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Children are Not Tourist Attractions

© UNICEF Myanmar/2015/ Ko Kyaw Kyaw Winn
A boy and girl at home with their family in Magway Division. With the right support, children can stay with their families or live in a safe extended family environment.

A growing evidence base has highlighted the negative impact living in institutional care, such as orphanages, has on children. With the right support, and interventions, children can either stay with their families, or be facilitated to live in a safe extended family environment. The increasing trend in volunteering (both international and national) in these facilities compounds the issue and the impact on children. Not only does it encourage the expansion of orphanages, but it also makes children vulnerable to abuse in those areas where regulation is lax, creates attachment problems in children who become attached to short-term visitors, and supports an inappropriate alternative care model. As the United Nations Guidelines for the Alternative Care of Children Alternative Care of Children highlights, by staffing and funding orphanages individuals are sustaining a model of alternative care that is now globally acknowledged as being inappropriate for children.

Some of UNICEFs concerns about the impact of volunteers on children in orphanages include:

  • Vulnerability to abuse. Residential care centres that accept volunteers quickly become the target for those with harmful intentions towards children. Most organisations do not conduct adequate background checks, and allow volunteers unrestricted access to the children.
  • Normalising access of unqualified individuals to vulnerable children. While many volunteers have good intentions, they often do not realise that they are normalising the practice of allowing access of unqualified staff to vulnerable children. In addition, normalising such a practice can also make it easier for potential abusers to gain access.
  • Disrupted attachment. Some residential care centres regularly accept short term volunteers. Children form attachments very quickly which are then broken when the volunteer leaves.
  • Inappropriate behaviour from unqualified and unscreened volunteers. Most volunteers are not qualified to work with children and so they have little understanding of how their behaviour can impact upon the emotional and social stability of children.
  • Cultural differences. As volunteers are often from different countries, children become socialised to a way of living that can be very different to their own community and heritage. This becomes problematic when children leave the institution and try to reintegrate back into society.

How you can help

Children are not touristic attractions Pamphlet

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