An end to orphanage volunteering

Project & Pod News / 01 December 2017 An end to orphanage volunteering

The background

We previously wrote about Should I volunteer at an orphanage in 2014 after a period of review and assessment of our projects which involved supporting children’s homes and orphanages. At that stage we concluded that there was still need for and benefit from volunteers, but only through a very careful selection of a limited number of children’s homes and well-managed volunteer programmes following our child safeguarding guidelines.

We continuously review our position and projects we work with to ensure that we are contributing to positive change in the world. We have also been carefully assessing recent international studies and reports on child care and child development issues. With this in mind, we feel it’s time for the next stage in our journey of continually trying to improve children’s welfare and development.

What has changed and what are the key issues?

In some ways nothing; we are still confident in the way that the children’s homes we have supported are run and the careful selection and vetting of volunteers we send to them, but there is a bigger picture of change and influence that we want to be a part of, aiming to ensure the best possible welfare for children around the world.

We are therefore supporting a social movement encouraging governments and institutions to develop new forms of child care and support, where possible transitioning away from traditional children’s homes and residential care to alternative arrangements such as care within extended families, foster families or communities.

Recent studies have found that smaller family type setting are more beneficial for children’s development and social skills in comparison to institutional care. The reality of putting these type of arrangements in place is challenging and complex and until now it hasn’t been something that the countries we work in have been able to achieve; and it will still take some considerable time to move away from residential care.

Although we believe there are some well run children’s homes (within the context and limitations of the child care systems in the countries we work in), including the ones we have supported, an ‘institutional’ model of child care is not perfect and we agree from a perspective of ideals that we would prefer there be no orphanages or institutional care.

Well run children’s homes are still going to be needed until alternative arrangements can be put in place, but by continuing to send volunteers we would to some extent be perpetuating the current system. Ultimately it comes down to whether there is a danger that by offering this kind of volunteering (however well it is done) that we are endorsing the worldwide growth in orphanages with their associated issues.

Pod Volunteer’s policy for the future

The time has come for us to now to responsibly phase out volunteer support and seek to support children in other ways. We have therefore made the difficult decision to stop sending volunteers to the small number of children’s homes we work with from 2018.

We recognise that this will have an impact for some of the children’s homes we work with, which is why we have had a staged withdrawal of volunteering, concluding in April 2018, and we will continue to provide other forms of support to them in the interim to ensure that children’s welfare isn’t compromised.

Acknowledgement to the projects and past volunteers

We would like to add that we are very proud of the projects we have supported, the amazing work they have done and the role our volunteers have played in supporting them. Without the support of volunteers there is no doubt in our minds that the children would have been worse off and the homes have filled an essential need and gap, but we are optimistic that there are now better solutions on the horizon, which we can all be a part of helping to make happen.

Past volunteers should not feel any regret or negativity about having helped at children’s homes, quite the opposite, you have been part of an essential phase in a long journey of improving children’s welfare and as we transition to alternative models of child care, you can play a valuable role with your first-hand experience in this area. We encourage you to share your knowledge and to become campaigners to help drive the change.

Volunteers are still needed

There is still a vital role for volunteers to support children’s development and care, but in non-residential settings and we will be focussing on our existing projects in these areas as well as looking for where we can help with supporting new models of child care and development.

Thanks for your support and understanding as we look forward to the next step in this journey together!

If you have any questions or comments please get in touch as we would love to discuss our developments with you.