Tara Winkler, interviewed on Chanel Nine’s Sixty Minutes set up an orphanage in Cambodia ten years ago. She did this with the best of intention, but over time, learnt that many of the children she was caring for actually had families. Those families believed that their children had a better chance of breaking the poverty cycle if raised in these institutions.
She has since closed her orphanage and is now urging the Federal Government of Australia to impose a ban on orphanage tourism. That would mean the eradication of all tourist visiting orphanages, volunteers and donors.
Furthermore, Tara and many others are pushing for this act to be seen as a form of Human Trafficking under the Modern day slavery act. This practice has been receiving much media attention of recent times. Unfortunately, the children in question are not the only victims.
I have just returned from Cambodia. It is not my first visit and won’t be my last. I have had the pleasure of working alongside a couple of legitimate organisations who are working with children who have experienced the most horrific of human rights abuses. Many of the children, some as young as five, have been trafficked in the sex slave trade. I have watched, first hand, organisations work tirelessly to provide housing, education, health care and counselling. They walk step by step with these kids, rehabilitating them back in to society.
The problem they are now facing is that the recent focus on the above mentioned is causing donors to withdraw their support. Cambodia lacks any formal body that can provide a stamp of legitimacy on those organisations doing the right thing. This naturally leads to apprehension. The end result is that those children who are in desperate need of help simply don’t get it.
In a nutshell, one form of child trafficking is wiping out the possibility of another group of child victims from getting support. It’s just so bizarre and so wrong.
I do not disagree with all of what Tara had to say but there is no all or nothing approach to this complex situation. It is ludicrous to withdraw all support from those in such dire need. There are definitely children in Cambodia who are in desperate need for our help. Thousands of them. I have met them. I have read and heard their stories and I have looked in to their eyes. I have also seen the hope that these children now have with new found freedom and support from legitimate NGO’s on the ground.
Please don’t turn your back on Cambodia. They need us more than ever. I agree that trafficking needs to stop but it doesn’t stop by punishing the victims.