Image of Nikki


I visited Tanzania on a volunteering trip when I was in college, which I really enjoyed at the time, but looking back on it compared to other volunteering trips I've had since then, I can see that the trip was mainly beneficial for me rather than the people I'd gone out to see or 'help'. 

This was particularly the case for the orphanage we went out to see and involved visiting young children and giving them gifts or toys which we had brought ourselves. We also took photos with them and played with them in the park. It was a very short trip, and I remember leaving feeling like we hadn't really achieved anything there. 

Since that trip, this idea of volunteering at an orphanage and coinciding this with going on a gap year seems to have picked up in popularity but can sometimes fail to address how working with vulnerable children can actually cause more harm than good. Not only were we unskilled or unqualified to deal with the children we met but the huge demand for visiting orphanages can actually mean more of these places are built, where some children may not really be orphaned at all. 

Furthermore, in the case of us visiting for such a short time (which may have been followed by more people), this can have an impact on the emotional and social well-being of the children who never get the chance to know you and may experience abandonment issues later on. 

Before volunteering I would say is the most important thing is to do your research before taking part or giving your money to someone. Ask the right questions about the protection and safeguarding of children and think about whether or not your presence is actually helping long-term or not. 

Children belong in families. Not orphanages. Find out how you can be part of the solution.