Latest modern slavery fight updates -

#HelpingNotHelping: JK Rowling urges students not to volunteer at orphanages

  • Published on
    October 24, 2019
  • News Source Image
  • Category:
    Human Trafficking, Prevention
Hero Banner

JK Rowling is calling of students to stop volunteering at orphanages based on the clear evidence that “orphanage tourism” is fuelling child trafficking and the separation of parents from their children.

“Despite the best of intentions, the sad truth is that visiting and volunteering in orphanages drives an industry that separates children from their families and puts them at risk of neglect and abuse,” she said speaking at the One Young World Summit in London.

Rowling, while being best known for authoring the Harry Potter books, is also the founder and president of children’s charity Lumos, which has been campaigning to find alternatives to orphanages for vulnerable children.

“Institutionalism is one of the worst things you can do to children in the world. It has huge effects on their normal development, it renders children vulnerable to abuse and trafficking, and it massively impacts their life chances,” said Rowling.

“And these dire statistics apply even to what we would see as well-run orphanages … The effect on children is universally poor.”

The Guardian reports:

Rowling was launching a three-year global campaign to challenge attitudes toward orphanage tourism and volunteering, #HelpingNotHelping. The campaign is backed by recently revised travel advice from the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office warning of the potential harm of orphanage tourism and volunteering.

Huge numbers of volunteers, tourists and backpackers visit residential children’s institutions every year, creating a multimillion-dollar tourism industry that leaves children at risk of all forms of abuse, according to Lumos.

Children in institutions are 500 times more likely to take their own lives, 40 times more likely to have a criminal record and 10 times more likely to be involved in prostitution, the charity claims.

A campaign launched on Thursday by Lumos and YouGov suggests volunteers are largely unaware of the potential harm their visits can do. An estimated two-thirds of UK students believe volunteering at an orphanage overseas would enhance their CV or career prospects, and one in five have either visited or volunteered at an orphanage overseas – or know someone who has, the charity said.

Research from Lumos has found that the overwhelming majority of students were unaware that 80% of the 8 million children currently living in orphanages worldwide have at least one living parent.

Chloe Setter, Lumos’ senior adviser on anti-trafficking said that the organization would soon publish research on how children are being trafficked to orphanages in order to attract donations and volunteers from overseas.

“Many orphanages, in particular unregistered orphanages, are run like a business and it’s not a coincidence that they’re often located in tourist areas,” said Setter.

“What we see on the ground is families, and their children, being targeted by ‘child-finders’ who are sometimes paying them or otherwise encouraging them to give their child up to the orphanage for a ‘better life’, with education being one of the main reasons, usually because of poverty.”

Ruth Wacuka, a One Young World ambassador from Kenya, experienced this first-hand. She told the audience how she was placed in an orphanage in Nairobi by her parents, who thought she would get an education and be taken care of.

“The orphanage was next to a giraffe sanctuary, so you can imagine how many visitors we would get,” said Wacuka.

“They would come to the sanctuary to take photos of the giraffes and then come to the orphanage to take pictures of me. But children are not tourist attractions. They are not animals. They have lives and destinies.”


Freedom United is interested in hearing from our community and welcomes relevant, informed comments, advice, and insights that advance the conversation around our campaigns and advocacy. We value inclusivity and respect within our community. To be approved, your comments should be civil.

stop icon A few things we do not tolerate: comments that promote discrimination, prejudice, racism, or xenophobia, as well as personal attacks or profanity. We screen submissions in order to create a space where the entire Freedom United community feels safe to express and exchange thoughtful opinions.

Notify of
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andrea Milner
Andrea Milner
4 years ago

I also worry about the motivation of young people going to volunteer in these orphanages in order to make their cvs look good! I find this deeply disturbing!

Sandra Fleming
Sandra Fleming
4 years ago

What an eye-opener! I had no idea! The devil was asked how he did all his evil. He replied, “business.” The business of greed.

Nicola Downes
4 years ago

Support the Black family! A similar situation in the US and the UK is happening in the care system. A disproportionate number of children in care are Black, and have usually been removed from parents against their will, due to structural inequalities, which result in poverty and mental illness etc.

Private fostering agencies are making an absolute financial killing because of this situation. Help families to cope better, don’t take away their children and sell them!

4 years ago

There might be some problems with some orphanages, but to paint them all as bad is pretty irresponsible. If I get another petition like this, take me off your list.

4 years ago
Reply to  Andrea Milner

That seems to be relatively trivial in comparison to the idea that children are being trafficked.

This week

Modern slavery victims at the heart of U.K.'s controversial Rwanda deportation policy

In a significant development in U.K. immigration policy, the debate over the Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill, recently renamed the Safety of Rwanda Bill, has intensified. Central to this controversy is the treatment of victims of modern slavery, with the legislative outcome heavily impacting their rights and safety. Legislative standoff After a prolonged standoff between the unelected House of Lords and the elected House of Commons, expectations

| Tuesday April 16, 2024

Read more