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Cambodia forum

Orphanages in Cambodia

Posted by Nokka on 25/10/2010 at 00:50

There is news this weekend of a British man being arrested for sex offences against children in orphanages he ran near Siem Reap .

When my wife and I were in Siem Reap last February we went to one of the orphanages on the outskirts of town. When eating in a restaurant the night before we received a flyer about how visitors were welcome the next day to meet the kids and watch them do a show. We cycled out there, a further 10 or so westerners also arrived. We played and talked with the kids and watched them do some traditional dance or breakdancing. They were enough to break your heart - mostly, we were told, picked up from living rough on the streets and now given a home. At the end we were asked for a donation, which we gave, were given a t shirt and left.

Later that night I read in the Lonely Planet guide that many orphanages in Cambodia are scams, the kids simply used as a means of extracting money from tourists, often just borrowed from local schools etc. I don't believe that was the case with ours; the place seemed genuine enough, but it did get me thinking. How are tourists able to find out if the place they are invited to is a proper orphanage, that the owners are genuinely looking after the best interests of the kids, that they are not, indeed, involved with abusing them ?

It is well known that Cambodia attracts many sex tourists, some specifically there for children. The flight we took from Phnom Penh to Bangkok had a significant number of characters on it who made your stomach churn. I assume the authorities struggle to monitor what is happening in orphanages fully due to lack of resources. But how can we, as visitors, ensure we do no not inadvertently add to the problem ? Any thoughts anyone ?

#1 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by sayadian on 25/10/2010 at 02:32

Mmm,these characters that made your stomach churn I'm dying for you to give a description.Did they have horns and tails?
Yes, there have been a few high profile cases of westerners abusing children but sadly most of the abuse comes from the locals themselves.Cambodia is IMO the most corrupt country in Asia and it would be very difficult to tell what is a genuine orphanage and what is a scam.As far as the authorities go a good majority are only there to line their own pockets and care very little for the poor.Many people have come to Cambodia with good intentions but find themselves knocking their heads against a brick wall.I think the only way we can help is by writing to our own governments and asking them why aid money bound for Cambodia is not monitored more carefully to make sure it gets into the right hands.Most of it seems to pay for luxury lexus motors for the elite.

#2 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by eastwest on 25/10/2010 at 10:02

Sorry to hear about your experience and I agree with sayadian on the main lines.

This is an excellent organization that aims to prevent child abuse and they are active now in several countries in the region. They also have development centers for education.
Their monitoring system is well set-up with the cooperation of hotels and moto/tuk tuk drivers. If you have a choice, support the organisation by choosing businesses with that logo.


Future visitors could check out their website and take it from there. They might also have info on other places (orphanages, schools etc.) you might want to visit.
I'm not an expert on the subject but what I've seen and heard of them deserves attention from others.

#3 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by Nokka on 25/10/2010 at 16:10

Our experience wasn't bad, Eastwest. The experience was very good; it was just afterwards that we wondered whether where we had been was genuine. We decided it probably was, but alas, I guess it is impossible to know for sure.

Sayadian, I am sure you are absolutely right that most abuse is from locals. Tourists from wealthier countries I guess just exacerbate the problem. No horns or tails on the guys on the plane, by the way - thanks for the sarcasm. Perhaps they were returning from a conference on human rights in Cambodia...though, somehow, from the look of them, I doubt it.

Ultimately, I suppose the main aim of my post was to give a heads up to those who may visit an orphanage in Cambodia. If possible, to try to find out beforehand if it is genuine before handing over money - though, I appreciate, that may be difficult.

#4 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by eastwest on 25/10/2010 at 17:37

Ah! I thought/assumed that the guy who got arrested was the owner of the orphanage that you visited.

There are over 3000 (yes, 3 thousand) NGOs in Cambodia and it is indeed hard to distinguish the good from the bad. I personally also think it would be best if a lot of the smaller ones would stop or merge.
I know there is a lot to say for the small grassroot organizations but it could be far less. Off course the majority have the best intentions (both foreigners and locals) but I'm also wondering whether it's efficient.
Even on this site I noticed that people were actually looking for garbage dumps, after that cambodian lady (I forgot her name) got nominated as CNN-hero last year, to start their own garbage orphanage. Wouldn't it be better just to support that organization?

With lesser NGOs it could also be more feasible to actually check on them by either government or a foreign monitor body. It probably doesn't do much to scare off the pedophiles but I think things are a bit crazy now with so many.

@ sayadian. Most of those smaller NGOs never get anything from their governments. Those are mostly 1-person NGOs. Most retired and living of their pension or very young people without much experience.

And as for not adding to the problem:

This may sound harsh but perhaps it's best NOT to visit.

Without visits there is no way for the scammers to make money. Donate money to a reputed organisation and leave it at that. A visit by you might make you feel good but doesn't change anything for the NGO directly.
I know Room to Read (my brother is a fundraiser for them) and they don't allow donators to visit (they do have independent auditors and inspectors). It takes a lot of time and resources to accommodate those visitors. They build schools in rural areas with participation of the locals (they have to help building or make a donation themselves) and they like to keep it like that and not turn it into a tourist sight. And they especially focus on areas that don't get tourists since there it's most needed.
They also don't depend on fundraising locally and in the end I think they are far more efficient than 20 small scale NGOs together.
And that's what it is about in the end isn't it?

#5 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by Nokka on 25/10/2010 at 18:01

Sadly, I think you are probably right - its best not to visit.

At the orphanage we visited we were asked for our email addresses. We fully expected to have requests for further donations once returning home, but actually never received any. Perhaps things went wrong their end. By then we had decided not to give any more, in any case. We did make a contribution on the day, though I confess it wasn't large. Even then I think we had some deep sense of unease about handing over cash.

Its a real shame. The kids themselves seemed to get a lot from the visit and I don't mean in financial terms. They were terribly excited, had perfected their dances, but also wanted just to chat in basic english, hold your hand or show you around.

#6 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by somtam2000 on 25/10/2010 at 18:09 admin

Orphanages in Cambodia -- what a tragedy that those who are so defenceless are subjected to such a snakepit. The general state of the NGO industry (yes, it is an industry) is farcical.

At the end of the day, use the west as a model. In most cases, casual visitors are not allowed to visit an orphanage to play or be entertained (or whatever) by the kids.. There are (at least) two very good reasons for this.

a) There is no way an orphanage can sufficiently screen casual visitors
b) A constant stream of strangers playing with kids, especially very young or traumatized ones, perhaps isn't too conducive to the positive development of the child.

If you really want to have a positive impact on children in need in Cambodia, in my honest opinion, you're better off donating to a well-regarded international NGO that is working in country. Yes some of the donation, in some cases the majority of it, will go in admin or whatever, but what does get to the kids will do so in a meaningful and useful manner.

Just because the NGO is small or run out of a back room doesn't need mean they're doing a crap job or exploiting kids. There are some sizeable orphanages in and around Phnom Penh that I'd certainly class as dubious. One very well known joint,that is widely regarded as a money-making scam among those in the know in PP.

I realise that this isn't advice that sits well with a lot of people and obviously, seeing the state of those in need in Cambodia (and elsewhere for that matter) can really make one want to make a contribution there and then, but, in many cases (not that I'm suggesting this was the case with Nokka) the funds are illspent and/or the kids are not even orphans.

#7 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 8,065

Posted by eastwest on 25/10/2010 at 18:57

Well said somtam

Perhaps it's an idea to put another sticky topic on the forum regarding this. I think that a lot more visitors have the same doubts/ideas as Nokka and it would be good to inform them. Perhaps not even a whole thread but just a message/warning so more people notice it. Thoses threads can run away from the topic (as you know)

I would be even willing to help you make a list of reputable organisations in Cambodia for donations.

#8 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by mattocmd on 25/10/2010 at 19:30

This topic has kept me up at nights because there are valid points that can be made from both sides of the argument.

Should you visit orphanages in Cambodia?
Should you volunteer? Should you pay to volunteer?

The complexity of the situation in Cambodia makes it extremely difficult to answer these kinds of questions. The existing culture of corruption sometimes results in child exploitation and too often, those of us with kind-hearted intentions actually do more harm than good.

Many make the argument to just give your money to reputable organizations and let them take care of it. It makes sense but in areas that these organizations don't currently support, what are the locals in need of help supposed to do, just wait to be saved? These kind of small NGOs also need funding - and can be effective.

Regarding government regulation, when it comes to Cambodia would that really be reassuring (especially in cases where a high volume of visitors/donors frequent)?. It's also naive to assume corruption doesn't occur among outside monitoring agencies.

I don't know much about the orphanages but can comment based on some experience with a small NGO. A few suggestions/guidelines:

1. Visitors/teachers/volunteers or whatever you want to call them, should never be left alone with children.

2. Check the organization out (in person if possible). See if actual progress is being made, if the organization's stated objectives are being worked towards, and try to get an idea of how the money is being spent (though, I know this is still extremely difficult).

3. If the children are being taught dances to entertain tourists it should raise red flags. Nokka - the operation you visited sounds shady to me - like a circus show.

I don't have the answers and I'm sure there are Travelfishers who can provide better and more experienced insight. I do have good feelings about the small NGO I have been working with for the past month. Mon-Fri I see around ten different English classes (around 150 kids and adults receiving a free English education) and about 10-15 children each day using computers that they wouldn't normally have access to.

#9 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 368

Posted by Nokka on 25/10/2010 at 20:05

To be fair, it didn't feel like a circus to me - just like a school play anywhere really. The people who turned up all seemed genuine people to me also, there for the right reasons. They were a broad spectrum of independent travellers - at no point, as far as I can remember - was anyone able to be alone with the children.

I have been to my wardrobe to get the t shirt I was given - it has a website address on it, though until a minute ago I hadn't looked it up.


Anyone know anything about this setup ?

#10 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by Nokka on 25/10/2010 at 20:05

Hmmm, can't seem to do a hyperlink

#11 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by eastwest on 25/10/2010 at 20:10

It is a difficult subject but let me give my opinion (which is by no means the right one) on this and it's by no means an attack on the NGO you (mattocmd) worked for:

Should you volunteer? Yes, but in a controlled environment and my experience (I've seen a lot of NGOs in Africa) is that it's best done through a bigger reputable organization. The smaller (and inexperienced) NGOs may have wrong guidelines/ideas even though they mean well. I always thought that the NGOs that attract retired experts from certain fields to teach help in their field in a developing country did great work.

Should you pay to volunteer? No. In my opinion this is an absolute NO. Your own ticket etc yes, but to do the actual volunteering seems completely wrong to me. An NGO can mediate and arrange housing and food but it should be left at that.

Should you visit orphanages (or schools for that matter)? Can you explain to me what good it would do for the children if people came there on a day by day basis? I really don't see the benefit for the children. It is already great for them to be shown love and care by the organization and it's volunteers. A steady stream of tourists showing up each day could in the end only work counter-productive. I have the feeling that conditioning is going to play a big part then. "oh, a Barang again, quick let's say our ABC and smile"

what are the locals in need of help supposed to do, just wait to be saved? These kind of small NGOs also need funding - and can be effective.
I think it would still be best if people give to reputable organizations because it is for money reasons that they are not in some places. More funding would give them better ways to reach those more difficult places with proven methods and their admin cost percentage would go down as well.
I sometimes also wonder why NGO-start-ups don't approach an existing NGO to help with setting up something. Cooperation works usually better and one doesn't need to re-invent the wheel again.

But it's all so easy to write this from my comfy chair. Often enough I have the urge to do something as well when I see the poverty and conditions. I even hire sometimes people as a sort of social project (I have a restaurant) to give them a small income and teach a few skills (cooking & english).
Personally I am more the kind that tries to develop people/families through economic stimulus. Bonuses for extra work, encouraging ideas, small lending if they want to purchase something important, good health care and paying for computer courses . But that's more for another topic, another time.

#12 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by eastwest on 25/10/2010 at 20:32

Nokka, you beat me to it with your post but I looked it up.

2 things;
- They mention they need $1000 for toilet block and knowing building prices in Cambodia, that will be a very big block. A decent block of 2 toilets (local type but with flush/sewage) and 2 showers (bucket & reservoir type) would only cost $300-400
- 22 kg of rice per day for 30 children. That is 0.8 kg per child per day. Even an adult will struggle to eat that much rice in a day.

Seems a bit like inflated numbers but there might be explanations for that.

And that Khmer dancing doesn't seem right to me. Like I said in previous post it might lead to conditioning for the children. "Dance and smile, and then the barang visitor will donate some money so we have a meal". Did you visit outside the dancing hours?

#13 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by eastwest on 25/10/2010 at 20:39

1 other thing I forgot to mention and occured to me during my last reply.

It could very well be possible that this is a genuine setup but that the Khmer who started/runs it sees it as a viable way of income for him/herself.
If he is left every month with $200-300 (excess donations) as a "salary" for his work this would be a great job for him. Most jobs in Cambodia only pay $100 or so. It could explain the inflated figures so he is left with a little extra for himself.

#14 eastwest has been a member since 17/12/2009. Posts: 778

Posted by mattocmd on 25/10/2010 at 20:41

Well put eastwest.

I might also add that my opinion is by no means the right one, only having been there a month; I can just make observations on what I know/believe so far.

Pay to volunteer - I agree with you 100%. A foreign guesthouse owner once told me about a group of "volunteers" who paid a large sum for the opportunity to volunteer in Cambodia. Their job: they painted the walls of the school. Obviously locals could have done the job for a tiny fraction of what the volunteers paid.

Just google "volunteer in Cambodia" and look at the results, especially the paid advertisements. It has become BIG business.

I was going to pay to promote the NGO's website via google adwords but since there are SOOOO many "pay to volunteer" programs looking for volunteers (or shall I say customers), the cost per click for terms like "volunteer in Cambodia" is $0.80-$1.00. It says a lot about how much money must be being made.

"I always thought that the NGOs that attract retired experts from certain fields to teach help in their field in a developing country did great work." I agree with that but I wonder how many retired experts are eager to help in Cambodia. Some sure....but probably not nearly enough.

"I sometimes also wonder why NGO-start-ups don't approach an existing NGO to help with setting up something. Cooperation works usually better and one doesn't need to re-invent the wheel again." This sounds like a great solution and I hope it's one of the methods they use.

Nokka - I probably shouldn't have used the word "circus." Just sounds shady the way they asked for donations afterwards (I'm sure they made you feel like you had to give something). The place probably makes a fortune. Hopefully they are putting the money to good use.

#15 mattocmd has been a member since 13/6/2007. Location: United States. Posts: 368

Posted by Nokka on 25/10/2010 at 21:00

I can be pretty cynical, which is probably why I had some concerns. However, to be fair there was no feeling that the kids were being exploited. They seemed genuinely to enjoy putting on the show, plus they looked happy and well cared for. There were 33 kids there, of various ages. The older ones spoke some reasonable english and talked of their lives there. There were a number of Cambodian adult helpers. If it's a scam (which I cannot know either way) it was a pretty elaborate one, involving many people. But, as you say, perhaps money gets siphoned off the top - its possible, and perhaps even probable.

In the end that can be the problem with any charitable enterprise. We make a donation and money disappears in admin costs or whatever, so eventually only a small percentage gets into the rights hands. Somtam intimated much the same in his post. I would like to think that attempting to put money directly into the 'right hands' can be better.....but, at the end of the day, how on earth can you be sure ?!

#16 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by sayadian on 25/10/2010 at 22:24

Nokka,I suppose you might say I was being a little sarcastic but I WAS making a point.If you can tell if some one is a predator or not just by looking at them on an aeroplane you must have an incredible talent.I'll name no names but the guy in question is now in gaol thankfully.He ran a little NGO from his bar not a million miles from Angkor Hotel in Phnom Penh.He had a kind demeanor and was very 'sincere' in his appeal to people to help with his project.So much so that there were always backpackers willing to volunteer for him and who thought the world of him.Best stay out of the NGO scene in Cambodia until you've been there a fair while and met a lot of people.It's a cesspit and a dangerous one at that as powerful Cambodians are involved and you can't step on the wrong toes.I'd agree with the advise above give only to the big,well known ones but be aware that a fair bit of that money will go on fat salaries and overheads such as nice villas and cars for the NGOs

#17 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by Nokka on 25/10/2010 at 23:40

You're right, of course - I couldn't tell for sure they were predators. However....we saw them at the airport in the departure lounge - I stand by my earlier comment - these were nasty looking characters. I chatted with a guy next to me on the plane, an experienced English ex-pat worker from Bangkok - he'd noticed them too, as clearly did the Cambodian staff at the airport and indeed the Thai ones back in Bangkok. Some people just give off an aura of sleaze. I guess its the ones who seem kind, like this Griffin guy, who are more difficult to spot.

A year or so back a brothel opened in my street - its front door about 100 metres from ours. It got busted in the end, though it wasn't a particularly bad neighbour - all seemed consenting etc. Anyway, if I was chatting with my next door neighbour out the front of our houses, we could spot the guys who would go in the brothel door from a mile off. How ? I dunno - we could just tell - we were never wrong.

#18 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by sayadian on 25/10/2010 at 23:50

I guess you'd call it 6th sense.Sorry, but you weren't very clear at first and a lot of backpackers are so judgemental.I suppose I get a little defensive mainly because I have friends in Cambodia married to locals and with teenage daughters and they DO suffer some pretty awful comments from people who generalise.But yes, I understand that feeling you get coming off some people and yet I stand by my comment that many of these guys are practised at looking innocent and sincere.

#19 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by Nokka on 26/10/2010 at 16:38

I feel very sorry for people married to locals who have to suffer that way. Indeed it can happen at home too. I have employed staff from South East Asia in my business in the UK. They are married to English guys, but met them when their husbands were doing work overseas. Yet, people will make judgements against them based on what they think they see. Understood.

On the same basis, I cannot be sure that the guys on the plane were trouble. You really need to speak to people and get a feel for them first. Both in business and in personal life I feel I can reasonably quickly get a feel for people - whether to trust them or not. It doesn't usually let me down. My wife is even better at it - she's like a cat, with a 6th sense about people. Sometimes, even I feel her judgements are a little premature, but she has been proven correct too many times for me to ignore her.

Other people don't seem to have a clue, which is possibly why they keep making the same mistakes with people over and over again. Sometimes this can be because they're a little dim; but often they are just innocents, trusting the wrong people to easily - which brings us back to where we came in.

#20 Nokka has been a member since 6/4/2009. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 259

Posted by Okidokie on 16/11/2010 at 19:10

It's a shame that we even need to have this conversation. There are heaps of children in Cambodia who genuinely need help. Orphanages are everywhere and we all understand that this is not a line of work one gets into for the money.

I am worried that the tone of this thread will scare away readers from helping the orphans for fear that they will be scammed. I know people who run orphanages in Cambodia, they are to be lauded and praised! I have visited several orphanages and none was anything other than what it was.

We knew some friends sponsoring an orphanage before we visited Siem Reap so we were able to get on the inside with a local pastor and see the real deal of what it is they do and what they need.

These orphanages need money and they need sponsors! Western travellers are able to provide monetary donations that simply cannot be matched by the locals because of the vast difference in economic conditions. We came away humbled by what these people do and by what they sacrifice to make it happen. We are currently sponsoring an orphanage and sending what we can to them each month. It is not enough to support an orphanage of 40 children, the rent, the food, the bills, the school fees, etc. However, our money goes much farther toward making an impact there than it ever would back home.

I encourage westerners to visit orphanages and to help if they can - whether it is buying bread and milk or donating funds. Please do your homework beforehand if you feel unsettled, but don't be fooled into thinking that orphanages are scams. Anyone who has visited Cambodia is keenly aware of the difficulties faced by the youth there.

I am happy to recommend orphanages that are 100% on the up-and-up and could use help from visitors. A little bit goes a long way in Cambodia. Please let me know if you are interested in information about the orphanages we help to sponsor or other orphanages we have visited.

#21 Okidokie has been a member since 9/11/2010. Posts: 9

Posted by sayadian on 16/11/2010 at 23:18

Laudable as long as the motive isn't another underhand one i.e. proselytising.
Personally I think Buddhism has a lot more to offer than a lot of haranguing Christians

#22 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by Okidokie on 17/11/2010 at 14:45

Trust me, the focus of the orphanages is the welfare of the children. Sponsors are in need of help and these people are willing to sacrifice for those in need. Religious preference is beside the point. Whether Christian or Buddhist, the orphanages need support to operate. They really do rely on sponsors and donations to function.

For anyone who has the opportunity to do so, I strongly recommend visiting an orphanage. It will create a positive feedback loop between you and the people of Cambodia.

#23 Okidokie has been a member since 9/11/2010. Posts: 9

Posted by sayadian on 17/11/2010 at 15:49

Okidokie you say
'Western travellers are able to provide monetary donations that simply cannot be matched by the locals because of the vast difference in economic conditions.'

Beg to differ,did you notice the volume of luxury cars when you were in Cambodia? My son pointed out how he couldn't get over the number of expensive custom wheels on them as well, not something that I would have appreciated.THERE is were your donations go via your government aid programmes.
The country is so corrupt and frankly so uncaring that the few skim most of the money before it ever sees the poor.What Cambodia needs is some internal reorganisation-not more Western 'guilt' money.
Read about the appalling land clearances,they are creating more poverty not alleviating it.

#24 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by Bushwaker on 19/2/2013 at 16:37

Important to read this article ifconsidering volunteering (it focuses on Cambodia, but relevant to allcountries):


This is in no way meant to deter anyonefrom helping and volunteering - there are great projects out there.
Just do your homework, consider the impactof short stays on children who easily get attached to "new friends"and generally, make sure the operations are legit and have the children's bestinterests at heart.


#25 Bushwaker has been a member since 19/2/2013. Posts: 2

Posted by James_ on 25/2/2013 at 08:19

You're bringing up an old thread but a still VERY timely point. It would be nice if people actually had a look at the effect aid is having on the world, and not just how good it makes them feel. Just remember this: if it was easy, it wouldn't be a problem.

#26 James_ has been a member since 14/2/2013. Posts: 5

Posted by UrbanForage on 25/2/2013 at 20:39

In my opinion tourist should NOT visit orphanages - these are places that children should be able to go to receive a second chance in a safe and private environment. Childsafe Cambodia has some great ads on this stating that 'Children are not a tourist attraction'. I also wrote an article on the subject a couple of weeks back. Mostly tourists - as I am sure you guys were - do not know that what they are doing is wrong, they think they are helping which is not the case. If you want to help I think organisations such as Childsafe or Cambodia Childrens Fund are a good place to start... DON"T VISIT THE ORPHANAGES!!!!!!




#27 UrbanForage has been a member since 27/1/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by Flauresent on 22/5/2013 at 01:35

hi nokka, i have a simple solution to answer your question about how to verify the authenticity of an orphanage. when i visit an orphanage, i ask the kids if i can meet their parents. sounds stupid, right? asking to visit the parents of an orphan... but the creepy thing is that i have only met one actual orphan in more than 2 years of volunteer work. i have met many hundreds of kids who pretended to study english at fake ngo schools, and who pretended to be orphans at fake orphanages.

i live in cambodia, speak and read khmer. a british couple was here last year building houses for poor people and asked me to translate for their builder. they built a playground at a fake orphanage called "pacdoc," east of siem reap, operated by a man named "tuon boran." when i arrived there i knew that it was a business and not a real orphanage.

the kids are often told to cry and say they have no food. but you know kids - they can only play pretend for so long... so if you ask them to meet their parents they look so happy and say things like, "my mom lives with another guy and my dad lives with a different wife now, but you can meet them if you go to their village." sure enough. following through, i visit families and ask about what happened and why their kids spend the day and sometimes the night at the orphanage.

the majority reason is based on two creepy cycles of social behavior that feed each other in cambodia. first off, the kids are not wanted by the parents, but they are wanted by these fake orphanage businesses. most men cheat on their wives while their wives are pregnant; this is expected by the wives, and it is the reason why 41% of wives surveyed recently feared that their husbands would transmit hiv to them. if that isn't enough to break up the marriage, then around the time the third or fourth child is born, and the man realizes that his $100 per month income is now divided thinly, he simply runs away. surveys show that men whose jobs involved transportation, like tuktuk drivers, motodops, guides, are most likely to have several sex partners while married.

i personally know one man who is literally on his third wife and has children by two previous wives. so, this is why there are abundant unwanted kids on display at fake orphanages. the constant flow of temple-lookers who feel wealth-guilt when their tuktuks pass grass houses with people cooking rice on a fire and then react by handing out wads of cash at fake orphanages is the reason that "industrious" cambodian men offer to share donations to families who "loan" him their children. in the case of "tuon boran" at "pacdoc," the first red flag went up when we saw four of the children leave the orphanage in a tuktuk with an american man named "rich." this is extremely common. there are not enough police in the city, nor are the police in the city motivated to stop this, and if they are the fake orphanage director will placate them with bribes and gifts.

if you have time, there is another thing you can do to nail a fake orphanage. this is a trick which has worked for me several times. fake orphanage directors are inherently lazy. offer to volunteer to write emails to ask for money from his contributors. when you do, ask them how much they have already given. while i was on hand at the pacdoc orphanage, boran and his wife both claimed to several contributors that they had no contributors. i personally know three regular contributors to pacdoc but the director continues to claim that he has no support. here is the most recent news about tuon boran from phnom penh post:


he does have a lexus suv which he keeps at a secret location. he keeps a tuktuk driver waiting at the gate of the orphanage to take him to his lexus when he needs to drive somewhere. there is substantial rumor that boran also has a high post in the cambodian military.

if you want to help cambodian kids, here is what you can do. meet their families. find the fathers. get a translator. tell the fathers to stop having sex with other women. they will be embarrassed. tell the father of a pretend orphan that the buddha is going to put a curse on him that will make his little weenie fall off if he does not support his children. he will be embarrassed. and you know, he needs to be embarrassed.

if you visit siem reap go to a market called "psa borei premprey." it's on the way to the temples. notice that 90% of the shopkeepers there are women and that all their children are running around in the street. most of their husbands are gone. on their second and third wives, literally. these women are trying to support their families. they work hard. they are poor. those women really need help.

your question touches on a very deeply embedded social problem in cambodia. it is getting worse, in spite of the claims of ngos whose fund raising battle cry is that they are making it better.

#28 Flauresent has been a member since 21/5/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by Snookieboi on 22/5/2013 at 02:14

Yes, you heard correct! When they say DON'T VISIT THE ORPHANAGES they mean it. I must admit, i really wonder about why people do this in Cambodia. What is it about people that suddenly feel the need to visit orphanages in Cambodia when there is absolutely no frikking way they would do so back home, or even help an old man cross the road??

There have been a massive amount of posts on this subject in tripadvisor, and the conclusion to all of this seemed to be tourists wanting their selfish 'fuzzy moment' so called feeling of being 'doing gooders'. If those people actually got their facts correct, they'd do the right thing and leave them kids the hell alone, and assist by means of monetary donation to the few genuine ones that actually exist.

Tourists should see the regular sights instead, and get over their delusions about any good that they can do by visiting so called orphanages, especially when it's mostly to satisfy their selfish desire for a 'cute fuzzy moment'. Makes me frikking mad!


#29 Snookieboi has been a member since 14/4/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 61

Posted by Snookieboi on 22/5/2013 at 03:31

No, you shouldn't volunteer, or pay to either.

Unless you are a professional and commited childcare worker you have no business whatsoever being near vulnerable children. Period.

If you wanna help Cambodians, pay for services like food and accomodation. They are quite capable of looking after their own once they've made some honest money from you , like anywhere else.

#30 Snookieboi has been a member since 14/4/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 61

Posted by UrbanForage on 22/5/2013 at 20:14

I'm 100% with you Snookieboi!!! What a great question to ask tourists... would you visit an orphanage in your home country... I bet 9/10 the answer is no!

#31 UrbanForage has been a member since 27/1/2013. Posts: 4

Posted by sayadian on 23/5/2013 at 02:24

Exploitation of children is rife in Cambodia. A parallel problem to orphanage tourism is children begging. In Phnom Penh there are two spots where I know gangs run child beggars. On Str. 51 (Pasteur) and on the Riverfront. The children are bussed in everyday and expected to make a minimum amount or be punished. I've seen children as young as ten left behind alone because they haven't yet come up with their quota of dollars. It's sick.
Then you have tiny girls selling flowers in restaurants and bars until very late in the night.
The Khmer want to wake up to the exploitation around them instead of leaving it to Western do-gooders.

#32 sayadian has been a member since 15/1/2008. Posts: 1,557

Posted by Snookieboi on 23/5/2013 at 04:22

Agreed Sayadian and forage!

The only way to make a positive contribution to Cambodia's future is to NOT contribute to anything involving kids, beggars, etc.

The tourist only need pay for food, accomodation, transport, and gifts, to know that they are helping people directly as well as Cambodia as a whole. I think Tourists need to wake up to this more than anything else.

The Khmer has some evil people who will use kids to make them money, and it won't stop whilst they make more from misguided tourists than a regular paying job-where the future SHOULD lie.

#33 Snookieboi has been a member since 14/4/2013. Location: United Kingdom. Posts: 61

Posted by Flauresent on 26/5/2013 at 08:43

i agree that tourists should not visit orphanages, but there is a need for people with the means and motivation to assist investigators of fake orphanages by providing information about the conditions at the schools and orphanages. for example, APLE is an investigative group based in phnom penh with teams that attempt to discover fake orphanages and bring them under pressure of government authority. while the government itself is largely corrupt, there are people who are trying to make progress, and the only way these investigative groups can make headway is to achieve government and police backup.

the way they achieve this is by receiving accurate reports from visitors about abuses they have observed. for example, a fake orphanage in siem reap called "PACDOC" is recently under investigation because its director Tuon Boran was caught putting children in his care out on the street to beg from tourists. visitors' careful observation of these tactics by corrupt ngo leaders, and reporting to organizations like APLE: http://www.aplecambodia.org/ is very valuable to their cause.

a common problem in siem reap is the unintentional visit to an orphanage by a group tour. tour companies contract with fake orphanages and other corrupt ngos to bring their guests to visit along the way to the temples at angkor. in the example mentioned above, Tuon Boran also owns a tour company! the groups of tourists riding the bus are unaware that the tour company has already contracted to haul them into a fake ngo with poor kids on display to milk them. the tour companies also contract with large souvenir shops that are isolated from other stores and markets so that the tour company has a captive group of customers. the most common victims of this type of coercive marketing are the groups from china, korea, japan, and vietnam, which tend to travel in large pre-arranged itineraries. in this way, an individual with no intention of visiting an orphanage and find himself or herself standing in the middle of a crowd of kids begging for handouts.

some of the fake orphanages operating in the angkor wat temple area include "focco's" and "oda." tour buses often unload their entire human cargo into these bogus ngos which have the sole purpose of wringing guilt money out of the clueless tourists. the ngos in the park must pay huge fees to the apsara authority which manages the park. these are "kick-backs." none of the kids in these places are actually orphans.

#34 Flauresent has been a member since 21/5/2013. Posts: 4

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