I thought I was helping a vulnerable orphan escape poverty. Then I realised I could be making her situation worse

Kate van Doore - ABC News

In this opinion piece for ABC News, Kate van Doore describes her experience of establishing an orphanage in Nepal in 2006, to later learn that the children in the home's care had living relatives and that many had been recruited to the orphanage.

After setting up the orphanage in Nepal, van Doore's organization, Forget Me Not, opened an orphanage in Uganda, which they later moved to close down due to some financial irregularities. "As we talked with the children about our plan of where we might locate a new orphanage and home for them," van Doore said, "they started asking whether they could simply go home now. They told us about their mothers and fathers, who were very much alive and, it seemed, looking for their children. The children asked to make phone calls to speak with their parents. We spoke to some of the parents who told us they had been looking for their children for years."

Van Doore soon discovered that the child she had sponsored and grown attached to at the Nepal orphanage, too, also had a family who had been looking for her. "Father, mother, sister and brother, all wondering what had happened to their four-year-old sent away to school."

Van Doore stresses that "visiting and volunteering in orphanages cause more harm than good," noting that not only does it compound issues for very vulnerable children who experience broken attachments with volunteers, but that it also "provides an income stream that has resulted in orphanages being run like businesses."