Field report: Volunteer tour operators take a stand against orphanage trafficking

child in Ghana

Goal:

In July 2018 we launched a campaign with a global petition, social media actions, and a way to directly email volunteer tour operators. We called on their help to stop orphanage trafficking by removing placements in orphanages, in an effort to disrupt the business model of orphanage trafficking 

By stopping placements in institutionalized childcare, together we are stopping the incentives for traffickers to use the children as “assets” to attract volunteers who bring with them money.  

Summary:

Our campaign targeted: Global Vision International, African Impact, Go Overseas, Plan My Gap Year, and Love Volunteers — companies that were all offering placements around the world in institutional childcare.  

The Freedom United community asked the companies to: 

  • Stop offering orphanage placements to volunteers and move away responsibly from existing projects;  
  • Publish a statement outlining their commitment to ending orphanage child trafficking; and 
  • Join the worldwide movement to promote children being raised in safe families. 

Timeline of event:  

2018: We first wrote to all companies before launching the campaign and reaching out to targets calling on them to take a stand against orphanage placements and publishing a statement on their website. Throughout the year, we wrote to PMGY 3-4 times sending them letters and they did not respond.  

See action: End orphanage trafficking – FreedomUnited.org 

September 2018: WIN! Global Vision International and African Impact are the first to lead the way. In response to our outreach, they committed to stop offering orphanage placements and have recognized the trafficking risks associated with children in institutions. Click here to read Global Vision International’s full statement and here to read African Impact’s.

April 2019: We sent letters to the targets who did not respond to our asks in 2018 asking them to support the campaign, but PMGY did not respond.  

We launched the petition on Care2 and collected 115, 174 signatures.  

2020 – 2022: Continuous actions from the Freedom United community to reach out to campaign targets through social media actions and direct emails.  

January 2022: WIN! Go Overseas implemented a new system on their site flagging the harms of volunteering in orphanages. Read more here.

July 2023: We finally made direct contact with PMGY’s CEO, Philip Russell.  We offered a meeting in person which was rejected and our request for them to remove placements that appear to take place in residential care settings was ignored.  

July 2023: WIN! PMGY published a policy against offering orphanage placements on its FAQ page, but there was a lack of evidence that this policy was being implemented fully in all their placements in childcare institutions.  

Outcome:

In September 2023, we were able to confirm when a volunteer traveled to Ghana in August 2023 through PMGY and found her placement switched from the orphanage she’d booked. PMGY explained that since booking her trip in 2020, their policy changed and placements in institutional childcare are no longer made. 

Sustained action and commitment from the Freedom United community, has resulted in a significant reduction in the number or orphanage placements offered thereby reducing the appeal for traffickers. 

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