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K-State Today

April 3, 2015

Orphanage tourism, ethical alternatives discussion Tuesday, April 14

Submitted by Ryan Haxton

Students from the Staley School of Leadership Studies will be leading a discussion on orphanage tourism and ethical alternatives at 7 p.m. Tuesday, April 14, in Town Hall at the Leadership Studies Building.

Orphanage tourism has manifested as a way to take advantage of what people perceive as good, productive international volunteer service. One popular form of international service is volunteering your time and money to orphanages. Many are not aware that children in some orphanages, particularly in tourism districts of countries such as Cambodia and Nepal, are not run with the children's best interests in mind, but rather with the profit of the orphanage manager at the forefront, according to Next Generation Nepal, or NGN. The children do not see any of this profit themselves. It will only be used for the selfish wants of the manager.

In addition, according to Next Generation Nepal, the constant influx of new volunteers can psychologically damage the vulnerable children. Forming bonds with volunteers who are only in their lives for a short time eventually leads to the development of severe attachment disorders. The most disturbing aspect of orphanage tourism, however, is the fact that as many as 75 percent of the children in these orphanages are not even orphans. Many of them were taken from their families under the guise of receiving a good education and a chance to get out of poverty.

Taught by Eric Hartman, assistant professor of leadership studies, Honors Leadership is a two-semester, six credit introductory course open to incoming freshman who are in the honors program. Honors Leadership explores the same themes as the introductory LEAD 212 course, but with more time dedicated to the themes of citizenship, stewardship, humanitarianism and purposeful passion.

Students in Honors Leadership chose the issue of orphanage tourism as the focus of the course after Hartman, who has been involved in the issue in his personal work and research, presented it as a global challenge to address. Throughout the 2014-2015 term, Honors Leadership students have organized and executed various awareness campaigns revolving around social media, campus and local community in addition to presenting the issue at the 2015 IMPACT conference in Los Angeles, California, in late February. They are bringing the same presentation back to campus with their discussion on Tuesday, April 14.

"I think the most important effect of our presentation is that people are aware that orphanage tourism is a very real and very nasty issue," said Hannah Wilborn, freshman in engineering, about their presentation at IMPACT. "Now they're empowered to share their knowledge and, hopefully, our initiative with others. The fact that there are now people from all different parts of the country who know about the issue and about the group is really encouraging for us. Spreading awareness has been our goal all along."

The Honors Leadership students' awareness campaign is "Escape the Box." The group also is on Facebook, Twitter @escthebox and YouTube.