World Childhood Foundation

Rebuilding Nepal

This week, our thoughts and prayers go out to the affected children and families in Nepal. The 7.8-magnitude earthquake that hit the region Saturday has left at least 5,000 dead and thousands injured and homeless. Childhood supports five organizations in the region. During the weekend we tried to reach them, and succeeded at last Monday morning.

One of our partners in the region, Voice of Children (VOC), has been working to strengthen Nepal’s society by aiding the most vulnerable populations, street children and marginalized families, in Nepal’s capital, Kathmandu. Most of the kids the Voice of Children helps are homeless because their families have a history unemployment or psychosocial issues such as substance abuse.

After a weekend of silence, our project coordinator for Nepal, Joel Borgström, managed to contact Voice of Children and received confirmation that most of the children were safe. Our project’s next step is to seek out the families and children they work with, to bring them to safety, ensure they are sheltered, fed, and out of danger. As the number of homeless rise, Voice of Children will be able to aid and comfort those who have already lost so much. After this historic earthquake, the work of Voice of Children will become even more important than before.

In disasters, children suffer the most. Children, separated from their parents, families, and friends, surrounded by a society struggling to regroup and rebuild, face additional risks of abuse and trafficking. Childhood’s goal is to ensure that no child should face any abuse. Now is the critical time for our work with the people of Nepal. They need our help.

Our partner organizations in Nepal know the people who live there and know their needs. Their commitment to their communities is unwavering and will remain in place long after the media spotlight has shifted. In the following days and weeks, they will need to repair and return to their hard work. Now they need your support.
 

 

Britta Holmberg, Project Director

Two different versions of the truth

BLOG Childhood has earlier raised some of the problems related to orphanage tourism and voluntourism. I recently attended an inter-agency workshop with participants from many countries where more ethical alternatives for those who want to contribute to a better world through volunteering were discussed. One of the participant represented a Nepalese organization working to reunite families with children that the parents agreed to place in orphanages believing that it would give them a better future. In reality the children ended up being exploited and abused by the very same people that promised to help them. Unfortunately, the stories he shared are not unique. And it is not always easy to distinguish the good organizations from the bad.

Below are quotes from two volunteers that enthusiastically describe a Nepalese orphanage they support:

“I initially planned to visit the orphanage for half a day. I ended up staying for over a month. B and P and all of the children welcomed me like family and living at the orphanage with all of them has been an amazing experience.” …”B and P work tirelessly and selflessly in running the orphanage which is in addition to the other projects they are running and I am grateful I was able to help them out for a while”.

“I would thoroughly recommend the X Orphanage as a worthy charity to anyone who is interested in sponsorship or volunteer work as unlike larger charities, you can witness first-hand the result of your support and be confident that the children will see all your donations rather than it getting filtered down through administration fees.”

It is hard to believe that the very same orphanage director recently was arrested for charges of child abduction and fraud and that the contributions from families and volunteers were not at all spent to the benefit of the children but to enrich the director. (See article in the Guardian).

So who can you trust? How can you know when services are honestly organized in a way that is in the best interest of the child and when organizations claiming to “help to children in need” are actually exploiting and harming them?

Well, one sign that an organization is doing a good job is when they make real efforts to reintegrate children into the community where they belong instead of working with the child in isolation. Another good sign is when they treat the children with the same integrity and respect that you feel your own children would deserve in the same situation. If an orphanage is open for tourists and volunteers to visit and play with the children without any restrictions you can be quite sure that this is not made in the interest of the children and the best thing you can do is stay away.

/Britta