This paper examines the lived experiences of children who interacted with tourists in a performance-based orphanage in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The orphanage was perceived by poor Cambodians as the only opportunity for their children to access food and education and a place to care for children when parents migrated for work. In recent years, however, orphanages in the majority world have come under increasing international pressure because many are associated with children’s rights abuses. As a result, the Cambodian Government committed to closing many orphanages and reintegrating 30 per cent of institutionalised children back into their family’s care. The children’s narratives were collected through child-focused participatory research. The findings provide a deeper understanding of the children’s lives, their aspirations and the extent to which the orphanage provided for their rights and human development. The findings are pertinent for other communities and organisations advocating children’s rights-based development and educational initiatives.