Should I Volunteer At An Orphanage?

by Kim

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Should I volunteer at an orphanage? That’s a question may ask, without knowing everything that goes into the decision. Volunteering at an orphanage can be one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have. No matter the specific task you end up performing, your influence can make a great difference in the growth of the orphanage and in the lives of the children who meet you. Before you volunteer, however, there are important considerations to keep in mind. Explore this discussion to see if volunteering at an orphanage is right for you.

Why Do You Want To Volunteer At An Orphanage?

Having a thorough understanding of why you’re hoping to volunteer is an important consideration. The facility you visit may need serious help with painting, renovating, or performing basic duties for the orphanage and children. It’s vital to be prepared for hard work that genuinely benefits the orphanage at which you plan to work. Knowing your personal reasons for choosing to assist at an orphanage can help ensure that you’re up for the challenge.

How Much Time Are You Willing To Spend?

To answer this question, it’s important to consider everything from your financial needs to your relationships. If you’re volunteering once per week at a local orphanage, the time demand isn’t nearly as great as it might be if you travel to a country like Guatemala or Nigeria. International volunteering can require weeks of your life, so it’s important to know that you can spare that time away from family, friends, and your career. By definition, volunteer work does not pay, so factoring in your financial situation is also a necessary consideration.

Where Will You Volunteer?

Another major question that only you can answer is whether you’ll volunteer at a domestic or overseas orphanage. Many countries like Guatemala have major poverty problems and a strong need for volunteers. If you decide that volunteering internationally is right for you, it’s recommended to research the country you’re traveling to beforehand.

Is There A Downside To Volunteering?

While a prospective volunteer may be wide-eyed with ideas about playing games with orphans and changing their lives, there are two main ways that this can do more harm than good. Before committing to volunteer work at an orphanage, learn about the two main arguments against it:

The Abandonment Cycle

Orphan tourism has risen in popularity in recent years, but some people have called the entire volunteer system into question. Some criticize volunteer programs for introducing orphans to well-meaning strangers, only to have them leave again a week or two later. Critics say that this revolving door of strangers creates a destructive chain of abandonment for children in orphanages.

We understand these criticisms but have seen our work have deep impact on the lives of children in orphanages and certainly would not want to deter anyone from offering to help. Having the opportunity to meet new people and experience other culture is invaluable for these children. Volunteers can form lasting relationships with children as well by continuing to work with them on return trips—or by developing ongoing friendships through letters, social media and more. Additionally, we limit our trips with the Hogar Heroes program to only a few per year. This allows us to help the children and facilities without creating a steady stream of people that come and go from their lives. We always encourage our volunteers to return and form relationships where possible.

Work Beyond Play

When volunteers think of travelling to work at an orphanage, they may have visions of playing soccer with kids, teaching them to read, and engaging them with fun games. While there may be moments like this, it’s important for volunteers to understand that such activities with kids is not always what they most need. While these activities are great for the kids, volunteers should be ready to jump in with other duties as well. Every volunteer must ask themselves if they’re willing to do work that may also include cooking, painting, and manual labor to help improve the orphanage facilities.

Do You Have What It Takes To Volunteer At An Orphanage?

You’ve asked yourself the hard questions and read the main criticisms to volunteering at an orphanage. If you are ready to help, then you’ve come to the right place. The Hogar Heroes program of Work, Play, Love provides the opportunity to travel with a group of likeminded volunteers to orphanages in Guatemala. With three or four trips each year, you can plan the trip that will change your life while allowing you to make a real difference in the lives of children in need.

Please visit our Volunteer page for more info, including details on upcoming trips and how you can join us.

Other Ways To Help

If you have decided that volunteering is perhaps not best for your situation, you can still help the orphan children of Guatemala. Please consider donating to the Hogar Heroes program today. This money is used to support the ongoing operations of two orphanages outside of Guatemala City, helping to change the lives of orphaned children in the area. Every contribution makes a difference. Thank you!

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