The International Institute of Social Studies (ISS), which is part of EUR, has announced that it will advise students not to volunteer at orphanages. It has also promised not to promote or facilitate such work. So ISS declared on Thursday by signing a statement.

The signing of the statement is part of the #StopOrphanTrips campaign. The organisation that established the campaign, Better Care Network, seeks to use its campaign to discourage students from volunteering at orphanages. Kristen Cheney, as associate professor of Children & Youth Studies at ISS in The Hague, actively supports the campaign. Cheney carried out a study in Uganda investigating volunteer work at orphanages.

“More and more adolescents are volunteering at foreign orphanages, even though the number of orphans in developing countries has fallen in recent years,” said Cheney, who added, “sure, we all want to have our pictures taken with such children to put up on Facebook. I am sure the volunteers have the very best of intentions, but the consequences are harmful. Volunteers rotate every few months, so they keep leaving the children, again and again, which results in the children having attachment issues.”

‘Orphanages create perverse stimuli’

In addition, not all children staying at orphanages are actually orphans. “Studies have shown that 80 percent of children in orphanages have at least one living parent. This is because orphanages create perverse stimuli for poor parents to leave their children at orphanages. You see, these orphanages present themselves as free boarding schools. So while the local community regards the orphanage as a school, volunteers believe the house is full of orphans.”

Cheney and Better Care Network, in association with the LSE Volunteer Center, are using the #StopOrphanTrips campaign to raise more awareness of this subject among students. So far, sixteen universities have signed the document. What with ISS rector Inge Hutter signing the document on behalf of ISS on Thursday, ISS has become the first Dutch university-affiliated institution to sign the document. The organisation hopes that other faculties and universities will follow suit.