World Day Against Trafficking in Persons – orphanages and modern slavery?

Have you ever been on a mission or volunteering trip with your school, church or community organisations at an orphanage overseas?

Have you ever raised money to support an overseas orphanage, children’s home or shelter?

Are you looking forward a time when this opportunity will be available again to you, your kids or fellow parishioners?

You’re not alone. An estimated 1.6 million people volunteer overseas every year.

Whether you’re a student taking a gap year, studying abroad or doing an internship, a professional seeking a sabbatical or a family looking to give back whilst on holiday, orphanage volunteer opportunities are some of the most searched for volunteer programs online, and fundraising is often part of the experience.

There are an estimated 8 million children living in orphanages across the world. Many of us assume that they are living there because they do not have a family to care for them.

Although this is true for a small number, around 80% of children growing up in institutions today have at least one living parent.

Volunteering whilst abroad might seem really worthwhile, but unfortunately some types of volunteering are extremely harmful to children, especially in orphanages.

Millions of Catholics wishing to make a difference travel to developing countries, participate in orphanage mission trips every year and fundraise donations from friends and family.

Although done with the best of intentions, there are significant concerns about the effect this has on vulnerable children and how it is contributing to sustaining a global orphanage industry, child trafficking, abuse and neglect.

The practice has become so popular that it is creating a demand for ‘paper orphans’ that is leading to the separation of children from their families.

This week, in the lead up to the United Nations World Day Against Trafficking in Persons on 30 July, we are sharing information on a range of issues that are involved in the continuation of modern slavery.

There is no doubt that the coronavirus pandemic has increased the vulnerability of many children around the world in many ways.

We can take this as an opportunity to educate ourselves about this particular form of modern slavery that many people of faith have unknowingly been caught up in. It’s time to ReThink Orphanages.

Photo from rethinkorphanages.org used under Creatives Commons terms

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