One of Bali’s largest orphanages, a popular site among Australian tourists, has allegedly been institutionalising children who have living parents in order to solicit more donations. A report from the Guardian reveals that charity organisation Save the Children was tipped off by former employees of Jodie O’Shea House, who claim the majority of “orphans” there actually have living parents on the island of Sumba, south east of Bali.
Jodie O’Shea House was founded 11 years ago in memory of an Australian victim of the 2005 Bali bombings. It has always marketed itself as an orphanage, however the report claims only six of the 94 children currently housed there have no living parents. Furthermore, whistleblowers told Save the Children and the Guardian that many children living there were experiencing distress as a result of being constantly visited by tourists.
It’s not uncommon for “orphanages” in developing countries to mislead tourists in this way, and in many cases it’s true that children’s families send them to such institutions in the hope of them experiencing a better quality of life. Unfortunately, research has shown that children living in these tourist-centric foster homes are exploited and used for profit. The practice has been equated to modern-day slavery.
The wording on the orphanage’s website has been subtly changed to reflect the fact many children harboured there have living parents:
“Since moving to their new home these children have undergone an amazing transformation. Prior to coming to the orphanage all of them had grown up malnourished in poverty stricken areas, often from one parent families, surviving on a meagre hand to mouth existence… It must be stressed, however, that all of the children's families love and care about them immensely but have had to make the difficult decision to send their children elsewhere so as to provide them with a better life and ultimately a better future.”
The Australian Federal Government is currently examining potential ways to ban direct funding of these institutions by Australian tourists, as well as school and university fundraising programmes. Experts have suggested the money is far better spent by larger non-governmental organisations and charities.
This article originally appeared on VICE AU.