Why J.K. Rowling Is Right To Discourage Orphanage Voluntourism

Christine Ro - Forbes

In this article for Forbes, Christine Ro describes how "orphanages are the main cause of the unnecessary separation of children from their families" and discusses the recent launch of Lumos' #HelpingNotHelping campaign which calls for an end to orphanage volunteering. "Some parents are attracted to orphanages because moving their children is the only way to access certain services, such as education in Zambia. Shoring up these services for all would be a fairer and more sustainable response than simply institutionalizing more kids," writes Ro.

Ro also describes the developmental, health, and cognitive impacts of institutionalization of children as well as the attachment disorders often seen in institutionalized children. Ro also discusses the need to strengthen governmental structures of child protection, bolster the social care system, and empower local civil society to support vulnerable families, rather than invest in "a patchwork system of privately run institutions."

Ro writes about her own experience as well. "I admit I’ve been guilty. I’ve visited children’s homes in Romania and Tanzania, and seen the hard work and good intentions of the staff who keep these going. Yet I’ve come to realize that this was unfair to the children living there. My childhood home didn’t have a revolving door for curious foreigners who passed swiftly out of my life. My home wasn’t treated like a petting zoo."

Ro suggests redirecting resources to support families, referencing journalist Tina Rosenberg who wrote that “The money spent on a single team [of orphanage volunteers] for a one- to two-week experience would be sufficient to support more than a dozen far more effective indigenous workers for an entire year.”