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Child exploitation fears lead to Kiwi volunteers being phased out of overseas orphanages

A major player in the volunteer tourism sector, New Zealand based International Volunteer HQ, is set to phase out placements in overseas orphanages due to concerns of child exploitation.

Child-protection groups claim some parents in countries such as Cambodia are increasingly placing their children in tourist supported orphanages because it is a better option then growing up in their own homes.

UNICEF NZ executive director Vivien Maidaborn suggests the amount of orphanages may have gone up as a result of tourism.

"I think the one most people are concerned about right now is orphanages," Ms Maidaborn said.

"There isn't a growing number of orphans in Cambodia, but there is a growing number of orphanages and interestingly its gone up at the same rate as tourism."

International Volunteer HQ says the debate around orphanage volunteering is distracting from its core mission of creating opportunities for travelers that make a positive contribution to communities.

The change will be gradual with orphanage placements being phased out by march next year.

Another issue highlighted by child protection services is the negative impact caused by the tourism industry and how children are being exploited for personal gain.

Hannah Reid felt so concerned about what she was seeing on her volunteer placement in Cambodia, she only lasted a week.

"Volunteers breaching child protection policies, heard about volunteers being left in charge of classrooms entirely on their own with a classroom of students who don't speak the same language, children being forced to perform in public to raise money for the orphanages," Ms Reid said of her experience.

Volunteer Service Abroad CEO Steve Goodman suggests travelers should be socially-conscious when it comes to volunteer work.

"Voluntourism's got to be looked at in a particular context, and it's different to what we do which is we're around development," Ms Goodman said.

"So we just want to make sure when we go out and volunteer people are actually doing the right thing that they're actually contributing to the outcomes that are really needed out there."

One of the biggest players in the volunteer tourism sector is stopping their placements in international orphanages. Source: 1 NEWS