Dublin, 3 February 2022 – Comhlámh and the End Orphanage Volunteering Working Group today launched their ‘Put Children First: End Orphanage Care’ campaign’s key recommendations to help end orphanage volunteering and the institutionalisation of children so that Ireland can better support global care reform.
Decades of research show that institutionalisation is harmful to a child’s development, health and well-being and there is now a global effort to shift away from institutional models of care towards family-based care. For Ireland to support this global movement the campaign calls for the introduction of travel advice warning of the harm caused by orphanage volunteering and guidance for schools and youth groups not to organise overseas trips to orphanages. Additionally, the campaign calls for funding allocation for care reform strategies in overseas budgets. It also recommends that the government recognises e the harm of orphanage volunteering and no longer supports or funds programmes or activities that involve the sending of volunteers to orphanages.
‘Although usually done with the best of intentions, research shows that volunteering in orphanages harms children’s development, increases the risk of them being abused and fuels institutional systems that separate children from their families’ said Sandra Byrne, Volunteering Quality Project Officer at Comhlámh. ‘Orphanage volunteering and tourism are creating a demand for orphanages, and for children to populate them. In a 2019 resolution, the UN General Assembly recognised the harm of both institutions and of orphanage volunteering and called for the end to both practices. Ireland supported this resolution, and we now need to show this resolve by working to end orphanage volunteering and tourism from this country and supporting care reform in our overseas aid programmes’, Byrne continued.
Stephen Ucembe, Regional Advocacy Manager with Hope and Homes and founder of the Kenya Society of Careleavers, spoke of his own childhood spent in orphanages and his work to eliminate the institutional care of children: ‘I was placed in an orphanage when I was about 5-year-old after I lost my mother. I was separated from my siblings and my extended family’. He concluded: ‘The fundamental lesson in my personal life and after spending 15 years of my childhood is that no child should grow-up without the love of a family and isolated from the community. There is a family out there for every child, related by blood, or not. Every child deserves to have that one person who is madly in love with them, to call “mum” or “dad”.’
The ‘Put Children First: End Orphanage Care’ Campaign invited various organisations to support its recommendations. So far, the campaign has been endorsed by 20 organisations, and still welcomes new endorsements.
Individuals can take action and show solidarity by signing the campaign’s pledge which commits all not to volunteer or visit orphanages, to familiarise themselves on the issues and to increase greater awareness on the harms caused by orphanage care and volunteering.