The Ethics of Voluntourism: Does volunteering in orphanages do more harm than good?

Better Care Network, CPC Learning Network, Humanitarian Organization for Migration Emergencies

This Panel Discussion organised by Humanitarian Organization for Migration Emergencies (Home) at Columbia University in collaboration with the Better Care Network and the CPC Learning Network will take a look at the ethics of 'voluntourism', particularly international volunteering in "orphanages" and other residential care facilities for children.

“Orphanage volunteering” or “orphanage tourism” has become a popular activity for tourists, faith based organisations, education providers, young people on gap years, corporate and government employees who have specific corporate social responsibility policies encouraging volunteer work, and people generally seeking to ‘give back’ to developing nations. However, little attention has been paid to the harm that may be inflicted on children through such tourism or volunteering. A growing coalition of travel operators, education specialists, faith based organisations and child protection agencies have got together to highlight the evidence about the impact of such practices on children, as well as their families and communities. The panel discussion will address the following question: 'Does volunteering in orphanages does more harm than good'?

The event will include a showing of The Voluntourist, a 28-minute documentary film, by filmmaker Chloe Sanguinetti, which explores the phenomenon of “voluntourism,” a recent trend in which people, typically young people from Western countries, travel to countries in the Global South to volunteer.

Discussants are:

  • Eric Hartman, Assistant Professor in the Staley School of Leadership Studies at Kansas State University and Editor & Co-Founder, 

  • Kate van Door, Undergraduate and Postgraduate Programs Convenor at Griffith Law School at Griffith University in Australia, who has written widely on child sex tourism, trafficking, and voluntourism;

  • Florence Martin, Director of The Better Care Network and co-chair of "The Better Volunteering, Better Care Initiative".

​Mark Canavera, Associate Director with the CPC Learning Network will be moderating the discussion.

This event will take place on Wednesday 7th October 2015, between 4.00-6.00pm, at 701 West 168th street, LL-210, New York, NY 10032.

All are welcome!




Columbia University, New York