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Volunteer Overseas

Projects Abroad commits to a future without orphanages

By the end of 2017, Projects Abroad will no longer send volunteers to help directly in orphanages, and instead focus on supporting community-based care for children. We are proud to announce that we have partnered with ReThink Orphanages to develop sustainable alternatives to orphanages and other residential care facilities for children.

Volunteers sit with children

Residential care for children, usually in orphanages or children’s homes, is still very common in many developing countries. But this is not the best way to care for vulnerable children. With more than 8 million children in residential care globally, supporting family- and community-based care for children is crucial. Up to 80% of children currently living in residential care have one or more living parents who, with support, would be willing and able to care for them.

For many years, Projects Abroad has worked closely with selected residential care facilities to provide additional support for children placed there. Our volunteers and staff have made amazing contributions to improving the lives of these children. However, we have also always believed that institutional care should be the absolute last resort for any child, and have always supported local partners who aim to reduce the number of children in residential care.

In the future, we aim to focus on providing support exclusively to community-based childcare programmes, In some locations, such as Cambodia, we have worked with such partners for years, and have first-hand knowledge of how successful these initiatives can be in keeping children in families where they can thrive and grow up to be happy, healthy members of their community.

Greg Thomson, Projects Abroad CEO, sees this as key to helping build a better future for children currently in residential care. “In 2016, the Projects Abroad leadership team embarked on a review and assessment of where our volunteers make the most sustainable and significant impact, especially when working with children. A recurring theme from this process was that community-based care for children is where we should be focusing the efforts of our volunteers.”

For the past two years, Projects Abroad has tracked the impact its volunteers have made on early childhood development in both settings: community-based childcare and residential childcare. Community-based childcare allows for closer collaboration with other volunteer projects Projects Abroad runs in each country, such as education and healthcare, providing an unrivalled opportunity for volunteers to help address community needs as a whole and create a sustainable future for children.

Volunteers work with children

“The reach of our volunteer projects is stronger in community care, with greater potential for real lasting contribution. Community-based care for children ensures that parents can work while their children are cared for and engaged in targeted interventions for early childhood development, including literacy, numeracy, English and hygiene”, states Jenny Puyo, Head of Programme Development at Projects Abroad.

With this in mind, Projects Abroad will no longer place volunteers in residential care institutions from the end of 2017, instead placing volunteers in community-based care projects. This process must be undertaken ethically to ensure children are not harmed. We have joined with ReThink Orphanages  to ensure we place the best interests of children at the forefront of our projects. This partnership will ensure we are collaborating with others in the volunteering and development sectors to raise awareness of this issue and ensure children are not unnecessarily separated from their families and placed in an orphanage.

Projects Abroad will be working closely with our partners in each country to provide resources, support and advice on shifting towards family- and community-based care models for children. We will connect partners directly with organisations that reintegrate children back into families. As part of our commitment to withdrawing from residential care institutions ethically, Projects Abroad will continue to offer skilled volunteer placements, such as physiotherapists and occupational therapists, in specialised care facilities for children. These placements will focus on building the capacity of local staff to provide therapeutic care to children with specialised needs, and will contribute to ensuring that, in the long-term, these children too can grow up in families, not institutions. Projects Abroad will withdraw from these specialised care placements in a phased approach, working closely with our technical advisors and project partners to ensure this is done ethically and sustainably.

Read more about our position  on volunteering in orphanages, or find out more about how you can help children through a community-based project in countries around the world.

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