Imagine, a small innocent child who is motherless, fatherless, homeless and penniless- being abused and exploited by so-called foreign volunteers. Recently I came across a disturbing story of a volunteer who had been secretly preying upon Orphanages. Posing as a good Samaritan, he traveled half-way across the world to Southeast Asia to ‘share his love’ by sexually abusing helpless Orphans. He had a hidden agenda- to destroy their childhood innocence.
Even while you are reading this, there are many similar stories of evil people pretending to be volunteers and preying upon innocent children. So again I ask the question should volunteering at an Orphanage be considered one of the seven deadly sins?
Developing countries have a history of extreme poverty. There are many orphaned and deprived children, who are being ill-treated, abused and exploited for lustful and monetary gains. To add fuel to the fire, some of these smiling foreigners come with their cameras trying to get the best selfies while volunteering with children, to put on Facebook and other social media sites.
It could seem as if they are actually working with orphans for self-gratification than for the needs of giving back to the developing world.
I bet you’re probably thinking that all developing countries have these kinds of problems.
Actually No…Not all of them.
A Ray of Hope in the Developing World
All hope is not lost just yet, well at least not in Jamaica. This tiny little island is one of the few developing countries that try to protect its children. Children’s rights are very important to the government.
Even though the country is poor, they still put in place strict measures to help regulate the Orphanages and Child Care facilities.
Let’s look at some of the measures that have been put in place:
- Provision of child regulatory bodies- The CDA and CISOCA
- Supervised access to the children at Orphanages and Child Care facilities
- Proper management of your donations
- Detailed background checks
Provision of child regulatory bodies – the CDA and CISOCA
You might be wondering, who are these regulatory bodies; the CDA – Child Development Agency and CISOCA– Centre for Investigation of Sexual Offences and Child Abuse are government agencies that provide support to children in need of care and protection.
Homes and places of safety are continually monitored to ensure that they are being operated for children’s safety and security.
Approximately 15% of the children in Jamaica are living in extreme poverty, with roughly 73,000 of them being Orphans who have either lost one or both parents. These children have been exposed to abuse, abandonment, neglect and violence at an early age so they are placed in homes that provide them with the necessary support that will aid their growth and development.
Even though Jamaica is a developing country, the risk of exploitation and abuse are lowered with the help of these government bodies. They ensure that the child care and protection act is fully enforced at the homes. Once you visit the Orphanages in Jamaica, you will get a better understanding of some of the issues affecting the children at these facilities.
Jamaica has a burning desire for more volunteers to assist with the care of infants and children. You can make a significant difference in their lives by offering your support to help them live in a safe, secure and nurturing environment.
But what makes your visit to a Jamaican Orphanage any different?
Supervised access to the children at the Orphanage & Child Care facility
While you are doing orphanage work in Jamaica, you will be placed with a caring mentor who will guide and supervise you along the way. Unlike some of the other developing countries, you cannot interact with the children unsupervised. This is to help prevent “predator volunteers” from harming poor innocent children.
Under the cover of ‘volunteering’, predators travel abroad to exploit children and use them to satisfy their own perverted desires. These facilities are often targeted and become a haven for activities such as, child trafficking, pedophilia, exploitation and abuse.
The negative publicity surrounding volunteering abroad at orphanages has been growing rapidly in recent times. Even though the foreign volunteers are needed to offer donations and the much needed support, many local people have become suspicious of their ulterior motives. Supervision is therefore necessary to help reduce those who have hidden agendas.
Proper Management of Your Donations
Have you ever given a donation to an institution or someone and wondered if it really benefitted them? Well sad to say, many of the donations offered to some of the Orphanages in these developing countries sometimes do not even reach the children. The gifts presented are even taken away and sold elsewhere for profit.
In Jamaica, the orphanages and child care facilities must follow strict guidelines, due to the government regulations. Your donations therefore go directly to the children for their benefit and not for the benefit of those who manage them.
Wondering What You Could Do To Help?
Helping does not always have to be monetary. Orphanage volunteers play an important role in helping to give children proper nutrition, an education, care and the freedom to simply be a child.
Here is a list of some of the activities you could do to help:
- Donate food, basic necessities, clothing, gifts, school books and supplies
- Volunteer your time – though it might be short, it can be very impactful
- Talk to the children, listen to their stories, tell them yours
- Help them with their homework
- Use your skills to teach them something new
- Do some carpentering/ building maintenance work
- Teach a child to read or read with him/her
- Listen to Reggae music and dance with them
- Teach them basic computer skills
- Play games and have fun with them
- Mentor them
Interacting with the children in these facilities can be one of the most life-changing and rewarding experience you will ever encounter. Volunteering abroad will give you an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream of having a positive impact on a child’s life.
Make an Orphan smile by sharing your love and affection.
Detailed Background Checks
In Jamaica, once an Orphanage or Child Care facility is being established a detailed background check is done. The facilities are continuously monitored by the CDA and CISOCA to give children a chance to grow and develop in a safe and nurturing environment.
Here are some of the reasons for doing these checks:
- To know who will be running the homes
- To prevent Orphanage scams and exploitation
- To see the living conditions
- To prevent overcrowding
- To know how they will be maintained
- To know where they will be located
Background checks are done not only on the facilities, but also on the foreign volunteers. It is highly recommended that you volunteer abroad through a structured program, one that will help to accomplish your volunteering goals.
Once you submit an application, you are asked to present two main important documents;
- Police Check/Record
These documents are mandatory prior to your arrival, as they are checked before you visit the facilities. This particular aspect of your travel has been known to deter many ‘predator volunteers’ in the past.
In Jamaica, accountability is a huge factor in reducing the number of child abuse or exploitation cases in the children’s homes. In some countries these cases are on the rise since very few people are being held accountable for their actions.
There have been unfortunate instances where children have been abused and taken advantage of by foreign volunteers.
However, ‘when you do the crime, you will do the time’. The Jamaican government has ensured that the maximum penalty of the law is administered to these offenders.
The question of ‘why volunteering at an Orphanage abroad should be considered one of the seven deadly sins’ still remains a debatable subject.
More than Just Volunteering at an Orphanage
Oh! and there’s more, since you won’t be spending the entire day volunteering at the Orphanage, why not use your free time to actually have some fun as well.
After all you are in Jamaica!
You can combine volunteering with fun times and adventure and get a chance to immerse in the ’Real’ Jamaican culture. This is why it is important that you choose a volunteer abroad program that is ‘Right’ for you. One that will allow you to make a difference in the lives of children, interact with the local people, learn the culture, and explore the wonders of this exotic island.
A popular program that provides opportunities for you to give back to those in need and engage in cultural immersion activities is The Jamaica Volunteer Programs. This organization is the leading volunteer abroad program in Jamaica and has helped many volunteers realize their dream. It can help you realize yours too.
Here’s an example of what one volunteer had to say about her experience:
“I helped coach children football at a local organization. I also went to a school and an orphanage and volunteered with the kids there by playing games and other activities. The accommodation, food and safety were excellent. The host family was very friendly and there was a good vibe in the house.
The volunteering program was well organized too. I would love to come back and I would recommend Jamaica Volunteer Programs to anyone who would love to come to Jamaica and volunteer.”
For many volunteers, it’s a ‘Bold Step’ to travel half-way across the world to somewhere new for a trip of a lifetime and to have amazing experiences.
There are lots of exciting activities that can be done in your free time like challenging yourself to climb the awesome Dunn’s River Falls. This is one of the island’s most amazing waterfalls.
Time flies when you are having fun, but you will feel good to know that your trip was not all in vain. Volunteering abroad at an Orphanage will give your life a new meaning and change your view of the world.
A lot of people dream of taking that step, but let the chance to fulfill their passion pass them by.
Sometimes opportunities knock only but once and volunteering your time is one of the greatest impact you can make on a local community when you travel abroad.
If you are thinking about how you can give love and support to a child in need and want to learn more, don’t hesitate, go here now: http://jamaicavolunteerprograms.com/
About the Author
Sandrien is the Content Developer/Administrator at The Jamaica Volunteer Program. Her mission in life is to help others achieve their highest the potential. Sandrien lives in Jamaica and has a passion for marketing and content development .When not working; you will find Sandrien on adventurous excursions across the beautiful island.