Why don’t we visit orphanages any more?
Most children that now live in orphanages are not orphans, an estimated 80% of children living in orphanages have at least one living parent and almost all have some extended family. Sadly poverty has forced these children into orphanages.
While many orphanages are set up by well-intentioned people, some are set up by unscrupulous ‘entrepreneurs’, whose sole motive is profit and who treat children as commodities. There are reports of parents being encouraged or paid to give up their children with the false promise of education and health care. Further reports tell of children who were constantly hungry in the orphanage, made to do heavy labour, beaten by the ‘director’ and never went to school. Many were sick due to drinking polluted water and malnutrition.
Children need consistent, loving adult care, which they can only truly receive from loving families. Orphanages, even those that are well run, cannot replace the love of a family. Children learn to make emotional attachments in families and that attachment is crucial to brain development and the development of cognitive and social skills. A constant stream of volunteers to orphanages, showing affection to children and then leaving, disrupts this attachment process, and can leave children with many emotional and psychological developmental problems. The resulting desperation for affection and love leaves them much more vulnerable to others who seek to exploit and abuse them.
Most developed countries did away with orphanages decades ago because of the harm caused to children, but somehow we have forgotten our history.
There are, of course, some orphanages that are run with the benefit of the child at the heart of the operation. The children are well fed and are genuinely provided with a good education and many return home at weekends so that the orphanage operates more like a free boarding school.
Equally in some areas of the world certain diseases such as leprosy are stigmatised and orphans from such families are ostracised from the community and therefore unable to live in the extended family. Orphanages provide a home for those children.
The difficulty for us is distinguishing the orphanages that run for the benefit of the child and those with unscrupulous motives. For these reasons, we have decided not to include visits to orphanages in our itineraries at the moment but, as always, we welcome your feedback.