Anyone who has traveled to a developing country knows the situation well — you arrive in a new place, whether a remote village or a popular urban tourist site, and suddenly you notice all the children. They confidently approach you, selling food or souvenirs, or simply holding out a cup begging for some coins. It is confronting to see both their tenacity and their poverty in the same moment.
How should you respond?
Knowing how the choices we make in these moments impact local children and child welfare is the first step.
World Vision is working to prevent child sexual exploitation in tourism in Southeast Asia by raising awareness on how to be a child safe traveler. The ‘Child Safe Tourism’ campaign provides useful advice on small ways we can help to create a safer tourism environment for vulnerable children and protect them from physical, emotional and sexual abuse:
Action 1: If you see or suspect child abuse, tell your hotel, tour guide or someone who can take action to protect the child. Visit www.childsafetourism.org for a list of international agencies you can make a report to directly.
Action 2: Giving money to children begging or selling things perpetuates the problem of them being sent out onto the streets where they are vulnerable to abuse. So instead support families and communities or donate to reputable children’s charities.
Action 3: Please don’t support ‘orphanage tourism.’ Visiting and volunteering with children in institutional care can be detrimental to their emotional and physical well-being. Instead support organizations and initiatives that enable children to be cared for within a family.
© World Vision: Vannith Touch
Action 4: Giving gifts or taking children to places alone teaches them to trust strangers. So avoid giving presents directly to children and never take them anywhere without the supervision and permission of their parents or guardian.
Action 5: Choose hotels, tour companies and business that implement child protection policies and have programs to support disadvantaged children and families.
Action 6: Treat children like you would in your home country. Before taking photos of children, always ask for their permission.
Action 7: Spread the word about Child Safe Tourism. Share this information with your friends and family while you travel and when you return home.
This has been a guest post by Verity Kowal, Media and Communications Officer of Child Safe Tourism.
Top photo: ©World-Vision-Sopheak-Kong
Jessica Festa is the editor of the travel sites Jessie on a Journey (http://jessieonajourney.com) and Epicure & Culture (http://epicureandculture.com). Along with blogging at We Blog The World, her byline has appeared in publications like Huffington Post, Gadling, Fodor’s, Travel + Escape, Matador, Viator, The Culture-Ist and many others. After getting her BA/MA in Communication from the State University of New York at Albany, she realized she wasn’t really to stop backpacking and made travel her full time job. Some of her most memorable experiences include studying abroad in Sydney, teaching English in Thailand, doing orphanage work in Ghana, hiking her way through South America and traveling solo through Europe. She has a passion for backpacking, adventure, hiking, wine and getting off the beaten path.