🇰🇭 Cambodia: Orphan tourism | 101 East

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Cambodia's beautiful temples and dark history attract tourists from across the world but many of today's holiday makers want to do more than just sightsee with a growing number volunteering their services for free but critics are questioning their effectiveness I'm Fozzie our Ebrahim on this edition of one on one is we ask if volunteer tourism is actually hurting the very people that's supposed to be helping I love volunteering because helping people mix makes me feel grateful for what I have I want to share my knowledge with Cambodia because by coming in we can make a difference I love volunteering because it gives me a sense of fulfillment you get to meet so many beautiful people and it's rewarding it's it's given me a new lease on life I love volunteering because I want to make a difference best thing the kids and people you work with Bonnie Meyer and Aaron or volunteers working as unpaid English teachers in Cambodia for several months none of them have official qualifications but all did volunteer work at home in a way we are being selfish by coming here because we want to be able to develop from this but at the same time I think if you're going to be selfish about something being selfish by helping others is a pretty good way to do it even though it's only a small car it all adds up in the end like I'm only here for three months but then so many other people come for three months so in a year one kid will get really good English lessons because of the amount of volunteers and I think that's really beneficial the girls have taken time off since completing high school saying this is their chance to see the world and make a difference I feel like volunteering you get a reward that you don't get from anything else you don't I mean there's not enough money in the world that could give me the same feeling I get when I see these kids faces when running up to me today volunteer tourism is a booming industry with more and more people wanting to combine holidays with giving back to the communities they visit we work five days a week here but then on weekends we go out and travel around Cambodia while volunteering is our priority here and it's a primer – do you also choose a place that you want to see we eat street food we sit with the locals that drink mine at night we take Moto's and took tips to work so it's kind of like that so I wouldn't consider myself a tourist even though I know I just say out of as a volunteer our experiences may not be day-to-day as exciting as a tourist because we don't go out and look at all the attractions but at the same time it's more just a homegrown just local experience but not everyone agrees that volunteer tourists have a positive impact we appreciate that they're doing this for the best of motives but they're not they're not really helping to resolve the situation they are actually by providing support to institutions that should not exist they are exacerbating the situation Richard bridle from UNICEF says the number of orphans in Cambodia is the lowest in decades but the number of orphanages keeps increasing escaping lives of poverty and abuse more than 80 percent of today's Cambodian orphans have at least one parent we would actually like to see most of these institutions gradually closing down they are not serving a function to care for children who've lost their parents UNICEF has been working closely with the Cambodian government and other international aid organizations to establish a national social protection system part of this involves the government ordered into the 269 officially registered orphanages in Cambodia all can give her vehicle may not happen y'all get some based on my observation most of the orphanages that we have studied have the children's well-being at heart only a few are using children to make money and we are investigating those in Cambodia we do not want to encourage an increase in these centers instead we want to work on providing services for the whole family and community instead anyone who works in any child care institution should have proper trailer it's not something that you can just do it as an amateur they ought to be concerned that these children will get attached to them and they're going to leave and that's not really in the best interests of the child former Hollywood executive Scott Neeson knows all about attachment he came to visit Cambodia nine years ago and can't leave he sold his yacht and his luxury car and used the money to open up this childcare center Scott says although he understands the desire of volunteers to help unless they have specific skills they can pass on such as medical training he is unwilling to take them on it doesn't work and we know we have to protect the children both emotionally and physically we have very strong child protection policies will require police reports in advance and references it's not worth the time give the volunteer or CCF to go to that couple of days I don't believe in the concept of come and hug a child and speaks in English we have no you know we have no tolerance for that at all and Scott says he's had some bad experiences with volunteers one they're not reliable they may turn up the first day if you don't like it they won't turn up the second and secondly there's often a difference of opinion on what the attitude should be and we are running a very serious operation what we do is important in our eyes it's a serious priority there's a lot of those who are on temporary visits backpacking and don't believe they're doing us a favor by actually being there and there's often a bit of a friction he prefers to empower local people and has more than 300 Cambodian woman working on various projects but he does sympathize with volunteers who are disappointed by the experience the arriving here after spending a lot of money thousands of dollars or thousands of pounds and to get a good volunteer position and they arrive here and there's no resources the job's not what they were told there's no one to help them acclimatize no briefing and its own surprised by the rate it's happening even with the larger more respected volunteer organizations I paid almost $4,000 for three months to come here was it with no because I don't know where that money went because when I look at our housing when I look at them on our staff is making when I look at how much goes to the orphanage it doesn't add up even with insurance and other things they claim it goes to I just don't see it and I would have much rather donated that money directly to the orphanage you really got to be careful I mean a lot of them and it's not just the dodgy in terms of how they make their money they'll bleed volunteers for money saying then have enough food for the children they don't have sufficient schooling and a lot of it's just nonsense and there's several organizations around here that take whatever's denoted and seller but volunteer organizations like the Dutch group pur say not all the many volunteers pay can go to the orphanages and schools they work with your pay a fee it's $900 for four weeks it's not that we get rich from it because the fee that we require it for the training in the Netherlands that some administration costs in Dunellen it's the accommodation costs here transport to the project we have a volunteer coordinator who will get some reimbursement for food and telephone expenses which is more or less it but all in there is a donation to the project of course and all in all this is the fee that we we ask some foreign tourists spend their time helping form among young Paulo who runs eight schools outside seam reap over the past few years organizations have sent in more than 60 volunteers although happy to receive the extra help he was upset to discover the organization's charged volunteers of fee but didn't pass any of the money on to his schools my nature you find a homily they kill me they didn't tell us how much they charge the volunteers and of course we didn't get anything it was the volunteers who told us they had paid money to the organization's pure has now agreed to give Palace schools a donation of $50 per volunteer other organizations say it's enough that they provide the volunteers it's a small amount that we directly get to the project and we do this because in Cambodia there are many good projects but also many a little bit less projects and to give big money amounts our experience is that this doesn't always work well even if the project coordinator of the panel project is a good person and really loves his project and the kids giving a very high amount of money to to Cambodian person doesn't sometimes work out but when volunteers come here the one thing we want to make sure is that they love and help the children and help our teachers that's more important than the money this $50 payment is new we receive it for the first time last month many of his former volunteers continue to help after they leave pala now uses Facebook to keep in touch and often receives donations directly 10 year old sorry Anwar is grateful for the volunteers who work at her school hi got mint of table art Emporium I like them because they teach me to read and write in English and I pay attention to them because I want to be like them you know what Antep I don't feel sad because I know they have come to teach me and have to return home again if I miss them a lot I can't now our Child Welfare Ministry has a very big responsibility we need to do all we can to ensure that the children of our country will be safe because they hold the future of Cambodia in their hands but now it's time for this volunteer to say goodbye and I wish you in your life no matter how sad it is at the end it's always worth the happiness that you give them while you're here and by helping these kids we're not giving them everything they deserve because they're far from it that we're helping them to be able to know what they deserve and stand up and ask for that themselves while Cambodian authorities continue to assess the pros and cons of volunteer tourism the industry continues to grow it may well be a form of travel that's here to stay that report by Kathy Hearn and for more on the issue of volunteer tourism in Cambodia we've come to the historic Angkor Wat World Heritage Site in Samri joined on the panel by Geraldine cops one of the few foreigners to have Cambodian citizenship and has been involved with orphanages for more than 30 years support sia is the director of an NGO called bamboo shoot' an organization that promotes education for children and Michael Horton is a chairman and founder of a volunteer tourism organization of concert so Paul if I could just start with you how important are these volunteer tourists who come to Cambodia give up their time and help the community here oh it's quite important the volunteer is good too because they really responsible they really care because they understand the country really devastated by war you know like like like especially reason war like during the 770 especially in the Khmer Rouge regime they kill nearly all educated classes so we also have a problem with human resources so well it is important even short term or long term still good Michael would you agree that this is what the volunteer tourists going to Cambodia expertise Cambodia hasn't is recovering from many problems the children of Cambodia are recovering from many problems and so any help that is given should not add to those problems and so volunteers who come for a long time and who are properly supervised and are working you know in programs whether a proper curriculum where they're following on from the previous volunteer where the regular Khmer staff are the main contact with that child and not the volunteer so that the volunteer is acting as a classroom assistant and controlled by the regular Khmer staff so that we minimize problems of attachment and emotional problems from children that when those volunteers leave those are some of the things it should be in place geraldine is this the case here in Cambodia when it comes to volunteer tourism I find those short-term volunteers for my particular program disruptive and not really at all valuable I've got some real horror stories of volunteers that have come for those short periods of time backpackers who have smoked marijuana on the site I've had volunteers with special dietary requirements whether they want vegan and vegetarian food and I'm saying that sorry is the rice patan is the soup pot there's no vegan pot and so some of them come you know wanting hot water and special food I've had middle-aged volunteers women that come who whose husbands have run off with their secretaries and they're on the on the road looking for the meaning of life and just wanted to spend most of the day complaining about their husbands and half the night drinking red wine what does the community get out of this short term volunteerism my special program is about young women leader so so most most of my students really get inspired because both of the my whatever volunteer come from the western country they know how to be strong women independence or the influent lada see about women issue so they learn a lot sometime they can contact each other something like that see because community is mostly hard to to expose themselves when they come together with these volunteer if they feel confident so I can see a lot of confident but what about security clearance how sure are you Michael that these volunteers really do have their community interest at heart most volunteers don't come with the wrong motives you only need one to do a lot of damage you do most don't come with the wrong motives and we are talking about people here who will be working with young children orphanages there are real benefits from some from some volunteers and where for example if you are a teacher a professional teacher people come and want to teach the children and we say why don't you go and teach the cambodian teachers who are teaching the children absolutely and then you can leave something behind if you pass on your skills if you're a nurse teach the nurses if you're a businessman teach them some administration so we always recommend and try where we can to get the volunteer to work with the staff Gerald also in the beginning when I was accepting almost any volunteer that walked on the place many volunteers would come with their own English program and then one month I'd have someone learning from this book and then another month somebody would come from another book and I had the kids being taught English by people with an Indian accent or a Filipino accent and a Scottish accent and a Swedish accent so my kids were growing up with almost unintelligible English because of the different accents of all the teachers that were coming in and with volunteers it's very high when they are giving you their time to say well look I want you here at 8 o'clock and then you finish at 5 and these your tasks during the day because you're not paying them and they say oh no actually I want to go into the market for a few hours so it's really hard to work out the day when the volunteer isn't really going to be there from 8 Bloxom for the day well because bottom line they are tourists that are paid to convert to see the country and they want to help out the community and then I've had tourists come with their own agendas with religious beliefs where they feel it's their duty and their obligation to convert the children and I think that's criminal in a country like this where Buddhism is their culture if the children want to investigate Christianity when they're adults that's fine but I really don't think it's the right thing for Christians to come in and feel it's their right to convert people in this country and that's something a lot of volunteers here do so part people say that volunteer tourism is is like a human Safari you have rich Westerners who come here to Cambodia perhaps to see what poverty is like and perhaps even to pity Cambodians how do you feel about this as a Cambodian actually it's true anyway because we are really a serveral country we have rich culture and history this is our price unless you're really so proud about this but this is also good point that why tourists come here because of Uncle Bob behind you see because of the culture and then when they see the people we really of course hard world because it's prevent civil war especially and the young especially they mostly suffer because the family background mostly also troubles if at the war and everything so then to read some kind of course they admire our culture and of course the best is they love the people because they see that the Khmer people really friendly and they'll aperture and do because everyone especially from the poor background they really determine for education that's why this is really inspired those young from the West they really like the they really like because you are so struggling you're starving but you're still struggling for education this is really inspired them because they live in the Western world so they feel very comfortable you see Geraldine is there an element of the human Safari when it comes to volunteer yes I think people coming here seek to be moved I've had two or three occasions where volunteers have come and they haven't lasted the day because they've so moved by the children's stories they're crying in front of the children and that's not good for the children and effect to say I'm sorry you know you can't stay we also have had volunteers who come with very strong ideas and they say oh look we don't think you should run it like this we think it should be run like that and this is what you should be doing here and there and they don't take direction they want to change what you've already got in place and I do know of many organizations that get great value out of the volunteer program but unless you've got the resources to manage them and supervise them it's very difficult to control and again my priority is the safety welfare of the children not to give the volunteers a nice experience and that's a point Michael that you've repeated several times here where these volunteers need to be guided there needs to be a proper organisation of their efforts is that happening here in Cambodia not entirely no there are 300 NGOs in summary province and if you have 300 of anything colored together you're going to have a range of quality and there's a range of quality and managing volunteers when they get here falls on the shoulders of people like Geraldine and the staff and people like so Paula nice stuff and volunteers really do assume many things that they're what they're doing is going to be useful and that they're going to be managed in a proper way and they look to the local people on the ground to manage them well volunteers can be really really useful it's all down to the management of them Geraldine what do you think needs to be done to improve the management of these ponies well I think each organisation that accepts volunteers needs to have firmly in place proper police checks of everybody whether they're coming for three days or three months I think there needs to be the local resources to show them around manage them and to supervise them and not to let them go off and do their their own programs so Paul what do you think can be done to actually improve volunteer tourism so that Cambodians can benefit from this at least you have to give them a Brit orientation about the players about what you have to do what you could not do is it something like that then people will be aware in advance a Michael there have been reports that volunteers who come to Cambodia who have paid organisations to try and help and give back to the community but they've been ripped off have you heard of those sort of cases yes absolutely and it's paying a volunteer organisation is like buying any other service and I don't believe that there's anything wrong with paying a volunteer organisation to help you to find a suitable place to volunteer and you know what I'm going to say that's all part of the management so if you pay $1000 you should be made very well aware of where all that money went and some of that money legitimately goes to the overheads of that organization how can a volunteer be assured that the money that they're giving to an organization actually goes to the people that they're trying to help I would ask questions and I'd want to see proof I'd want to see an annual report and I want to see a budget and I'd wonder I would want to see proof but a lot of young volunteers don't don't don't think that way it wasn't you know where you're going what where you fit into that program that's right can you speak to volunteers that came before you yeah who will be supervising you are you actively put in touch with people that came before you and people that will come after you so Paul what about these volunteers who do pay organizations would you say that there is a rampant abuse of the system here in Cambodia most organizations through their acute cases is not all yes but but but so many many good organizers and they can do good too but a few suitcases happen and an avid very unsatisfactory expectation is it because people always expect good is a and it never happen it's a really volatile situation because there are really really good volunteers that make a difference and it's the ones that don't that spoil it for the really really good ones that's just the way Cambodia is you just need a few bad apples to ruin the whole basket I'm afraid we're going to have to leave it there thank you very much for being with us today that's all the time we have for this edition of 101's you can always follow the program through our facebook website or podcast from all the team here in siem reap cambodia thanks for watching


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