Ending Orphanage Volunteerism: Get Involved and Host a Film

November 5, 2018

Check out this guest post from ReThink Orphanages to find out how you can be part of the upcoming campaign to end orphanage volunteering in favor of holistic child, family, and community development. Individuals unfamiliar with the reasons for this campaign should consult these summary resources on vulnerable children and orphan volunteering: A report from a breadth of international development organizations is here, a 3-minute video appears here, and a faith-based effort to stop orphanage volunteering while encouraging healthy and holistic approaches to supporting family and child development – Faith to Action – is here.


On November 20th 2018, a social change campaign to end orphanage volunteering will be launched in the USA and UK. This behavioral, insight-driven campaign is targeted at young (18-22-year old) gap year travelers and short-term missionaries.

The campaign has been developed by the Better Care Network – a member of the cross-sectoral global coalition ReThink Orphanages*.

We are inviting support from educational institutions, and organizations with a youth audience, to help amplify the campaign through social media. 

What problem is the campaign seeking to address?

Volunteering in orphanages is a popular means of ‘giving back’ among gap year travelers and short-term mission teams. However, this well-meaning support is weakening the global care reform effort to move away from the institutional model of care for children. Around 80% of children who live in orphanages are not ‘orphans’ – they have at least one living parent. One of the main reasons for a child to be placed in an orphanage is poverty – the only way for many children to get an education or access other basic services such as health care is to be raised in institutions, away from their families. The solution is to focus on strengthening families and communities to prevent this from happening.

Furthermore, despite their best intentions, volunteers can do more harm than good for the children they want to help. Without a family to make them feel secure, children are quick to form relationships with volunteers as they arrive, only to feel abandoned once again when they leave.

What does the campaign aim to do?

The campaign seeks to ignite a youth-led social movement to make orphanage volunteering a thing of the past.

 What format will the campaign take?

The core component of the campaign will be a short, powerful docu-film with stories told from the perspective of care leavers; with supporting stories from families who have had to make difficult choices about their children, and individuals working in care reform. The film will be distributed through, and underpinned by, a PR and social media campaign. The campaign will have its own dedicated landing page, which will sit on the ReThink Orphanages website. The audience will be able to engage with the film, become part of the social movement, and access advice about how to ensure that their time volunteering overseas is genuinely spent making a difference.

How can I get involved?

There are three ways you can get involved:

  1. Promote the campaign via your social media channels – we are preparing a campaign toolkit for our distribution partners, which will include cut-downs of the film and social media assets. We will aso produce an FAQ to help you respond to any press and social media enquiries.
  2. Host a screening of the film. This could be in a physical environment – e.g. a university setting or workplace – or a digital environment, e.g. via a webinar for staff, volunteers or supporters.
  3. Host an evaluation screening of the film. We are looking for universities in the UK and USA who can help us to evaluate the campaign. Our research team will support you to recruit a student audience to participate in research. This will be conducted pre- and post-screening of the film, with a further follow up to measure shifts in attitude and behavior.

 How can I find out more?

If you would like to help distribute the campaign via your social media channels and/or host a screening of the film, please let us know by adding your details to this Google form.

We will be hosting a conference call for our distribution partners on Monday October 29th to share more information about the campaign and the distribution toolkit.

If you are interested in hosting an evaluation screening of the film, please email Justine Williams (see below).

For more information…

Please contact the campaign manager, Justine Williams – justine.williams@bettercarenetwork.org


*ReThink Orphanages is a global, cross-sectoral coalition working to prevent family separation and the unnecessary institutionalization of children by shifting the way countries in the global north engage with overseas aid and development. We comprise of individuals and organizations from international aid and development, child protection, tourism, philanthropic, education and faith-based communities who have come together for this common purpose. Our vision is a world where no child is needlessly separated from their family, and the institutionalization of children is a thing of the past.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • update-img-new

    Get updates on what's new in the Campus Compact Network