Thursday, October 20, 2011

Children Are Not Tourist Attractions

Tourists, listen up...

Today, Friends-International launched its new 'Children Are Not Tourist Attractions' campaign, including the article below, a new website and an ad campaign with banners on tuk-tuks in Phnom Penh, all to raise awareness about the orphanage tourism game and related child exploitation and voluntourism issues. The goal is to put an end to orphanage tourism in Cambodia. Such a campaign is long-overdue and sorely needed. The article and website are brilliant. I've been railing about this issue for years and it is very near and dear to my heart. (I only wish I could have been so eloquent as Friend-International has been in their website and article.) I wish them the greatest success in this endeavor. Please read, learn and heed their advice.

Photo by Friends-International from the

When Children Become Tourist Attractions

Posted on 20 October 2011, by Friends-International

Each year, thousands of tourists visit orphanages in Cambodia thinking they are helping some of the most vulnerable children in the world. Recent reports however have found their visits may be doing more harm than good.

Nearing midnight on Pub Street, Siem Reap is buzzing. Hundreds, if not thousands of tourists roam from bar to bar, looking for a good time after spending full days wandering through Cambodia’s spectacular Angkor Wat temples.

Beggars follow the travelers around, while other locals sell flowers, fake travel guides and postcards to unassuming customers. Through the mayhem, a small team of professional junior entrepreneurs make their way down the street pitching a different product to the hordes – a visit to a nearby orphanage...Continue reading here

Learn more at the Friends-International CHILDREN ARE NOT TOURIST ATTRACTIONS website.

Please, do not engage in orphanage tourism.

(If I may indulge briefly in a bit of selfish told-you-so righteous I mentioned above, I have been on about the orphanage issue for the better part of a decade and the child beggar/vendor issue for a lot longer than that. As an old white male expat, I have been accused of being jaded, heartless, a cynical old expat and much, much worse, because of my views on this matter - all while the name-callers bought flowers from 8-year-old vendors in the bar in the middle of the night, doled out dollar bills to glue sniffing kids on the street and told teary-eyed stories of the orphanage at which they voluntoured [for a price] washing dishes and playing with the children. Tourists, most often young and more often than not female, with big hearts and very little thought, all knew so much more than this old male expat with 25 years in Asia under his belt. I am thrilled to see this long-established, trustworthy, highly credible organization saying basically the same thing, though of course in a more affable, organized, less curmudgeonly way. Maybe now people will listen.)


  1. I make a habit of giving my business to vocational enterprises, but there are so relatively few children who participate in these vocational training opportunities that the impact seems so unacceptibly limited. That is why I still give in, occasionally, to the kid vendors at temples...if this is detrieantal to the kids, tell me what else a tourist can do to help...

  2. I will, for the moment, defer to the Child-Safe and Friend-International websites, which I suggest you explore.

    One thing that the tourist can do to help is to not encourage and support the practice of putting children out to work and beg by giving money to them.

    Before all else, do no harm.

  3. Spread the word through facebook and other forums. Some fool on the Trip Advisor Cambodia forum keeps objecting and the link to the site is removed as soon as it is posted. Keep talking about this issue so it does not go away.
    Helen Sydney
    (am listed as anonymous because there was no other suitable category and while I like to read this blog, I don't want to necessarily join up at the moment)

  4. Or direct them towards the ConCERT office, an NGO in Siem Reap trying so hard to educate 'well intentioned' tourists on these matters. I am currently writing my PhD thesis on the volunteering experience and am constantly amazed how the tourist industry and the volunteer tourist industry, in particular, continues to act so irresponsibly on these issues - often at the same time, i might add, as flying the responsible tourism flag.

  5. I agree with the basic message> orphans are no tourist attraction! How about "kids are no tourist attraction ?" The reality is, that in cambodia they are. I have strong reservations about the motifs for this campaign when it comes from NGO's like "Friends". They use "kids" in their installations as tourist bait, too. Since many years they run ads in "stay another day" Cambodia Tourist guide where they are openly invited. Sebastien Marot, the head of this .org is no dummy when it comes to read the future. His childsafe "big thumb" campaign caused so much harm to the expat community by whipping up Tourists against westerners with their kids which are quickly labeled "pedophiles". So yes, keep tourists out of orphanages and other child related traps of the ngo business.

  6. I actually enjoyed reading through this posting.Many thanks.

  7. Wonderful blog & good post.Its really helpful for me, awaiting for more new post. Keep Blogging!

  8. Last year when i was performing umrah with my family i got cheap umrah tickets which provides me full security and freindly environment so children makes no difficulties for me.