Monday, 4 August 2014

Rethinking about orphanages/ volunteering

Lily and I had a conversation about how some orphanages are businesses to pull money out of foreigners.  People need to be extremely cautious about where they donate their money because sometimes things aren't as they seem to be.  Lily told me that in Nepal, seemingly orphanages have a lot of children with living parents and they are sent here to receive better food/ clothing and of course, there are the corrupt orphanages where the money doesn't really go to the children. There is nothing wrong with children who are in need receiving the necessities but the process needs to be more transparent.  The people who are donating have the right to know where their money is going.  This shows that there are many even with parents, who are in dire need as well.  Some more than others, whether you are in an orphanage or not.  

Hanging out with the girls

We visited an orphanage called Brother Joseph orphanage near the Kisian Junction today. You have to make an appointment with them if you want to visit and take dry goods with you to support the orphanage.  This orphanage turned out to be only for girls and they were a lot older than what we expected.  Most of them were in grade 6-7 and some were in high school.  Many still have guardians such as grandparents, aunties or uncles but they stay at the orphanage because if they stay with their guardians, they are given too much work which deviate their focus from studying.  So they remain at the orphanage for most of the year and go back ‘home’ to their families during school breaks.  These girls were very well kept and they seemed content.  Their rooms were far better than most houses in the area and they had electricity, which is a luxury in the villages.  I think it is crucial that these girls are able to live happily and confidently as Kenyan women in this country.  Seeing their living condition and the well-structured orphanage building begs the question of whether this is the place for me to donate money or goods.  Children in orphanages have sponsors that can pay for their school and school materials.  Most orphanages prosper and do very well.  

Throughout my stay in Kanyawegi, I ran into many children with parents that were filthy dirty, with no shoes and no money to eat proper meals.  They play on the streets and hang outside when it is dark, and their education is not guaranteed. I thought of donating my pencil crayons at the orphanage but I wasn't so sure anymore.  Will these be going to the right people? What if I give it to the organizer, will the kids actually receive it? Would it be better if I give them to children who play on the streets? I am not quite sure but I didn't feel comfortable donating to the orphanage.  I kept thinking about the children that hang out at Obambo market, without shoes. 

Also, the ethics of visiting orphanages are questionable. Read the article below!

The day after we visited the orphanage, something funny happened. Today was my last day in Kanyawegi and we taught at Obambo Secondary school. Obambo Secondary is a very big school. It’s a boarding school as well so there are quadruple the amount of students here.  From the questions they were asking, it was clear that they were sexually active. One student even asked about what would happen if he had a cut and he "finger fucked" a girl… dun dun dun… We were also asked questions about vibrators and female condoms. Relating this back to the orphanage, I saw a girl that was living at the orphanage at the school and said hello to her and asked her how her day was. Funny enough, the other girls that I went to the orphanage with, didn’t even recognize her.  Ha. 

When volunteering, also have to think about whether we're doing more harm or not.  How would you feel if foreigners came to your house, community and started projects?  Many occasions, students/ volunteers go over seas, they stay for a couple of weeks and return home.  What can you accomplish in such a short amount of time?  Even 6 weeks felt very short.  Short trips are more like cultural immersion experiences than volunteering. There is so little we can do in such a short amount of time.  Many go in thinking that they are going to make a change but this may not even occur. The villagers/ organization may even lose money in the end in order to accommodate you.  It is crucial to create a sustainable project when volunteering so that in the future, the villages can effectively organize, run the projects by themselves and grow.  That should be the main objective. 

Medical volunteerism is also an issue.  Many students go oversea and do/ perform procedures they are not trained to do so.  What gives them the right to do it when they are not even allowed in their own country? Why do some think we are"better" or more qualified in developing countries? We should really be watchful of how we carry ourselves when volunteering overseas.   Here is another article you can read about how westerners do little to alleviate problems.  


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