Poor parents routinely duped into sending children to homes where owners use them to extract money from foreign visitors
By Pete Pattisson
Like an increasing number of tourists visiting Nepal's mountain peaks, colourful markets and lush national parks, Marina Argeisa wanted to experience the latest must-do activity on the tourist trail: a volunteering stint at an orphanage.
What the 26-year-old Spaniard did not know was that her good intentions were unwittingly feeding an industry that dupes poor parents into sending their children to bogus orphanages in order to extract money from well-meaning foreigners.
It is a business model built on a double deception: the exploitation of poor families in rural Nepal and the manipulation of wealthy foreigners. In the worst cases, tourists may be unwittingly complicit in child trafficking.
Nepal's tourist sector comprises nearly 3% of its gross domestic product, and in 2012 more than 600,000 foreigners visited the tiny country.
Volunteering, or voluntourism as it is sometimes known, is a rapidly expanding industry. There are dozens of agencies offering the chance to spend weeks, or months, working at some of the country's 800 orphanages.
Five-minute movie asking the viewers of Give TV to help a Nepalese child that has been abandoned by his father.
Aunil is being supported by his Grandfather and Uncle, but they are running out of money to continue helping him. Nepalese children in these situations are often sent to the orphan homes. Grandfather has been in the hospital while the Uncle has his own family to support - including recent hospital fees for his sick wife and daughter.
The family buffalo has also just died, which resulted in ten-month's loss of income. The family is in risk of losing everything.
While driving to her school site in Nepal, Katie encounters a Banda (strike). Assassination attempts on political leaders occurred this morning. The leaders might not survive. Unaware of the reasons for protest, Katie faces several mob barricades, and pleas with the locals to let her pass.
The problem with orphan homes in Nepal is that they all have children with living parents. Volunteerism is the biggest money-making scheme in Nepal.
Right, so let's get down to the nit-and-gritty. There are two pressing issues why children are being placed into orphan homes.
We are aware of the situation surrounding widowed and abandoned mothers. However, child trafficking is a whole new can of worms.
Following two leads, I contacted two organizations that are involved. But just like the Embassy, they too cannot get involved on a personal level. It would jeopardize their current projects going on in the country.
The situation is much deeper than any of us could imagine. People in power convince small villages to trust them with their children. The families pay 20,000 Rs (US$233) to send their child to a private boarding school in Kathmandu. However, once the trafficker and the child reach Kathmandu, the girls are sold to India for prostitution while the boys are taken to Orphan Homes. The orphan home directors on 'in' on this operation. They gladly accept the child (even though they fully have knowledge of their living parents). They accept the children because they can make money off the volunteers who come to Nepal. They over-charge the Westerner money to volunteer claiming this is for rent, food, and utilities. This amount is sometimes double or triple the actual cost to run one of these homes.
In other cases, the boys (particularly around the age of 12) are also sold to India, but in this case it's for their organs.
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