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Moving from Volunteering in Orphanages to Community-based Care

Children at a care placement in Costa Rica laughing with a Care volunteer

For many years Projects Abroad has worked closely with orphanages and other residential care centers to help provide better care and support to vulnerable children. Our volunteers have made a significant impact by improving living conditions at these orphanages and creating opportunities for children through supporting their education and care.

However, placing children in orphanages and residential homes should be the last resort for any child. Wherever possible, children should be raised by their parents, close family, or a foster family from the extended community. This community-based approach to care is a more sustainable and long-term solution to caring for vulnerable children than orphanages.

Over the past several years, our Care Projects have gradually shifted focus to community-based care. Our goal is provide more support to local organizations and community-and family-based care so children are raised in stable environments where they can thrive. Instead of working at orphanages or homes, our volunteers will go to day care centers, kindergartens and schools, and support groups for the elderly and mothers and babies.

Read our position statement on orphanage volunteering.

The benefits of community-based care

Community - and family based - care is a system of care that benefits a child much more in the long-term. Here are the benefits that we see from community-based care programs:

  • We have always believed that orphanages and residential homes are the last resort for any child. We now have the opportunity to foster healthier future generations by keeping families together and working with parents to ensure their children flourish.
  • Compared to orphanages, care projects in community-based care projects tend to have better organization and focus for the volunteers’ work. This leads to greater impact, and a more gratifying volunteer experience.
  • The reach of our programs is greater, which means development is longer-term and sustainable. For example, Microfinance Projects can provide loans for parents to improve their independence and family stability, Public Health can provide access to medical services, Human Rights can help parents access the legal support to keep their families safe, and Nutrition can raise awareness and improve quality of life.

Our policy towards working with children

Volunteer helps a child paint a tree in a Madagascar care center

Projects Abroad take the safety of our volunteers and the children we work with very seriously. We have a clear Child Protection Policy in place that is strictly followed by all volunteers and staff.

Our partner organizations are vetted to make sure they are legitimate and respond to the actual needs of the communities where they work. In addition, we ensure that they have long-term goals in place that we can support with the help of our volunteers.

In addition to working with local organizations we trust, we also have Care Management Plans in place in each country where we work with children. The Care Management Plans give each program a clear purpose and outline the goals that we are working toward. For example, if we have assessed a day care center and determined that the children are not meeting development milestones for their age, our volunteers will focus on Early Childhood Development.

We have also invested in a secure and anonymous Global Impact Database, where we log and track the development of each child at our projects, to ensure each child is progressing and that future volunteers can continue where the previous volunteer left off. Each volunteer is given access to the database once they start their Care Project, and this access is withdrawn when they finish their project and return home.

Volunteering with Children with Projects Abroad

We have a wide variety of care projects where volunteers can work with children in the developing world. You can explore our Care Projects, and contact us to learn more about how you can help and which project would be the best fit for you.

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