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BLOG – When good intentions go awry

Tony Sabatier of Friends-International warns that corporate philanthropy can sometimes be misguided.

Across Cambodia, orphanages are proliferating. Although it is a country with a recent past haunted by conflict and genocide, the last 10 years have, however, seen rapid development alongside general calm and stability, allied to a huge increase in tourism. They have also seen the number of overseas funded orphanages in the country more than double during that time.

We know from years of research that institutional care is harmful to children. What adds to the disturbing nature of this increase is the shocking fact that these orphanages are primarily being run as businesses, set up to attract the foreign dollars that flood in from well-meaning individuals and companies. In order to function effectively in attracting those donors, they need something to ‘sell’, and that something is children. Almost three quarters of the children who are currently in institutional care in Cambodia have living parents and most institutions where they are living have no child protection policies or standards of practice in place.

Families are often pressurized into giving up their children into orphanage care, despite the existence of laws in Cambodia which prioritize family and family based care over institutional care.

Donors from the business and private sectors however, continue to pledge support to organizations that in many cases are actually causing additional harm to children, and feeding the growth of an industry that far from helping children, actually exploits them.

The ChildSafe Movement campaign, ‘Don’t Create More Orphans’, launched in February 2015, seeks to raise awareness of these issues with orphanage supporters, and urges them to redirect their support to the many organizations working to keep families together and children out of unnecessary and harmful orphanage care.

ChildSafe has ten years of experience in child protection initiatives and campaigns – they have reached over 35 million people with their child protection campaign messages to date - and is powered by Friends-International, a child welfare organization that for over 20 years has saved lives and built futures for children and young people who lack opportunity.

ChildSafe’s campaign links into the concerted partnership work going on in Cambodia to strengthen families, and keep children out of institutions. Partner organizations across the country support vulnerable families and children through education and vocational training projects, and run income generation projects for parents and care takers, so they can afford to look after their children and send them to school.

Please visit If you or your business currently supports orphanages, please think again. Please, reconsider. Look at the list of alternatives that the website suggests. You will have a long term positive, and what’s more, a sustainable, impact, by shifting your support toward organizations which are working to strengthen families and helping them to keep their children.

Please, #THINKfamilies , not orphanages.


Picture credit: © Power970 |

Friends International | Asia | Philanthropy

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