The best interest of the child
Eline Bodbijl is the director of the documentaire ‘Thank You For Your Donations.’ To finish this film Bodbijl started a crowdfundingcampaign.
You can help to make this documentary Click here to donate or to read more about the documentary and the problems around orphanage tourism.
During the war many children lose their parents. The numbers of orphanages increases and children are cared for. Over time, the war ends and the living conditions change for the better. So the amount of orphans decreases but the orphanages do not run empty. On the contrary, the number of orphanages grows. Generally it can be said that most of the children are not orphans. They come from poor families, families that for some reason can’t take care of their children anymore and families who hope their child gets a proper education.
An orphanage should be the last resort
Sounds familiair? What are you thinking of right now? Haiti? Cambodia? Nepal? Orphanage tourism? Disaster tourism? No, I described a situation in West Europe from 1945 until 1970. But there are numerous parallels. Between 1950 and 1970 a discussion started in Europe and the United States about the rights of the child and with that came doubt. Is the care of children in orphanages the best for the child? Thus, the deinstitutionalization of orphanages slowly began to take shape. This was supported by studies that showed that children in orphanages have a higher risk of attachment disorder and delay. Stories of abuse, mistreatment, slack of hygiene, bad living conditions and malnutrition also found their way to the public. Slowly it became clear to us: children should grow up with their family as much as possible. An orphanage should be the last resort.
Why not build something better
We (Westerners) have known for over fifty years that an orphanage isn’t the right solution and yet we are the biggest peacemaker in the growth of orphanages abroad. As it happens, there is one big difference: we now live in a time where everything is commericalised. Poverty and orphanages are exploited in this way. Volunteers pay an heavy amount of money for a trip to an orphanage. What they do there doesn’t really matter according to large volunteering organizations because ‘something’ is better than ‘nothing’. They declare that volunteers shouldn’t expect to make a difference but that they must go primarily for themselves. Pictures of children with a fly on their eye. ‘Poverty porn’ it is called. It is disaster tourism in it’s ‘purest’ form.
E. van Paemel, “Een tehuis voor of met weeskinderen?” Een historisch-pedagogisch onderzoek naar de redenen van opname in en ontslag uit de Gentse weeshuizen (1945-1984), 2010,2011.
Prof. dr. J. J.H. Dekker, Jeugdzorg in Nederland, 1945-2010, Resultaten van deelonderzoek 1 van de commissie-Samson: Historische schets van de institutionele ontwikkeling van de jeugdsector vanuit het perspectief van het kind en de aan hem/haar verleende zorg, Rijksuniversiteits Groningen, 2012.
M. Cillero, J. Couso, M. Ferrari, Children in Institutions: The Beginning of the End?
The cases of Italy, Spain, Argentina, Chile and Uruguay, UNICEF, Innocenti Research Centre Innocenti Insight, 2003.