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Orphanage Tourism Endangers Children

Many believe that there are millions of orphans in poor countries who need food, shelter, and the care, love, and support of an orphanage, and that without the support of rich-country donors, many of them would lead miserable lives, surviving by begging or selling their bodies. This is a myth.

MELBOURNE – Angelina Jolie, Madonna, Melania Trump, and Kanye West have all, in recent years, made highly publicized visits to orphanages in low-income countries. Tourists who “travel with purpose” are following their lead. Tourist itineraries often include a visit to an orphanage, alongside local markets, craft workshops, and historic sites. Tour operators promote these visits as a form of ethical tourism that allows affluent Westerners the opportunity to assist needy children. The visits often include playing with the children, giving them a cuddle, and making a donation to the orphanage. Often, tourists keep up the connection, making regular donations to the orphanage after they return home.

But good intentions are not enough, especially when they are based on misinformation. Orphanage tourism turns children into cash-generating commodities subject to the usual economic laws of supply and demand. While that may be good for orphanage operators, it is bad for the children who live there.

Many believe that there are millions of orphans in poor countries who need food, shelter, and the care, love, and support of an orphanage. Without the support of donors from wealthy countries, many of these orphans would, it is widely assumed, lead miserable lives, surviving by begging or selling their bodies.

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