ve decided to sponsor a second girl; Karen Mewissa who lives in Thailand whom I visited during another trip. I’m very proud of her because she finished her esthetician’s studies and has now found a job.
Sponsoring a child is much more than just helping them on a daily basis have access to education and future career, it’s also a way to keep in touch on a personal level with people living in your favourite countries. Indeed, thanks to the Children of the Mekong newsletters and the overseas volunteer’s reports, I was able to keep up to date with the news as well as speak with people who are as passionate about Asia as me!
In conclusion, I would really recommend going to meet your sponsored child, it’s more than just a holiday it’s an authentic encounter which can really open your mind, much more than if you were simply on a touristic vacation.
Marie Van H.