Conducted with the input of UNICEF, the Cambodian Government commissioned a report in 2011 for the Ministry of Social Affairs to examine the role of residential care – orphanages – in Cambodia. Entitled “With the Best Intentions..” the 76 page report can be downloaded here. It underscores much of the recent Government activity around raising the standards of orphanages, and closing down certain operators.
The criteria to support an orphanage are quite clear: are these really filling a gap that cannot be met by the family of the child, or their direct village community? Likewise, are the residential care units assisting the child, beyond the basics of food and shelter?
I find in the report the seeds of the discussion around the growth of NGO numbers in this sector over the past decade – and the assumption that somehow this is a growth industry motivated by money. Oh really? Perhaps there is another way to frame the story: that social care NGOs have multiplied in direct proportion to the growth in tourist visitor numbers and what these visitors have seen -in terms of poverty and need – has motivated the growth of social welfare organisations. Yes, there are exceptions – those organisations that leaflet tourists and using children to lure tourist dollars – but for the most part the sector is addressing needs that poor communities are, without adequate resourcing, unable to meet themselves.
Still, the paper is very thoughtful and helps sponsors, volunteers and supporters put some perspective on what we are doing and how we might best achieve our goals of helping this next generation.